Test driving a used car

A test drive is an important part of buying a used car. Once you have asked the seller questions about the vehicle’s history and done a thorough inspection of the interior and exterior of the car, it is a good idea to take the car out for a test drive. The test drive will help you decide whether you are comfortable with the size and handling of the car and allow you to check that all of the systems appear to be working well. Here are some things to pay particular attention to test drive a used car.

How does the car drive?
It is a good idea to drive the car on varying road and traffic conditions. Be sure to make left and right hand turns so you can feel comfortable with the steering and suspension. Also try to drive the car on the interstate as well as in stop-and-go traffic so that you are confident in maintaining a higher speed, accelerating and braking.

Here are some other questions to answer on the test drive:

  • Does the car change gears smoothly?
  • Do the wheels pull left or right?
  • Do you hear any strange noises?
  • Do you feel any wobbles or shakes?

Pinpointing problems with how the car drives can help you avoid buying an unsafe or expensive-to-maintain car, or it can help you negotiate a lower price with the seller.

Do the amenities and features work well? 
A car’s amenities and features are great selling points, but they can also be expensive to repair. So, before you buy a used car from an individual, be sure that the amenities and extras are in good working order. When you take your test drive, here are some things to check out:

  • Do the windows and sunroof open and close easily and completely?
  • Does the stereo system work?
  • When you turn on the air conditioning, does cold air come out of the vents? When you turn on the heat, does warm air come out of the vents?

Although they are standard in every car, it is a good idea to check out the headlights, brake lights, horn and tires so that you can see if anything needs to be replaced and if the car will pass inspection.

Before you make an offer…
When you are done with your test drive, be sure that the car is not overheated. Also check that the car has enough fluid and that the seller answers any questions that come up during the test drive.


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