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Things To Keep in Mind When Test Driving a Used Car

Things To Keep in Mind When Test Driving a Used Car

Things To Keep in Mind When Test Driving a Used Car

Every buyer knows that a test drive is important in finding the best value in a pre-owned vehicle. But only a few know the right way to conduct a test drive that will separate the good from the mediocre. In this article, we will discuss things to keep in mind when test driving a used car, and other things you should check before making the purchase. 

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You should pay close attention to detail when doing a test drive. A well-performed test drive will save you from future problems. Despite this fact, almost 50 percent of Americans say they only spent 30 minutes or less in test driving a car before they purchase. Test driving is always important whether you are purchasing a new or used car. This way, you can make an informed purchase decision. 


Here are things to remember before and during test driving a used car:


  • Make sure you do your homework. Find a car that suits your lifestyle. Are you going to use it for your everyday commute? How many people do you want to fit in your car?


  • Set an appointment with the car dealer or with the private seller. You can set several appointments in one day. This will compel you to drive many cars and provides you a legit excuse to leave the dealership.


  • Create a list of vehicles and features. Visit various consumer websites for the most current car reviews. Since you are shopping for a used car, it’s important to check your prospective used cars’ reliability and common issues.


  • Choose a day exclusively for test driving. Do not purchase a car on the same day you test drive since you might get too excited and not able to think things through thoroughly.


  • Create a checklist of what to look at when test driving. This way, you won’t miss out or forget to check anything important.


  • Bring a friend/buddy and your stuff that you’ll likely put in your car. The goal of a salesman is to make you buy a car right then. Your friend can keep you from rushing into things and stay focused. If you have a bike or any other stuff that takes up a bit of space that you usually put it in your car. Doing so will give you an idea if the car can fit your essentials.


  • Comfort is a priority. Is it easy to get in and out of the car? Do you comfortably fit in the seat? If you usually have people especially adults riding at the back, also consider the head- and legroom at the back.


  • Bring photocopies of your license. Most dealerships will photocopy your license before you can test drive. It’s better to already have a copy for security reasons. Don’t forget to ask for documents back, and destroy the copies. Identity theft around cars is increasing.


  • Check the exterior of the car. Walk around the used car and check for missing pieces, dings, scratches, rust, etc. 


  • Check the tech. Is it easy to pair your phone with Bluetooth? Can you recognize what all the beeping noises mean?


  • Know what fuel is being used for the car and its fuel economy. You would want a car that is fuel-efficient. Does the car take premium gas or require special maintenance.


  •  Drive the car on the highway, over a bumpy road to see how it rides.

What should you do when test driving a car?

The test drive starts as soon as you are on the lot. Before starting your car, check the car for any dents, scratches, rust, dings, cracks, etc. Also inspect the windshield for nicks and cracks. Inspect the tires for signs of uneven wear and remaining tread life. Uneven tread wear can mean poor alignment. Also check if the turn and brake lights are working properly.  


Now here is where the test driving begins. These are the things you should do and pay attention to:


  1. Start the vehicle and let it idle for a few minutes. The engine should run strong and listen for any noises that should not be there. Rattling, whining, or clicking sounds usually indicate a problem that needs immediate repair. Turn on the heater, air conditioner, and radio to check if they are working properly. See if the warning lights are working and check if the gauges are working, too. The temperature gauge should be at the midpoint when the car already warms up. When it’s closer to “hot” it may mean it’s overheating. Check if the seats are comfortable and the ceilings are high enough.


  1. See to it that you drive the car on a street with stop-and-go traffic. Feel the brakes when you do a complete stop. Are they jumpy, loose, or sticky? Listen for any squeaking or grinding sounds which can be a sign of worn brake pads and rotors. See how the car drives over potholes and bumpy roads. Drive slowly and listen for knocks which may mean steering problems. Also, check how the car navigates in 90-degree turns. Can you do so smoothly and with little effort? Or do you feel resistance or pulling? This can be an indication of suspension or power steering issues.


  1. Make sure to drive on a highway and reach speeds of 55 miles per hour or more. See if the car accelerates quickly and moves smoothly from one gear to another. Engine hesitation is not a good sign. Find the car’s blind spots. Switch lanes carefully repeatedly to see the reaction of the steering at high speeds. The steering should not be pulling in either direction since this indicates suspension or alignment issues. Make sure to listen carefully when driving on the highway. Do you hear any squeaks, whines, or rattles? If you can, drive up and down a hill to check if the vehicle can upshift and downshift properly.  


