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Test Drive Etiquette for Beginners

September 12, 2014

When looking for a new or used car, it’s essential that you take it out for a spin before you make your mind up. Every car has its own unique handling and you’ll soon become accustomed to what you like and what you don’t. With this in mind, we’ve gathered up our top tips when it comes to taking a car out for a test spin.
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Test drive tips

  • Check you’re insured for the test drive, dealerships will insure their cars specially, but check you have third party cover if it’s a private sale. Ask the owner or dealership for a thorough test drive, at least 20 minutes in length.
  • Once you’re in the vehicle, make sure you can adjust the seating, mirrors and steering wheel to a comfortable position
  • Before setting off, familiarise yourself with all of the driver’s controls, ensuring you can comfortably reach and operate them as required
  • Test the vehicle on a variety of roads from slow residential streets to motorways – this should give you a feel for how the vehicle handles and performs in a variety of situations
  • Ensure that the vehicle has sufficient power to accelerate and overtake at motorway speeds

 

Featured Expert: David Motton, road test editor for Good Motoring Magazine at MotoringAssist.com shares some top tips when it comes to arranging your test drive.

“You need to make sure the test drive is long enough for you to decide if the car is right for you. A quick spin around the block isn’t far enough. Ask for a test drive which takes in a variety of different roads, including the type of road you spend most time on. For example, if you regularly travel on the motorway, make sure you try the car on a dual-carriageway so you can assess its performance, noise levels and comfort at 70mph.”

Test driving a used car

When it comes to buying a used car, especially from a private dealer, there are further considerations you should take into account during your test drive. Used cars generally lack the guarantee of performance and unfortunately, some unscrupulous sellers may set out to deceive buyers by attempting to hide issues with the vehicle. Here’s some additional points to keep in mind when looking at a used vehicle:

  • Listen for any unusual rattling, vibrations or squeals coming from the engine or chassis during idling and whilst driving
  • During your test drive, ensure you take the car through all of the gears – the transition should be smooth and silent
  • When you start the car, the engine should start promptly – watch out for any smoke coming from the exhaust as this could be an indication of serious engine problems
  • Try accelerating whilst loosely gripping the steering wheel – some cars with braking issues will pull to one direction
  • If possible and only when it is safe to do so, try performing an emergency brake to check that the brakes are in full working order
  • Seek out areas with speed bumps during your test drive and listen for any unusual sounds coming from the suspension when you pass over them
  • Finally, before agreeing to a purchase – thoroughly inspect and test every part of the vehicle, including seat belts, doors, door handles, bonnet, boot, locks, mirrors, windows and any other moving part to ensure they are in working order

 

Hopefully, your test drive will make you feel right at home, helping you identify the right car for you. However, if you do have any concerns during your test drive, ensure you ask the dealer or seller for more information. If you’re not convinced by their answer then walk away – there are plenty more cars on the market.

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About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.