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Top Tips on Test Driving a Used Car

Written by : Steven Shields | Published on:: 12/09/2017

After weeks of online research you’re down to a short list of suitable cars and dealers. Now you’re ready for that next step, the Test Drive.

Everything may stack up on the web, but its out on the road where you’ll be spending time with your new car, so the test drive is key to making sure your decision is the right one. We’ve put together some handy tips on getting most out of your test drive.

Making sure it is up to scratch (so to speak!)

Before heading off for your test drive have a good check of the condition of the car. Those pictures online may look great, but you can’t beat a walk around the car face-to-wheel, so to speak. Bear in mind you may find some minor imperfections such as the odd stone chip and surface scratches, which most dealers can easily improve on.

Once you’ve walked around the outside have a look under the bonnet, make sure it looks clean and there are no signs of oil leaks.

Finally have a good nosey around inside. Making sure you’re happy all the trim is as you expect.


The test drive itself

Test driving a car can be a daunting experience, so take your time getting yourself comfortable, ensuring you get the seating position exactly how you like it. Can you see clearly over the dashboard? Can you reach all the controls safely? If there are any you’re unsure how to use then ask the sales advisor about them & get acclimatised before you head off.

Once you’re ready get the engine started and take a minute to check for unusual noises or smoke coming out of the exhaust. Then, when you’re ready to set off, make sure that the gears can be engaged smoothly and your happy with the operation of the clutch.

Now it’s time to head out on the open road! Many dealerships will have a set test drive route. Typically this is to ensure that, in the unlikely event of a breakdown or accident, the dealership can easily locate the advisor and customer. If you require a longer test drive, on the motorway for example, you may be required to ring the dealership in advance to arrange it.

Whilst driving, check to see if the steering is pulling (you’ll feel the car try to veer slightly one way or the other). When you brake, the car shouldn’t veer in either direction and you shouldn’t hear any grinding. Make sure you’re comfortable with the feel of the brake pedal and how the brakes respond.

If test driving a manual car, is the clutch too heavy? Also listen out for any unusual sounds. They may be a characteristic of the car, but it doesn’t hurt to express any concerns so the dealership can address them.

If you are buying a car for a particular purpose, make sure it’s actually suitable. Bring whatever you need to ensure the car will do what you need (even if it is to see if all the family will fit in!). Take the family with you when you test drive; better to hear their objections before you buy rather than every time you take them out!

Finally, as you return to the dealership, one thing to check is how easy is the car to park, especially if you’re upsizing. Try parking in the dealership car park (if it has one) and check that you’re happy with visibility. Modern cars are increasingly available with some kind of park assist technology, from standard parking sensors to the more advanced auto park assist. Check that these are fully functioning too.


Papers please!

Now you’re back at the dealership it is a good time to check all documentation; if a car is listed as having full service history, ask to see the service book, for example. Don’t assume a used car will come with everything a new car will, some may be sold without items such as handbooks or spare keys. Many reputable dealers, like The Car People, will list what a car will be supplied with so there’s no surprises at handover.

At The Car People, you can test as many cars as you like. Just pop into one of our branches at Wakefield, Sheffield, Manchester or Warrington, or call us on 0333 222 6599 to book an appointment.

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