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Tips For Testing A Car Before Purchasing

Buying a new car is one of the most exciting purchases you can make in your lifetime. You’ve done all your research on what models you’re going to test drive, what models to avoid and all your finances are sorted.

Right, off to the dealership.

You arrive – it’s daunting but everyone is friendly and you’re about to test drive the car you’ve been researching relentlessly. So, what should you look out for when you test drive a car? The following are a few important things to keep in mind.


Steering is important! This may seem obvious but it’s integral to figure out the intricacies of the steering of the car you’re trying out! Is there excessive free play? Is there any vibration or lean to one side? Keep a mental note of all these things and speak to your dealer if it’s bothering you.


Arguably more important than steering, having a feel of the brakes is crucial. They may be more or less responsive than what you’re used to, or the car might not brake in a straight line, which could cause issues. Any vibration through the steering wheel when you brake is also a cause for concern so make sure you keep that in the back of your mind!


Exhaust smoke when test driving a car is something you want to keep an eye out for. This is especially more noteworthy when you’re sat idle, so be aware. If you notice any black, blue or white smoke then there may be some engine problems. If this is the case, talk to your dealer about its service history and what needs to be done.


If the car runs smoothly during your acceleration, decelerating and braking then you don’t have anything to worry about. The water temperature gauge should also stay in the safe range. It’s obvious, but listen out for rattling or knocking sounds because this could mean engine tuning is a bit off or it may be a bit worn.


When it comes to the transmission, smoothness is what you’re looking for. Any clunking or ‘knocking’ noise will mean that the transmission is a bit worn, so check the service history and see what may or may not need to be done.

While there are a plethora of other things that can be added to this list, common sense also plays a huge factor when testing a car before purchasing. As an example, damage to the car needs to be assessed as this could play a significant role to the actual performance. If it feels like the test drive was a little ‘off’, then it’s a good idea to examine the car and see if there is anything out of place – this will more than likely solve any questions you may have had.

Moreover, make sure the car you’re test driving has the same body style, engine, transmission and overall specifications of the car that you truly intend on buying. This is a big financial investment so ‘close enough is good enough’ won’t cut it – ensure it’s the vehicle you want.

It’s also good to note that the difference between test driving a new car is different to testing driving a used car. A new car will help you determine if the comfort and ‘feel’ is right for you, as mechanical faults should be minimal. On the other end, however, used cars may have more mechanical faults so your test drive will more than likely encompass a lot of awareness when it comes to these, and digging deeper into the service history and the overall maintenance of the car.

Overall, remain cool, calm and collected when testing a car before buying – make sure it’s the one you want and ticks all the boxes before committing to a big purchase.