When you’re getting ready to buy a new or used car, you’ll definitely want to take the vehicle you want for a test drive. This gives you the chance to get a feel for how it drives to make sure you’ll be happy getting behind the wheel for the duration of your ownership. Here are a few tips to successfully navigate your test drive.
Visually Inspect the Exterior
Before you even get behind the wheel, take a few minutes to throughout examine the vehicle. Test all the door handles and the trunk to make sure they work properly and the key fits in all the keyholes. You should also pop the hood and take a look inside the engine bay. You might want to bring in an independent mechanic to spot signs of damage or other issues.
Start Pushing Buttons
Once you’ve given the exterior a good look, climb inside the vehicle and put the key in the ignition. Before you fire up the engine, turn the key to the “on” position. Fiddle with the radio, check the heating and cooling systems, adjust the driver’s seat and test any other controls as well. This gives you the chance to spot any issues or broken parts, and you can also get a feel for the various controls.
Where to Drive
You should find out how the vehicle handles in various driving conditions, whether you’ll be spending a lot of the time commuting on the highway, in stop-and-go traffic or bouncing along dirt roads. You can map out a route before your test drive to ensure you’ll get to experience all the right conditions.
During the Drive
While you’re behind the wheel, resist the urge to crank the radio. You should be listening closely for any sounds that could indicate problems. Make a mental note of any noises that sound out of place – such as rattling, squeaking, ticking, or thuds – and pay attention to how the car handles. For instance, soft brakes and slow acceleration can indicate mechanical issues that might leave you sitting at the auto shop soon after you buy the vehicle.
Get a Second Opinion
If you’re not too car savvy, you might want to bring a trusted friend or family member who knows automobiles a bit better than you along for the test drive. He or she might notice something out of place that you wouldn’t have spotted on your own, which could save you from spending your hard-earned money or car loan on an inadequate vehicle.
It is also a good idea to test drive one or two comparable models. Even if you’re sure the model you want is the right choice, trying out similar models is a great way to confirm your choice is the right one. You might also find that the other models have advantages that make you rethink your initial pick. This same theory can be applied to various model years. Even if you want to buy a new car, you might find a 1- or 2-year-old model offers the same features and advantages with a smaller price tag.