EVERYTHING You Need to Look Out for When Test Driving Used Cars

Find out what you need to know to make the most of your used car test drive.

You know it’s important to take a test ride in a preowned vehicle before you buy it.


But, do you know what to look out for during a test drive?


Don’t worry. Most people don’t.


Here’s everything you need to be aware of to make the most of your test drives so you leave the lot with the car of your dreams and not a nightmare.


Test drive more than one auto.

You wouldn’t make a purchase at a shoe store after trying on only one pair of shoes. So why do most people drive off the lot with the only car they test drive? How can you know for sure that an auto is right for you unless you compare it with a few other options? You owe it to yourself to try out a few cars similar to your preferred model. You may find one that handles better, is more comfortable or comes with added features that appeal to you. Or you could find out for certain that your original auto choice is the perfect one for you.


Don’t skip the test drive.

Many people who drive up to used car lots in old clunkers skip the test drive. They figure anything else is better than the ride they’ve got. Don’t make this mistake. You might find yourself replacing a clunker with a total lemon.


Do your homework.

Don’t just randomly test out any — and every — vehicle on the lot. It will leave you completely confused. Do some research prior to visiting a dealership to come up with a list of models that fit within your budget, align with your lifestyle and meet your driving needs. It will help keep you focused on cars that are right for you.


Schedule your test drive.

Don’t just show up at a used car dealership and expect to test drive the vehicles of your dreams. Instead, make an appointment. That way you’ll know that a sales rep will be available to help you out and the autos you’re interested in will be clean, sanitized and ready for a test drive.


Make a list of the features you care about.

A single car model can come equipped with a variety of feature packages. Before you take a test drive, make sure the auto has all the features that are important to you. Don’t waste your time test driving anything that isn’t equipped with everything you’re looking for.


Bring a friend.

Buying a car can be an intoxicating experience. You fall in love with one and all logic and rationality go out the door. Bring a friend with you for your test drive. They can be your voice of reason. They may also notice damage, odors or noises you’re not aware of.


Come with your stuff.

Do you regularly drive with things like a child seat, luggage or cumbersome sporting equipment? Bring them with you for your test ride. Make sure they fit comfortably in the vehicle. It will help prevent unfortunate surprises when you get it home.


Check that the vehicle is comfortable.

You may imagine yourself in a sports car, but if you’re a larger person, it might not be right for you. Ask yourself:

  • Can you easily get in and out?
  • Do you fit in the seat?
  • Are you able to easily grip the steering wheel and reach the pedals?
  • Do you have easy access to all the controls?


If you’re answer to any of these questions is NO, don’t waste time on a test drive. You’ll never be happy with an auto that isn’t completely comfortable.


Bring your own photocopies of your license.

In order to take a test drive, most dealerships make a copy of your license. This can be a ploy to steal your personal information. Bring your own copy, don’t leave it at the dealership, ask for it back after the drive is over and destroy the copy. This will help prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.


Be selective.

Walk around a car before you test drive it. Look out for scratches, rust, missing trim, windshield damage and other issues. Do a sniff test. Do you smell dampness or smoke? Ask yourself whether you can live with these issues. If not, move on.


Check the tech.

Can you easily pair your smartphone with Bluetooth? Does all the built-in technology work properly? Check these things during your test drive. It’s too late if you find out they’re not working after you’ve driven the car off the lot.


Test drive the car like you’ll REALLY drive it.

If you commute to work on a highway, then drive your vehicle on the highway. Take a ride on a bumpy road to see if it rattles. Drive it fast and slow, on curvy roads and straightaways and up and down hills to see how it handles and brakes. Make sure everything seems solid. If a sales rep tries to limit or control your test drive, take it as a sign that they’re probably hiding something.


Your test drive is the last chance to figure out whether a used car is sound and the right one for you. Take full advantage of it so you can rest assured knowing you made a good decision.


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