Before the Test Drive: Exterior Inspection (Part 2)

As mentioned in the first installment of our test drive series, has pulled together top tips and tricks for test driving. It’s best to know what you can afford before you begin the actual driving. Visit and use the site’s innovative on-line tools for auto loans. Take it a step further and get pre-qualified for a car loan before visiting dealerships.

Take a Walk

Before your test drive, walk around the vehicle and inspect it thoroughly. Closely review the condition of the paint. Look down the length of the car on both sides to ensure there’s no warping from previous body damage. A magnet can be helpful. Run it along the automobile. If it doesn’t stick, possibly the vehicle was repaired with a significant amount of auto body filler.
As you walk around the vehicle, check all doors as well as the trunk or hatch. Do they open smoothly and shut securely? Also, test the exterior and interior door locks.

Look Inside

Next, open the hood and take a look at the engine. What’s its general appearance? Check fluid levels to determine if any fluids are lower, darker or thicker than recommended. Be sure to inspect hoses and belts to ensure they’re in good condition and not worn or cracking.

Go Low

Check under the vehicle for leaking fluid or possible low-hanging parts. Start the vehicle to view exhaust for regular coloring and test all lights – interior and exterior. Recheck the fluids while the car is running; is anything dripping now? At the same time, listen for knocks or pings that could indicate potential issues.

While you’re focused on the lower exterior, take a good look at the tires to check their condition. Ensure they’re the same brand and size, have a minimum of a quarter inch of tread, and are evenly worn. Uneven wear could indicate a suspension issue. If anything appears too worn or damaged, don’t test drive the vehicle until the dealer addresses the issue. While looking at the tires, if brake rotors are visible, see if there is discoloration, cracking, or worn grooves.

You’ve inspected the exterior; now we can move inside. See part three of the test driving used cars series next week – Before the Test Drive: Interior Inspection (Part 3).