How to Test Drive a Car Like a Pro

Don’t get this title confused with “How to Drive Like a Pro.” We aren’t showing you how easy it is to become a racecar driver; we’re showing you how to determine whether a potential vehicle is right for your lifestyle and if it passes all safety and quality inspections. After all, it would be extremely frustrating if you discovered any unpleasant surprises just days after you bought it. Follow these test driving tips for any kind of vehicle and save yourself money, time and your overall well-being.


Before Getting In

Being able to spot problems before you actually test drive the car will be your biggest challenge, but it could save you the time of testing it if it’s a clunker. When you first see the car, take a walk around and make note of any scratches, dents or imperfections in the paint job. Ask the seller if the car is sporting its original paint job to ensure it wasn’t in a terrible accident, fixed or repainted. Check under the car for puddles before and after you drive it to see if there are leaks. Look at the condition of the tires as well, so you won’t have to buy a new set sooner than you had planned.

Before You Drive

When you get in the car, adjust the seat and mirrors to your liking and check the interior features to make sure they work (radio, power window switches, air conditioning/heating systems, etc.). If there is Bluetooth connectivity, sync your smartphone or Bluetooth device with the car’s system. When you start the car, carefully listen for any squealing, clacking, rumbling or suspicious sounds. This could indicate serious problems underneath the hood.

Test Driving a New Car

Here’s a fun fact: When shopping and test driving a new car, you’ll actually take two test drives of the same vehicle model before you buy. The first car you test drive is just a test model the dealership uses to let prospective buyers get a feel for a specific vehicle model. The first test drive will give insight into the outward visibility, handling, seating, cargo space, and more. If you believe this vehicle is right for you, be sure to take another test drive in the car you would buy. Follow the steps above for the second car, as these interior and exterior tests are the most important.

Test Driving a Used Car

Although new cars can have their problems, test driving a used car needs much more focus and attention to detail. While driving, listen for any odd feels and sounds. Let the car idle for about 15 minutes before you drive so it can get to its normal operating temperature. If you test drive a cold car, it may hide engine or transmission problems. Take note of any strange smells when test driving. If you notice an eggy smell, there could be a problem with the exhaust system. A strong scent of gasoline may indicate an issue with the fuel delivery system and/or fuel tank. If you smell something burning, there might be a problem with the cooling system. Also, check for white or blue smoke coming from the tailpipe, which can reveal mechanical problems in the internal parts of the engine.

Are there excessive air fresheners inside the car? If so, this could be the owner trying to mask a problem. Maybe the previous owner had pets, which wouldn’t hurt the vehicle’s mechanical functions, but it could be something worse they’re trying to hide. Cars that have been flooded can have a moldy, sour smell, so be sure to get a firm understanding why there are air fresheners in the vehicle before you buy. If you believe this car is a good fit for you after the test drive, it’s wise to have a regular mechanic inspect and evaluate the car before you sign any papers.

Protect Yourself from Unexpected Breakdown Costs

No matter what kind of car you test drive or if you decide to purchase the car or not, you can protect yourself from unexpected breakdown repair bills with extended warranty coverage from Warrant Direct. To protect your new vehicle purchase, contact us today or call (800) 632-4222.


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