It’s always exciting when buying a new or used car. But what many people don’t realise, is that test driving the car is just as important, if not more so, than deciding which car to actually purchase. Test driving a car gives you the opportunity to evaluate the drivability and comfort, but more importantly, it helps you identify any issues or potential problems that may not be obvious.
Preparing for a Test Drive
Before arranging a test drive, take note of the following:
Research – Find out as much as you possibly can about the cars you are interested in test driving. This will give you a good idea of what to expect when you test drive the cars and will also help you decide if the cars live up to your expectations. Make a shortlist of cars you want to test drive.
Make Notes – List all the things you would like in your next car and take the list with you so that you can compare it with the car you are test driving. Examples include: Air conditioning, ABS brakes, power steering, navigation system, CD player etc. Also list all the things you dislike in a car.
Plan Multiple Test Drives – Try test drive as many different models as you possibly can on the same day. This will allow you to notice the differences between the models and help you decide what car is best for you. *Tip: Aim to test drive a car for at least 30 minutes and take the car on various roads in suburbs and on highways. Always test drive a car in the day so that you can notice any defects.
Test Drive Inspection
Before you test drive the car, inspect the car. Here are some things to look for:
- Look at the car and decide if you like the style of the car
- Walk around the car and check that the seams between the body panels and doors are even and without irregularities
- Check that the paint work is smooth and vibrant
- Open all the doors and check that all the door handles and windows work properly
- Open the boot and inspect the space available for luggage and anything else you might want to put in the car. Check that the spare wheel, wheel spanner and car jack are all intact.
- Sit in the driver’s seat and check seat adjustment, pedals and basic controls such as lights, indicators etc. Decide if you like how the controls are placed.
- Decide if the seats are comfortable enough for you. Do the seats have multiple adjustments? Do you have enough headroom and legroom?
- Check if you can adjust the steering wheel
- Check the visibility from the driver’s seat. You should be able to see clearly in all directions. Check all the mirrors and blind spots.
- Check that all instruments in the cabin are easy to reach and use and that they are all functioning properly
- Check that the storage space in the cabin is sufficient for items such as CD wallets, keys etc
- Sit in all the other seats and check for comfort, headroom and legroom. Check if there is sufficient storage available for backseat passengers. Check that all the safety belts work properly.
- Open the bonnet and check if the battery, oil dipstick and fluid filler caps are easily accessible.
*Tip: Inspect the car as thoroughly as you possibly can.
The Test Drive
When test driving a car, it’s important to pay attention to detail while you drive. Here are some things to look out for,
- Check how easy the car starts. Are there any strange sounds?
- Listen to the engine. Is the engine running smoothly?
- While driving, take note of the ride comfort. How smooth is the ride?
- Check the gear transmission and make sure that all the gears change smoothly. How easy is it to change gears?
- Check if the car’s acceleration is sufficient
- Check that the car’s brakes are functioning properly and that there’s no noise while braking
- Check the steering. How well does the steering wheel respond to movement? Are there any noises while turning the steering wheel?
- Check the handling. How does the car perform around corners?
- Check how quiet the car is. Can you hear the tyres on the road? Can you hear wind noise or any other noises, like rattling or squeaking?
*Tip: Take a friend or family member with you on the test drive. They can share their thoughts with you and point out factors that you may be overlooking. When the test drive is over, take the time to reflect on all the things you liked about the car as well as all the things you disliked. Compare all the cars you have test driven and decide what car suits your needs best. If you are still unsure, you might want to arrange another test drive.