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How to Test Drive A Car? A Detailed Guidance for Beginners 

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If you’re searching for how to test drive a car? You need to do the followings:

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  • Make your vehicle’s choice upfront
  • Test drive cars back-to-back
  • Have a family member or a friend accompany you
  • Keep an eye for any abnormal vehicle behaviors

Buying a new or used car is a huge investment. That's why it's important to inspect the vehicle thoroughly before signing the dotted line on the bill of sale. One of the best ways to inspect the vehicle is by performing a test drive.

Most dealerships and larger automakers allow you to test drive your vehicle freely. As a driver, you should take advantage of this feature and keep an eye and ear for any abnormal behaviors from this vehicle that could indicate and mechanical problem.

Test drives should be done in a certain way, and there are things you need to inspect and look for while testing any vehicle. If you are planning for your next vehicle or you're helping one of your friend's test drive his car, this article is purposely for you. It provides him with all details you need to know, along with some preparations to keep in mind before, during, and after test driving any car. 

What do you need to drive a car? 

Before thinking about how to test drive a car, it's important to be prepared and do all the necessary research about the type of vehicle we're looking for. 

  • Make your vehicles choice upfront 

Do not spend your energy searching for the car when you meet with the dealership. Thus, spend some time and effort understanding what models available and what potential vehicles you are might be interested in. 

  • Test drive cars back to back 

If you're not 100% sure about which vehicle to go with, you might be in a situation where you must test drive multiple cars. If that's the case, we recommend that you test drive them back to back so you can make a proper comparison. If you do not test drive the cars the same day, you might lose some of the main points that might be a big factor in your final purchase decision. 

  • Test drive the car with a friend 

Many automotive experts recommend having a friend or a family member accompany you when you test drive the vehicle. When you have someone else sitting in the vehicle, they can keep the salesperson occupied while you're paying attention to the details in the vehicle.

If you were lucky and have an experienced friend, he can help you pinpoint things you're not paying attention to. 

  • Consider test driving the car at night 

Some dealerships might allow you to keep the vehicle for one day, which is a great chance for testing some components that you won't use unless it's nighttime. For example, you might need to test the internal lights or the headlights. 

Keep in mind that if you're buying a vehicle from a private seller, it might be very hard to ask for keeping the vehicle overnight, which is a very rare situation. Thus, you might pass on this recommendation in that case. 

How to test drive a car? Things to consider before, during, and after the test drive 

The best way to learn how to test drive a car is by understanding what needs to be done in three different categories: before, during, and after the test drive

Let's take a closer look at some of the automotive experts’ recommendations in each category: 

  • Before the test drive 

When you arrive at the dealership, take a quick visual inspection to the vehicle before you even test drive it. 

For example, consider checking the color because sometimes what you see in photos might differ when you see the vehicle in person. Also, consider checking the color during the daytime because sometimes the dealership lights might show you a slightly different color than the vehicle's color. 

If you're purchasing a family vehicle and planning to put child car seats, it might be a good idea to bring the car seat with you and check how well it fits in the vehicle. Also, look at the cargo space, see if it's suitable for all your family members, and confirm that they could comfortably get in and out without any problem. 

Finally, consider checking the size of the vehicle because, again, it might look slightly bigger or smaller than what was shown in the pictures. Think about how big the vehicle and compared it to your garage size to prevent purchasing a car that doesn't fit in your garage. 

  • During the test drive

Many dealerships might guide you on how to test drive the vehicle and where to go exactly. However, this might not be the ideal situation for your case. For instance, if your daily commute is through some mountains, you might need to consider taking the vehicle to locations that have some hills.

As you're driving the car, keep an eye and ear for any abnormal behaviors or weird sounds or smells. We recommend that you go through some of the common symptoms indicating faulty internal components in your vehicle. We've discussed many of those thoroughly than previous articles

In general, you need to check if the car runs smoothly or not, especially when you hit the gas pedal. Also, consider listening to the engine's noise and see if it gets louder when you accelerate or if it changes significantly.

Since brakes are one of the most important safety components in any vehicle, it's important to test the brakes and see if they respond quickly to any inputs from the brake pedal. 

