Getting the Most Out of Your Test Drive (Part 1)

An essential element of buying a car is the test drive, especially a used vehicle. compiled top tips and tricks for test driving to help you make the most of yours.

First, it’s important to know what you can afford before you start shopping for a vehicle. Visit and use the site’s useful on-line tools for auto loans. It’s even better if you can get pre-qualified for a car loan before visiting dealerships for test driving.

Let’s start with some general tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

Do Your Research

Be sure to review all inventory featured on dealerships’ websites if you plan to test drive multiple vehicles (you should). It’s best to know what you want to test drive ahead of time so you can obtain vehicle history reports and have plenty of time to test drive all vehicles.  If possible, you’ll want to drive your top picks on the same day.

Know the model, make, year, special packages, and mileage of all vehicles so you can make the best comparison possible. Forget your preconceived ideas; the goal is to be objective. The test drive is the ideal way to discover vehicles’ driving attributes, help you narrow your choices, and give you more confidence when making your buying decision.

Use the Buddy System

It’s helpful to bring a family member or friend along for support. They can offer a valuable second opinion and may notice things you overlook. Also, if you have a young child, bring their safety seat to ensure it fits properly in the vehicles you’re testing. If you travel with pets, check the compatibility of their pet crates and safety harnesses.

Laying the Groundwork

You’ll want to take notes on the condition of the vehicles you drive. Create a comprehensive checklist before you go to the dealership; it will remind you to assess essential aspects of the cars. You may want to consider things such as quality of ride, steering, comfort, brakes, noise, etc. Include an area for general notes. Consider a one (worst) to five (best) point grading scale so you can easily compare vehicles’ lists.

Drive a dependable vehicle – owned, borrowed or rented – in the general area where you’ll be test driving to get a reliable benchmark for your test. Pay attention to handling, sounds, suspension, etc. for comparison.

Get a Professional Opinion

Getting your top car pick(s) inspected by a reputable mechanic is essential. Input from an expert is one of the most important aspects of assessing a vehicle you want to purchase. A good mechanic can find problems that aren’t detected by a test drive. Issues don’t necessarily mean you can’t buy the car, but be well informed so you can negotiate repairs or a price reduction.

Now you’re ready for the next step. Be sure to check in next week for part two of the test driving used cars series – Before the Test Drive: Exterior Inspection (Part 2).