Tips for Test Driving

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: March 29, 2023

Test driving a car is always a good idea, even if you don’t plan to buy the car where you test drive it. Instead of letting a pushy salesman pressure you to buy the car you test drive, it’s okay to let him/her know right up front that you are going through your normal routine to check out all of the car’s systems yourself before you will even consider buying. However, this means you will first have to have a routine. We recommend that when test driving, you have a plan for checking all of the following:

Pre-Driving Check-up

Before you even take the car for a spin, we recommend looking very carefully at several aspects of the car. While looks aren’t everything and you can’t judge a book by its cover, there is a lot you can tell about the value of a potential vehicle from looking carefully at:

Check Out the Engine

Be sure to get a read on:

More Tips

Remember: the test drive is for you to determine whether or not you want to purchase the vehicle, and in no way obligates you to buy. Ask questions of the seller. Consider letting other people who will be driving the car come with you and test drive the car as well. When you are driving, test ALL of the car’s functionalities. Try sharp turns, braking, backing up, and all of the car’s electronic devices. You should even try idling. Drive on highways and on city streets, if you can. Check the vehicle’s acceleration, and try braking quickly after you’ve gotten up some speed to see how to car will handle the need to avoid obstacles in the road. (Obviously, this is best tried in a parking lot or other abandoned place, not on the road!)

Run the A/C. Turn on the GPS and DVD player. Turn the radio up as loud and as low as it will go. Turn the car off and back on. If it’s a standard, you may even check out what it feels like to stall. Drive on unpaved and paved roads, and try it with all your family members in the back. Let them chime in on how they like the look and feel of the car.

In short: make the test drive worth your time. Show the salesman you’re interested by being thorough, but don’t be pressured to buy now. Test drive as many cars as you can… even of the same make and model, to find the best fit for you!