The economy created a pent-up demand for cars; as such, many people are trading in for new models. This means that it’s a great time to shop for a used car. Not only are they a great value, but they can serve you well for years. Take the time to do a thorough test drive no matter which car dealership you shop at. To help make sure the car you buy is one you’ll enjoy even after you drive it off the lot, here are some tips for completing a thorough test drive.
A test drive is much easier if you take a friend with you. You are able to notice things more efficiently with two people. Another set of eyes and ears is helpful through the process.
Walk around the car and look for anything unusual. Look under the car for fluid leaks. Grab the tail pipe and see if it is secure. Check the tires and wheels. Push down on each corner to test that the shocks bounce and are not flat. Look at the car from the front and behind for the camber (angle) of the wheels.
Turn the car on and have your friend sit in the driver’s seat while you watch all of the lights. Check headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, parking lights and emergency flashers.
Pop the hood and look for signs of leaks, rust, and worn belts and hoses. Check the oil and transmission fluid levels. Check the radiator coolant level. Check the trunk and make sure the spare tire and jack are there.
Watch the tailpipe as your friend starts the car for signs of smoke or water vapor. Check under the hood again for leaks, sparks or smoke. Once satisfied with the engine, get in the driver seat with your friend in the passenger seat.
Check the ease of changing the mirror positions. Check all seat adjustments and seat belts. Check the tilt steering wheel, if it is an option. Check window controls and door locks. Have your friend check his side of the car, as well. Make sure all of the controls are in reach as you test the heater, A/C, radio, windshield wipers and washer. Push every button and turn every knob to make sure everything works as it should.
You will want to find a variety of road surfaces on which to drive. At a minimum, find a smooth road and a bumpy one to check out the suspension. Start with slow driving on a residential street. Have your friend listen for any strange sounds coming from the car. Check for vibrations through the steering column. Try the brakes several times.
Check for the car pulling to the left or right and how easy it is to turn. Find a speed bump to go over and see if the car bounces, then settles quickly.
Now, it is time to head out on the highway. Check the car’s acceleration. Sense any extra vibrations that appear as the car accelerates. Slow down and speed up several times. Roll the windows all the way up and down while checking the wind noise.
Turn the car off and open the hood one more time. Check in the engine compartment and under the car for any leaks. At this point, you have done a very thorough test drive. If you noted anything unusual, or are uncomfortable about anything you found, talk to the dealership about it. You may even come back with an auto mechanic for a more detailed look at the engine and transmission.
You will get years of great use from a used car, and with this kind of test drive, you will have checked out dozens of items. If you need help finding a car, be sure to check out our inventory and stop by any of our locations. Be patient and take the time to do a good test drive and feel comfortable knowing that you can drive home with our warranty!