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How To Test Drive A Used Car

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How To Test Drive A Used Car

Test driving a new car is standard procedure. It’s something that buyers demand.

The same is not always true when buying a used car, though. Buyers will often hand over money without really putting the vehicle through its paces. That’s because, in the fragmented used car market, it’s not always a part of the service.

When you think about it, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. The need to test drive a used car is actually greater than a new car because more things are liable to go wrong. Just looking at the vehicle history report and trying to glean information about the car’s condition from that isn’t sufficient. In some cases, you’ll want to take it for multiple test drives, just to make sure it’s what you want.

What To Do Before You Test Drive A Used Car

Before you even consider buying a used car, you’ll need to check that you have an adequate budget for it. Lenders and local credit unions can tell you the monthly payments you can afford. Unless you are paying cash, you should only approach dealers if you have a pre-approved loan. Don’t negotiate fresh loan terms with them directly as you may not get the best deal.

Once that’s done, get a vehicle history report. This tells you about previous owners, servicing, mechanical issues, and whether the car has ever been involved in an accident.

You can also get a Carfax or Autocheck report. These services tell you more about the car’s history before you sit in the driver’s seat and start driving. If the car is stolen or damaged, they will let you know.

The last part of the process before you actually get behind the wheel is to inspect the car’s exterior. Performing a quick inspection will tell you more about its history and the kind of life it’s had. Uneven paint, for instance, is often a sign of a bad repair job. Cracks underneath the bodywork could be evidence of an accident not reported on the vehicle history report.

You should also take a look at the tires. If they are smooth or gashed, it could indicate that the vehicle has been driven aggressively in the past.

Decide Where You Want To Test Drive The Car

Before you go car shopping, you’ll also want to decide where you want to take the car. If you are buying from a dealer, you’ll usually perform a test drive at their location. Dealerships are keen for buyers to get in their cars and try them out before purchasing because it increases the chance of a sale. You can also ask them to deliver the vehicle to your home if you decide to buy it, saving you the hassle of going back.

With private car purchases, you should meet the owner at a neutral location with plenty of surveillance (i.e. cameras). This way, you can stay safe while exploring the vehicle’s capabilities on a variety of roads.

How to properly test drive a used car

How To Test Drive A Used Car

In this section, we list some tips for test-driving a used car comprehensively.

Test The Interior Features

Test driving used cars is about more than observing how smoothly they drive (though that’s important). It also involves how well their interior features work, too. After all, that’s just as important a part of the purchase as the quality of the transmission or the quality of the steering.

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Check the sanitation of the vehicle. There shouldn’t be unpleasant odors. Private owners and dealerships should valet cars before putting them on the market.
  • Check the position of the steering wheel, mirrors, and seats. Make sure that they are in the right place for your body.
  • Try using the vehicle’s parking sensors if it has any. Do the cameras work?
  • Make sure that the chairs feel comfortable and you can sit in them for long journeys. If your back hurts after five minutes, it might not be the right car for you
  • Check the interior lights to see if they are working. Test the settings, including on, off, and automatic (when you open and close the doors).
  • Check for warning lights on the dashboard. These indicate things like whether the vehicle needs an oil change or if the engine is functioning properly.
  • Turn on the radio stations and test the CD player, if it has one. Try connecting your MP3 player or phone to various aux and USB ports.
  • Turn on and check the air conditioning system.
  • Check the tires to see if they are worn

Test The Drivability Of The Car

Once you’ve done all that, you’re finally ready to get on the road and test the rest of the car’s features. Most dealers have a pre-planned test drive route that minimizes traffic and exposes the vehicle to a variety of conditions with a mixture of highway, street, and rural roads. However, you may want to try the vehicle in the type of conditions you’re most likely to drive it in (such as inner-city traffic).

Here’s a checklist of things you’ll want to look out for:

  • Test the brakes by braking hard several times. If you notice brake noise, check the car’s service history.
  • Make sure that the blind spot isn’t too large. Some used vehicles have large areas where it is hard to see properly.
  • Ask yourself what the ride feels like. You may prefer a smooth ride or one where you can feel the road more.
  • Check for noises coming from the engine or suspension
  • Pay attention to how the salesperson describes the car while you are driving
  • Listen for unusual sounds, such as hissing or clunking coming from the bodywork or windows at high speeds
  • Check that the brake pedal doesn’t drop all the way to the floor. That usually means dangerously worn brake pads.
  • Check the turn signals work properly
  • If the car has a self-park option, test it in the parking lot

Get A Qualified Mechanic To Help You

Lastly, you may want to get a qualified mechanic to come with you and tell you if the car is a good deal for the price. They can identify issues that you simply can’t as an amateur.