Top Tips to Make the Most of Test Driving a Car

Test driving a car really does allow you to ‘try before you buy’. Some issues just won’t be apparent at first glance – such as performance at high speed, or whether your kids fit easily in the back – so the test drive is an opportunity to scope it out for yourself. Follow our top tips to make sure you end up with a car that’s enjoyable to drive and meets all your requirements.

First things first

Are you insured for the test drive? Most car dealers will cover you on their own insurance, but if you answer an ad from a private seller, there’s a chance their insurance won’t cover you. Ask the seller if they have third party insurance, but if in any doubt, ring your own insurance company to let them know you are test driving a car and enquire about temporary cover.

Test drive etiquette

Remember that test driving a car is your prerogative as a customer. Any dealer worth their salt will want you to be absolutely sure that the vehicle you choose is the right one for you – so don’t be afraid to request whatever you need to help you make the right decision.

  • It’s wise to try more than one car so that you can compare the different driving styles.
  • Don’t be satisfied with a five-minute drive around the block. If possible, take the car out for at least 20-30 minutes and use all the gears so that you can get a proper feel for how it handles.

Where and how to drive

The test drive lets you find out how the car fits with your day-to-day lifestyle. If you do a lot of long distance driving on fast roads, test driving a car won’t tell you much if you never get out of second gear. Try to do the test drive in the same kind of conditions you’ll be driving in day to day, whether that’s in the city, out on the motorway,  along country roads – or even off-road. Don’t forget to try a few manoeuvres to see how you get on in reverse.

Things to look out for

If you’re not a mechanic, you might not feel confident to spot the tell-tale signs of damage or disrepair. When test driving a car it’s a good idea ask a petrol head friend to come along for the ride if possible, or you can even pay an expert to give the vehicle the once-over. There are some basic things, however, that are easy to check for yourself.

  • Listen to the engine. Does it rattle or vibrate? Any suspicious noises may indicate a problem.
  • Try an emergency stop. How do the brakes perform?
  • Drive over speed bumps. Does the suspension handle them well?

Don’t feel pressured to commit to buying a car just because you’ve taken it for a test drive. Take your time, ask lots of questions, and if in doubt, simply test drive another.

© Broadfields Garage Ltd. 2024
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