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What to Look for When You Test Drive A Car

Updated September 11, 2013

Test driving is one of the most important steps of buying a car, whether it’s used or new. As such, it is always well worth your time to be meticulous and picky as you make your personal evaluation. There are several things you need to make sure you do every time you take a car for a test drive to avoid getting burned by a defect you didn’t notice before.

Most test drivers don’t realize this, and they put themselves at great risk for doing so, but there are many observations you need to make about a vehicle even before you step inside it. The most important of these observations should concern the state of the car’s body in general, especially if the car is used. A previous owner may have attempted to conceal an accident in which a car has been involved by repairs. Always make a thorough investigation of the front and rear bumpers and side skirts especially.

It’s also a good idea to make sure the power locks on the vehicle function appropriately from both the inside and the outside. Open and close all the doors a few times and look closely for any abnormalities, paying special attention to sliding doors if the car has any. Even the slightest breakdown in a sliding door’s mechanisms can cause it to fail, and they are typically difficult to repair.

Once you get out onto the road itself, the first thing you will want to watch out for is any sort of vibration or jerking that seems out of the ordinary. These things can be in the car’s interior, as in the dash or air conditioning vents, or from the engine and wheels themselves.  These types of problems can be difficult to spot and can lead to much bigger problems in the future. Make sure you push the car to the 60 mile per hour range at the very least, as some vehicles will only start to show signs of defects at high speeds.

Next, pay attention to how the car feels as it shifts gears. A transmission is one of the absolute most expensive pieces of machinery a car contains, and if a car hasn’t been taken care of properly by a previous owner, you can be in for a not-so-pleasant surprise in the near future. The transmission’s shifting should feel very smooth and natural, even if you are accelerating at a high rate.

If you can do it while driving safely, evaluate any of the extra features the car may contain, like the sound system, navigation device, head unit, or display screens. Some sellers might advertise that a vehicle contains a certain feature, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that feature will function like new. When you’re done, take a good look at everything in the car’s interior and search for signs of wear and tear. Don’t forget to check under seats, carpets and rugs.

The last thing to remember when test driving cars is that you can never be too careful or too critical. If something doesn’t feel quite right about the car, it probably isn’t. Don’t hesitate to walk away from a transaction for any reason, even if it’s just a gut feeling. You don’t want to regret any hasty decisions.

Natalia Jenkins is a writer for Osseo Auto. She loves writing on cars, history and reading classic books. She also is secretly a car aficionado. Osseo Auto is a leading car dealership in Wisconsin that sells new and used Chevy and Ford cars in the Eau Claire area amongst others.




Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

The Car scene is so diverse Where I come from, most enthusiasts recognize the amazing engineering (particularly the engines). The bulk of the ridicule originates from the manner in which many of the vehicles are modded/maintained. Thus, the jokes and or hate tends to be aimed more at the owner rather than the machine. All of which makes seeing properly sorted old Toyota's and Hondas at car meets, auto shows, and track days all the more refreshing.

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