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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It can be daunting knowing what to look for when buying a used car.
Knowing how to negotiate when buying a car is not a dark art and it shouldn’t be peppered with jargon.