How to Thoroughly Test Drive a Car

5th June 2024

When buying a car, the test drive is one of the most important steps in the process. This is your opportunity to evaluate how the vehicle performs, handles, and fits your needs. Taking the time to conduct a thorough test drive can help ensure you end up with a car you’ll be happy with for years to come. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make the most of your test drive experience.

Plan Your Route

Don’t just take the car for a quick spin around the dealer’s car park. Map out a test route that allows you to evaluate the car in a variety of real-world driving conditions. This should include a faster road, some stop-start traffic, and a hill to gauge the engine’s power.

Aim to drive for at least 20 minutes to get a comprehensive sense of the vehicle’s performance when shopping for second hand cars Doncaster.

Inspect the Interior

Before even turning the key, take some time to thoroughly inspect the car’s interior. Open and close all the doors, check that the seats adjust properly, and ensure all dashboard controls are functioning. Evaluate the cabin’s comfort, space, and overall quality of materials.

If you’ll regularly be transporting passengers or cargo, bring someone along on the test drive to get their input on the interior. Check the boot to verify the available storage space as well.

Focus on the Essentials

As you drive, pay close attention to these key areas:

  • Acceleration and Braking – Accelerate quickly from a stop and brake firmly at various speeds to test the engine’s power and the brakes’ responsiveness.
  • Steering and Handling – Take tight turns and maneuver through winding roads to evaluate the car’s steering feel, body control, and overall handling dynamics.
  • Transmission Performance – If it’s an automatic, check for smooth, seamless gear changes. With a manual, ensure the clutch engages properly and the gears shift easily.
  • Noise and Vibration – Listen and feel for any excessive engine noise, wind noise, or vibrations that could indicate potential issues.
  • Technology and Features – Test out the infotainment system, safety features, and any other tech or convenience functions to ensure they work as expected.

Take Note of Everything

Throughout the test drive, be an active, engaged driver. Don’t just passively cruise around. Pay close attention to how the car behaves and performs, and take mental or written notes. Consider factors like:

  • How does the car’s size and visibility compare to what you’re used to?
  • Does the driving position and seat comfort meet your needs?
  • Are there any concerning noises, smells, or warning lights?
  • Do you notice any issues with the steering, brakes, or transmission?
  • How does the car’s overall personality and “feel” align with your preferences?

Trust Your Instincts

At the end of the day, a test drive is about more than just the technical details. Pay attention to your gut feelings about the car. Do you enjoy driving it? Can you picture yourself behind the wheel daily? The right car should feel comfortable, confidence-inspiring, and fun to drive.

If anything gives you pause during the test drive, don’t ignore it. It’s better to walk away than end up with a vehicle you’ll be unhappy with long-term. A thorough, thoughtful test drive is crucial to ensuring you make the best car buying decision.