What Should I Look For When Test Driving a Used Car?

Even the most novice of used car buyers knows that a test drive can be a key step in evaluating a potential car purchase. Just like you wouldn’t commit to clothing without trying it on, you don’t want to commit to your long-term vehicle sight unseen.

Despite this, most buyers don’t know what to actually look out for when they get behind the wheel. Many drivers have a limited understanding of their vehicles. A test drive isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t know what you’re testing, and yet, thousands of drivers each year fail to prepare themselves for this important task.

What should you be looking out for when test driving a used car? Read on and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know. 

Gain Some Perspective 

It’s a simple truth: the more experience you have in an area, the better you’ll be at it. The same goes for feeling out vehicles. If your test drive is the first time you’re behind the wheel of any car besides your old model, you likely won’t be very sensitive to changes and finer details. 

That’s why it can be helpful to invest some time behind the wheel. Go to a local car dealership and take a few models you’re interested in our for a spin. The used varieties you drive might feel a little different from these brand new models: but that’s the whole point of taking them out.

You can begin to develop an expectation and understanding of how these cars work and feel.

That way, when you get behind the wheel of a used model, you’ll begin to notice areas that may have been affected by the car’s age. Do this enough, and this can become almost instinctual. 

Inspect Before You Drive

There’s a lot you can tell just by poking around a vehicle. Looking under the hood for proper coolant and transmission levels, tire pressure and so forth can ensure that your drive will be smooth. Questionable things you notice here can give something to look out for once you’re on the road.

What might you find? You might notice examples of poor maintenance or foul odors coming from the engine. Build of dirt, grime, or sludge can mean that a vehicle was not well taken care of.

You can lay down on the ground and check underneath the vehicle as well. Leaks or cracks down here could mean big problems for the vehicle down the line. Even if you don’t notice leaks prior to your drive, check again after: some leaks won’t reveal themselves until the car’s been turned on and used. 

Be Organized Before Your Ride

Once you’re on the road with a used car, they’ll be a lot of different areas competing for your attention. In order to make sure you get all the information you need, it can be helpful to go in with a mental checklist. 

For example, make a list of areas prior that are important to you. The car’s ride, control, noise, seat comfort, brakes, sound system, and whatever else might be important to you.

Then, when you’re in the vehicle, move down your list one item at a time. What does the car sound like when you drive? Note it, and move on to another area. 

Breaking down your drive into these separate categories can help ensure you check in on everything you need. Too many drivers don’t plan ahead and end up just going with a generalized feeling of their experience. This is an easy way to have something important to fall through the cracks. 

Don’t Allow Yourself To Feel Rushed

If there’s a number of different factors you’re on the lookout for, your test drive might take a little bit of time. You won’t get a second test drive, so it’s important you really get a strong sense of each criterion before moving on. 

Your seller might want to get you in and out of the car as quickly as possible. This might not be because they’re dishonest, just that they have other places to be or potential buyers to see. Be strong and stand your ground, however.

If you can’t get the info you need from your test drive, you might find yourself regretting it for years into the future. 

Keep The Stereo Off

Some novice car buyers make the mistake of keeping the car radio on while they test drive a vehicle. And sure, you’ll probably want to flip on the sound system and see how it feels at some point during your test drive.

But for the most part, you’ll want to keep this distraction off and the windows sealed shut. Why? Because anything that’s distracting your ears can prevent you from hearing more serious problems with the vehicle. Strange noises, whirring, or rattling can be your biggest tip-off that something is wrong. 

The last thing you want to do is bury these tell-tale signs under a little bit of FM radio. 

Test Driving A Used Car

Buying a used car can be a great way to get a vehicle at a bargain price. But with savings comes a little bit of work: you’ll need to get good at test driving vehicles and feeling these used cars out. The above tips should help make you feel more confident behind the wheel in such a role. 

Want to see some amazing used cars today? Come on down and pay us a visit.

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