Young driver holding keys

3 Things To Look For When Test Driving A Car

Whether you’re eyeing a shiny new car or an affordable used one, test driving and inspecting it is the one thing you should always do before signing on the dotted line. Yes, even if your cousin swears up and down that this is the “best car on the planet.” Every automobile is a machine that has its own characteristics, and you want to make sure it’s running in tip-top shape before driving off with it. Here are handy tips to keep in mind when checking out a car that you want to buy.

  1. Body and Under the Hood: 
    Check the body of the vehicle for any scratches or dents. Check under the vehicle for any leaks. Is there any rust? Check the wheel wells and under the trunk liner. Check all the glass, especially the windshield, for rock chips or cracks. Start the engine and rev it. Check for any weird sounds—especially a knocking sound. Look at the exhaust pipe and make sure there are no weird colors are coming out of it.
  2. Comfort and Interior:
    Adjust the seat and mirrors. Do you fit in the car and is it comfortable? When you take it for a test drive, check to see if the seat supports you—even on harsher roads. Inspect the interior. Is it in good condition? If it has leather upholstery, are there any excessive wrinkles or discoloration? Check for any weird smells.
  3. Driving:
    Pay attention to how long the car takes to start and the sound it makes. Are the “check engine” light or any vehicle warning indicators lit in the dashboard? Do the seatbelts function? Do all the lights work, including the turn signal lights? During the drive, check to see if you have a good view of the road and your surroundings. Does the car accelerate properly? Does it take excessive force to turn the wheel, especially at slower speeds? Do all the controls work, such as the windshield wipers and left and right turn signals? Drive uphill and check to see if the car is struggling more than usual. Do you feel safe driving the car?

How many of these things you look for depends on the age of the vehicle you’re inspecting, but you should take all the time necessary so that you feel confident and comfortable with your purchase. You can always ask if the seller is okay with taking the car to an independent mechanic to inspect it, but if you feel pressure from the seller, take that as a warning sign.

Want to save time and money on your next car purchase? Use the GEICO Car Buying Service powered by TrueCar. With dealer-guaranteed savings on new cars and dealer-guaranteed prices on used cars, you’ll get transparent pricing and feel confident in your purchase decision. Plus, every reported purchase from a TrueCar Certified Dealer comes with extra benefits including Auto Deductible Reimbursement. Go to geico.truecar.com to see how much you could save on your next car.

By Yousef Abdul-Husain

Get GEICO Auto insurance.

    Leave a comment

  1. Randy Louder says,

    I was in the car business for over 25 years and was everything over that time, sales representative, finance manager, used and new car manager, even general manager. The internet has truly changed and improved the process for purchasing used cars. Checking the history with Carfax is a must but it can’t always be relied on 100%. Always have an older vehicle inspected by a reliable mechanic especially when purchasing from a used car dealer or private seller. Most reputable new car dealerships perform perform an inspection and repair process prior to offering a vehicle for sale. I would recommend requesting a copy of their inspection and the repairs they performed. If the previous owner had their service done at the selling dealer they can also provide a list of it’s service history.
    A lot of late model cars sold by an affiliated dealership are sold as certified. A certified vehicle must be inspected and repaired to the manufacturers specifications and the original warranty is extended beyond the original warranty period, in some cases it can add several years and a considerable amount of miles beyond the original warranty. Certified vehicles general qualify for incentive financing.
    If you’re purchasing something that doesn’t qualify for any special low interest rate program, ask for their terms and rates. I recommend shopping for financing before first unless you know that you are going to purchase something that has an incentive finance program for the vehicle you plan to purchase. If you’re a Credit Union member check with them, because CU’s are none profit they generally have the best rates. If you’re not a member of a CU you can still shop their rates and join the one with the best available terms
    I hope what I’ve add is helpful to someone.

  2. Earlene Pihera Anderson says,

    All good tips thank you Geico this information is a great lesson it makes me smile it makes me glad recent purchase is a plus everything checked out just fine so far
    Thanks you very much!
    Sincerely E P ANDERSON

  3. HABIB HAYAT says,

    USEFUL and Essential INFORMATION while buying a used vehicle AND VERY HELPFUL IN BUYING A CAR.

  4. ScarletRainbow1 says,

    Take a sibling, or a friend, who knows cars, to be a note-taker as you make remarks about the vehicle as you drive. As well as noting their own observations as a passenger.

  5. Sarah Smith says,

    I want to buy my first car and am looking for a good dealership. Thanks for the advice about how you should always test drive a car before you buy it. Another great idea would be to take someone who know cars with you that can make sure the car looks good on the inside.

  6. Rosalie Dixon says,

    I have the road side assistance and it is great, I have had to use it several times and I recommend it for everyone. Thanks for being a great car insurance company!

  7. ann pichardo says,

    Good article. I want to know if you drive in a hilly area, what should you put the shift, should it be D or 1st or second gear? Thanks

    • Jim Bouchard says,

      Unless the vehicle is loaded heavy (like for a road trip with lots of luggage and a cooler) the automatic transmission should handle the shifting on its own. You can leave it in “D”.