Inspecting the steering is another important thing to keep in mind when you test drives the vehicle. Check if you are comfortable turning the car and going around the corners. 

Finally, listen and monitor the behavior of the suspension system. Check if it changes significantly when you're driving on rough roads, for example. 

Don't forget to test some of the minor components like electronic gadgets, air conditioning, navigation, Bluetooth, etc. While these minor items might not be as important, they can give you a headache, especially if you plan to use them daily. 

While you were testing the vehicle, the salesperson will not remain quiet. He will continuously highlight some of the amazing features of your vehicle to keep you distracted with the good components of this car. However, we recommend that you stay focused and take advantage of every second you're inside the vehicle. 

  • After the test drive 

Once you're done with the test drive, the salesperson might ask you to finalize the deal & on the bill of sale. However, we recommend that you give yourself at least one night to think about the test drive and see if you're happy with the vehicle or not.

One-night sleep can help your brain focus and balance between the amazing features highlighted by the serviceperson and the issues you will not be happy about when test driving the car.

You might need to ask for a second test drive, which should not be a problem with many dealerships. 

Keep in mind that if you've tested several vehicles, things can be a little overwhelming, and that's why it's worth leaving the dealership and coming back the second day with a better, stronger decision. 

How long should a test drive be? 

Typically, the test drive takes between 15 and 20 minutes, including when the salesperson prepares a vehicle for a test drive. It's always recommended that you take advantage of as much time as possible trying the car because the longer you drive it, the more things you will observe, especially if you drove on rough roads and had the chance to test some steep slopes. 

Are test drives free?

Definitely! All test drives are free of charge, and many larger old makers dealerships will encourage you to test drive the vehicle before purchase. Even if you're buying a car from a private seller, you should ask for a test drive as well because it's free too.

What happens if you crash on a test drive? 

All vehicles on the dealership's parking lot are covered under what's known as fleet insurance. This insurance will cover any damages due to car accidents what are it's your fault or the other person's fault. Thus, do not worry about such a situation. Hopefully, you are confident enough to drive the vehicle without causing any damage unless it's something happening at other people's fault. 

Is it OK to test drive a car without buying? 

Of course! You don't have to buy the vehicle if you want to test drive it's. However, we also recommend that you not test drive the car unless you intend to purchase it because it involves a lot of effort from the dealership or the person selling you the vehicle.

Interestingly, many car buyers and customers do not like to test drive the vehicle if they're not planning to buy because they don't like to deal with that salesperson. 

How long is too long for a test drive?

As we indicated before, the minimum recommended test drive for any car is about 30 minutes. A good number would be 40 minutes but, more than that is a little too much.

During the 40 minutes, automotive experts indicated that you would be able to just the card in traffic and stop. Thus, you will hopefully capture many obvious problems in the 40 minutes. But, of course, there is no guarantee that by driving the car for 40 minutes, you will see and detect any headed problem. That's why many customers who are purchasing expensive vehicles perform what's known as a pre-purchase inspection. 

Can you test drive for fun? 

The policies and regulations never indicated an issue with test driving the vehicle for fun. However, if you look at it from an ethics perspective, you'll feel that it's not a good decision.

Imagine the time and effort the salesperson or the dealership prepare for these test drives and how much gas should be burned, along with how many hours they will spend! 

Can you test drive the car overnight? 

There are plenty of dealerships that provide overnight test drives. However, we recommend that you try the vehicle during the daytime because it will give you a better idea about the actual color of the vehicle, and you will get the chance to drive in traffic as well.

If you are interested in seeing how the vehicle behaves during the nights, you can always ask the dealership to keep the vehicle for one night to take advantage. Many dealerships are OK with keeping the vehicle for one day if that makes you comfortable purchasing the car. 


If you're planning to purchase a used or new car, it's very important to perform a test drive to ensure nothing wrong with the vehicle. In addition, test driving a car should be done in a certain way so you can take advantage of every second to learn about the vehicle.

This article highlighted some pro tips to keep in mind before, during, and after test driving your car. Keep in mind that some of these tips might work when you're buying a car from a dealership but not from a private buyer.

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