What should I know about the test drive?

Taking a test drive is the most exciting part of buying a car and your chance to make sure it's perfect for you. Here's a quick summary of the questions you'll want answered.

  • 1.
    How do I get a test drive?

    Just ask. Dealers are keen to show off their cars and it’s the best way to judge if a car is right for you.

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  • 2.
    Do I need to pay for a test drive?

    Dealers will be happy to offer a test drive, though you may need to arrange it in advance so best to call ahead and check. You don’t have to pay anything for a test drive from a dealer, but take your driving licence with you. Private sellers may ask to see proof of insurance before allowing you to try their car.

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  • 3.
    What should I do before setting off on a test drive?

    Take the time to get comfortable before setting off. Adjust the driver’s seat so you can see out clearly and reach all of the pedals easily. Familiarise yourself with the controls as they may have a different layout to the ones that you are used to.

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  • 4.
    Where do I drive the car?

    Drive the car on the sort of roads you will be using it on. If you spend a lot of time driving on motorways, expect to test the car on the motorway as well as roads more local to the dealer’s or seller’s location.

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  • 5.
    How long should a test drive take?

    Don’t ever feel pressured into taking only a short test drive. Expect to drive the car for a reasonable distance. If that means asking for a longer test drive to take the car on a motorway, tell the dealer this in advance so they can make sure the right car is available.

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  • 6.
    What should I look and listen for?

    The seller might try to say you have to expect some noises on a used car, but a well cared for car should be  squeak-free from both the trim and the mechanical components. Check all of the instruments are working.

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  • 7.
    How about the car’s controls?

    As you drive along, make sure the pedals are easy to operate. The gear lever should slot between each gear easily and an automatic gearbox should be smooth. Try every gear, including reverse and make sure you can see clearly when reversing. The car should drive in a straight line with no correction from the steering wheel and should not pull to the left or right. Nor should it move to the left or right when braking, and use the brakes several times to be certain there are no judders or shudders.

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  • 8.
    What happens after the test drive?

    When you’re back at the dealer or seller’s, make sure the boot is big enough for your needs. If you have to use child seats, ask if you can try fitting them and ask the kids if they have sufficient room and a good view out.

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Extra Easy Buyers' Checklist.

Why not download and print our Extra Easy Buyers' Checklist (PDF, 42kb) to help you know what to look for and to get the best deal.


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