Never assume that the car you are about to buy is in perfect condition, regardless of what the car dealer may say to convince you of such. Every car, whether new or used, can have its own idiosyncrasies and you need to know about those before you make the purchase. Test driving the car can help shed light on some of those potential issues. Here are some common-sense tips for test driving a new or used car:
- Do a vehicle walk-around before you drive. Look for any obvious structural damage or irregularities before you get into the car. An unevenly-worn set of tyres should be your first indication of some level of neglect.
- Sit in the car and look around the interior. Just as you did before entering the vehicle, look for signs of excessive wear or damage. A torn seat cover or burn marks from cigarettes could indicate some level of abuse.
- Start the engine and listen. Experienced car owners will generally be able to hear any out-of-the-ordinary sounds or feel any strange vibrations. Make note of these and ask the dealer about them. Also, inspect the dashboard and try the controls for the heating, cooling, and radio to be certain all work properly.
- Take the drive. Let the dealer know you will be driving for at least 20 to 30 minutes and you intend to reach highway speeds. This will help you fully appreciate the abilities of the car and give you the opportunity to sense any additional problems. Check for pulling to the left or right as well as engine power loss when climbing a hill. These can all be signs of the need for future expensive repairs. Check the air conditioning and heat as well, since the ability to do either can change during any driving.
- Look at the engine and underside of the car. After a good test drive it’s essential to open the hood of the car and look at the engine. Check for any signs of leaking oil or coolant as well as for obvious signs of previous damage. The battery may have signs of dried chemical on top if it has not been replaced for some time. Ask the dealer to replace any parts that appear worn, whether it is the battery, drive belt, or hoses. Check underneath the car for puddles forming due to leaking oil or coolant. Any leaks can be a sign of the need for expensive repairs later.