Home » Test Driving A Used Car: Useful tips

Test Driving A Used Car: Useful tips

How to properly test and buy a used car

When you have decided to buy a used car, the first thing you need to do is test that car on the road to get an overall impression of it and detect any problems the car might have.

The process of buying a used car begins with a visual inspection and a general checklist of the important elements you need to check.

As you might have heard the purchase of a used car can be a real lottery, because there is a high possibility that some of the sellers might hide various major technical defects.

Test driving a used car checklist

Useful tips while test driving a used car checklist

The test drive is a crucial step in the process of buying a used car. It seems really simple to take the key from the car dealer and set off on the road to see how the car behaves. In reality you have to take several things into account if you want this test drive to actually help you choose the right car.

Test the car for at least 15-30 minutes and try to analyze the most important aspects of the car: steering, suspension, steering position, how it behaves when overcoming bumps, etc. Don’t let your heart guide you to take a decision just by analyzing the overall look of the car.

Useful steps to follow when you test drive a used car:

External damage inspection - test driving a used car

The first thing you need to ask the owner before scheduling a test drive is to have the car washed. If the car is clean you can see with the naked eye any rust spots on the wings and sills and the general condition of the paint.

Look especially at the joints between the wings and the body, in the trunk area and the sills area. Inside the car, look at the steering wheel wear, driver’s seat and and parking brake condition. Plastic and ornaments condition on the dashboard and doors are also a sign of whether or not the car has many kilometers.

Trunk inspection

Used Car Trunk Inspection - step by step guide
  • Start the engine

If a used car starts right away, you’re in luck. It is a first sign that the car has a good engine. Otherwise, this may indicate a malfunction, from a discharged battery or faulty coil connection to a problem with the spark plugs or fuel injectors. If a car still starts, even with a hesitation, then the problem is relatively simple and it might be just an easy fix. A car that will start really hard can have bigger problems and should be avoided.

Possible noises that deviate from the ‘round’ running of an engine can denote significant wear, so it is necessary to listen to the engine at different speeds.

Irregular internal vibrations might indicate defects in the injection system, which are often expensive to repair.

Check the oil level and possible leaks and identify their origin. The oil that comes from the intercooler or turbine area is suspicious and can lead to very expensive repairs.

It is also important to make sure that there is coolant in the expansion vessel, and that it is within normal limits.

  • Turn off the radio and listen to the sound of the engine

Turn off the radio and listen to the sound of the engine. If it has interruptions or makes strange sounds, then look for another car or make an appointment at a car service. Leave the car with the engine running and get out of the car to see where the sound is coming from.

Test Driving A Used Car – Engine Check

Test Drive used car - engine inspection
  • Test the brakes

Press the brake pedal successively before starting. Make sure the pedal is not soft and the brakes respond quickly to the command. Open the window to hear if the brakes make a noise / squeak. Start the car and brake normally a few times while driving. This may be a reason for negotiation.

  • Check the steering wheel vibrations

Vibrations at moderate to high speeds or the fact that the car does not keep its trajectory if you do not keep the steering wheel tight on a straight road usually indicate steering problems or faulty tire geometry that require balancing.

These are relatively small investments. But vibrations accompanied by sounds indicate much more serious problems that usually require costly repairs. In this situation, a used car must be checked on the ramp by a mechanic.

  • Check the power steering

You can test this In the parking lot, with the engine running. Immediately turn the steering wheel to the left and right. If it is difficult, the used car has problems with the power steering. This test also helps you find out if your car has joint problems. If noises are heard this might indicate some problems with the shock absorber flanges, etc.

  • Drive over bumps

Go over moderate bumps, small potholes and see how the car reacts. If it runs over the bumps nicely and no noises are heard then the used car has passed the test. To test the shock absorbers, press the corners of the car, front to back. If the car bounces before regaining the original position then the shock absorbers should be replaced.

  • Drive on the highway

A complete test for a used car would be to get on the highway. Pay attention when changing gears. It has to be done smoothly, effortlessly. Listen for strange noises or vibrations at a speed of 100-120 km/h or if the car does not accelerate normally. Used cars usually have problems with the turbine.

What do you do after the test drive?

If you are in a more complex process, in which you test several cars, it is a good idea to write down the observations immediately after each test drive. Also, write down any questions you may have for the car dealer.

At this point, it goes without saying that the seller is eager to sign the contract, but it is important not to give in to pressure and buy straight ahead if you are not convinced.

Related: How to Sue A Car Dealer for Misrepresentation

A test drive is just a test drive, you don’t have to feel compelled to buy. The best advice we can give you is to wait a while before making the final decision and if possible always consult a mechanic.

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