7 Things You Should Do When Test-Driving a Used Car

Jerry Baker
March 22 2023

Did you know that 16% of all car buyers don’t test-drive the vehicle before purchasing it? A test drive is essential when purchasing a used car because it provides valuable insights into how the vehicle handles, how comfortable it is, and whether it will actually suit your needs. 


However, to get the most out of your test drive, it's important to approach it with a clear plan and a keen eye for detail. Consider the most crucial things you should do when test-driving a used car, ensuring you're well-prepared to make an informed decision before you buy.

1. Schedule a Test-Drive Appointment 

Begin by contacting the seller or dealership to schedule a test-drive appointment. This will ensure the vehicle is available and ready for you to drive and that you'll have the seller's undivided attention to address questions or concerns. If possible, try to schedule the test drive during daylight hours. This will make it easier to thoroughly inspect the vehicle's exterior and interior for any signs of wear, damage, or potential issues.

2. Bring a Checklist and Necessary Items

Arrive at your appointment with a checklist of the key things you want to evaluate during the test drive, as well as your driver's license and proof of insurance. Your checklist should cover the vehicle's performance, handling, comfort, and features. 


Additionally, consider bringing a notepad and pen to jot down your observations and impressions during the test drive, as well as a phone or camera to take photos of the vehicle for future reference. Documenting what you see will also give you negotiating power if you buy the used car.

3. Inspect the Vehicle

Before getting behind the wheel, thoroughly inspect the vehicle's exterior. Look for signs of rust, dents, scratches, or other damage, and pay particular attention to the condition of the tires, headlights, and taillights. Check for inconsistencies in the paint job, which may indicate prior accident repairs. Open and close all doors, the trunk, and the hood to ensure they operate smoothly and align properly. If you notice anything concerning, address it with the seller or dealer.


Next, move on to the vehicle's interior. Check the condition of the upholstery, carpets, and headliner for signs of wear, stains, or damage. Operate all windows, locks, and mirrors to ensure they function properly, and pay close attention to the dashboard for warning lights that may indicate potential issues. 


Test the climate control, audio system, and any other features the vehicle may have to ensure they're in working order. Additionally, evaluate the overall comfort of the seats, the amount of legroom and headroom, and the accessibility of controls and storage compartments.

4. Assess the Vehicle's Performance

As you begin your test drive, take note of the vehicle’s acceleration, braking, handling, and suspension. Start the engine and listen for unusual noises, vibrations, or difficulty starting. 


During your drive, pay attention to how the vehicle accelerates and whether it feels responsive and smooth. Test the brakes in a safe environment, ensuring they provide adequate stopping power and don't make any unusual noises or vibrations.


Evaluate the vehicle's handling by taking it through a variety of driving conditions, such as city streets, highways, and winding roads. Pay attention to how the suspension responds to bumps and imperfections in the road, as well as the overall ride quality. Additionally, test the vehicle's steering responsiveness and alignment by driving in a straight line and through turns.


5. Check the Vehicle's Visibility and Ergonomics

Assess the vehicle's visibility and ergonomics. Ensure you have a clear view through the windshield, side windows, and rear window, and that the side and rearview mirrors provide adequate coverage. Check for blind spots or obstructions that could impact your ability to drive safely.


Evaluate the layout of the controls, gauges, and infotainment system, ensuring they're easily accessible and intuitive to use. Consider whether the steering wheel and driver's seat are comfortable and adjustable to accommodate your preferred driving position. If the vehicle has advanced safety features or driver assistance systems, test them during the drive to ensure they function as expected.

6. Bring a Trusted Companion 

Whenever possible, bring a friend or family member along for the test drive because they can provide a valuable unbiased opinion. Additionally, they may notice issues or concerns you might overlook during the test drive.

7. Address Any Concerns 

After completing your test drive, discuss with the seller anything you’re concerned about. This is also an opportunity to gather more information about the vehicle's history, maintenance, and potential problems. 


Be sure to ask the seller about any warranty coverage or return policies that may be available to protect your investment. The seller’s willingness to address your concerns and provide transparency about the vehicle's condition can be a strong indicator of whether you're making a wise decision in purchasing the car.

Test-Drive the Car of Your Dreams

By following these essential steps during your test drive, you'll be well-equipped to make an informed decision about the used car you're considering. Remember, the key to a successful test drive lies in thorough preparation, keen observation, and clear communication with the seller. 


Don't hesitate to walk away from a vehicle that doesn't meet your expectations or address your concerns. With patience and persistence, you'll find the perfect used car that meets your needs and budget and gives you confidence and satisfaction in your purchase. 


When you’ve found a car you’re interested in, let Allcreditautos.com help you find a dealer who can schedule a test drive today and get you on the road as soon as possible.


Jerry Baker