3 Things To Look For When Test Driving A Car

Young driver holding keysWhether 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.

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By Yousef Abdul-Husain

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  1. HABIB HAYAT says

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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”.