  1. Find a place where you can practice parallel parking. The steering wheel should not feel stiff and you should be able to easily maneuver while parallel parking. Make sure that the vehicle shifts smoothly from drive to reverse. A grinding noise when changing gears and a car jolting could indicate a transmission problem. See how responsive the car is, is there a difference when you hit gas and brake pedals in reverse gear? Practice fitting the car into a standard parking place, especially if it is a larger SUV or pickup truck.

What should be kept in mind while buying a second-hand car?

Since modern cars are built to last for a long time, buying a second-hand car can be a smart decision. Despite that, it can still be a challenging experience. Here are things you should keep in mind while shopping and buying a used car to make things simpler, smoother, and reduce risks.


Check The Car’s Condition

Make sure that the pre-owned car you are setting your eyes on is in good running condition, and gives you a good value for your money. Take the car for a test drive and have your trusted mechanic check all major systems including engine, transmission, cooling, wheels, etc. These inspections are important to assure you that the car is well-maintained. It will also help you plan for maintenance and unavoidable repairs. 


Registration Documents

Make sure that the seller is the real car owner. Find out if this is the first time the car is being sold. The Owner Serial Number in the RC book or smart card shows the number of times the vehicle has been sold. Check if the owner has paid all dues such as road tax. Make sure that the seller is able to provide other documents that need to be verified such as original invoice, road tax receipt, and NOC from the car loan provider (if any). The transfer of ownership is in effect when you and the seller sign on RTO Forms 29 and 30. The seller must also submit Form 28 — the NOC transfer of the vehicle. 


Car Insurance

See the vehicle’s insured value in the policy. This is a useful benchmark when you negotiate the price. Check the No Claim Bonuses over the past couple of years. This is important to know since frequent claims may indicate that the car experienced frequent accidents that needed repair and maintenance. Transfer the car insurance policy of the seller to your name or purchase a new policy with 2 weeks of the date of car transfer. Failure to do so may be a reason for your insurance claim to be denied in case of an accident or mishap. 


Potential Modifications

Check if you can convert the vehicle into a dual-fuel automobile. Is there room for upgrades to improve comfort, safety, and value? Older cars may be cheaper but they may also be impossible to upgrade. Generally, a relatively new model is preferred, especially if it comes at a cheap price. 

What should I check on a used car?

When buying a used car, make sure to check the following:


Vehicle History – Obtain as much information about the car from the current owner and make sure to do your own research. Run the VIN (vehicle identification number) through CARFAX or any of the same kind of service. This will show you if the car has been in an accident if there are any recalls on the model and any liens on it.


Rust or paint damage – Check for any paint chips or rusty posts. Small rust patches can be fixed easily so you won’t have to dismiss a car because of them. However, if there are areas where the metal is totally rusted through, you might want to reconsider buying the car. 


Frame issues – Check if there are any issues with the frame of the car. See if the car is sitting level on the ground and if there’s anything hanging from the undercarriage. Check the bumpers and look inside the trunk and hood for new bolts or warping that could be a sign that the vehicle had a recent accident.


Tire condition – The tire tread should not be uneven and all four should match. Extra wear or uneven tread on a few tires usually means improper alignment — an indication of steering, frame, or suspension issues. A poorly aligned car will pull to the right or left direction when driving.


Engine – This is the most important part of any car. With the vehicle turned off, open the hood and visually inspect the engine for corrosion, fluid leaks, and cracked belts and hoses. Inspect the oil and transmission dipsticks for discoloration. Transmission fluid should either be red or pink, while the oil should be light brown. 


Mileage – A car will run about 20,000 km each year on average. To know if the car has high or low mileage, divide the number on the odometer by the age of the car. A high-mileage car will have more wear and tear on its mechanical parts. 


Interior electronics – Turn on the stereo and other electronic components inside the car to see if all of them are working properly. Check if the air conditioning and heat are working as well. 


Upholstery – As the car ages, seats and interior fabric also takes a beating. Check for stains, cracked leather, and tears on all the seats of the car. It can be expensive to repair a car’s upholstery.


Even if you have done checking the car and found no issues, you should not skip submitting it to a mechanic inspection. A mechanic can determine if the car has any underlying problems or potential problem areas. The money you’ll spend on the inspection is worth it. It could save you from purchasing a lemon. 



Purchasing a car is a big investment even if it’s a used one. You would want to get as much value as you can for the price you pay. This is why you should be able to do all things necessary in a test drive. You should check all the important parts and pay attention to how the car feels and performs when driving. Knowing what things to keep in mind when test driving a used car could save you from ending up with a lemon, and of course, it can make sure that you get a car that is worth the price you pay for. 



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