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How to test drive a used car

Test driving a car, whether it is brand new or used, is one of the most crucial parts of the buying process. The only difference is that many dealerships allow more test driving mileage for used cars compared to brand new ones. If you are buying a second hand car, you should fully utilize your time to test the car to find out if it is to your liking or not.

It is important that you always test drive the car you are interested in. A dealer or private seller who does not offer you a test drive may be trying to hide some problems with the car. Below are some easy steps to help you test drive a used car.

Inspect the driver seat, dashboard

When you enter the car, the first thing you want to take note of is if you can sit comfortably in the car seat. Does it have enough legroom and are you in a good position when gripping the steering wheel and reaching the brakes? Also make sure that your spine is comfortable to prevent back aches. While you are at it, you may also want to check the material of the seats and the dashboard to see if they are to your liking. Be mindful of cubbyholes and other functional storage space.

Car interior

Start and let it idle

Next up, start the engine and let the car idle for some time. Notice if it rattles more than usual. Other signs to watch out for are strange noises and if the starting process was seamless. After this, perform a bulb check of all the lights in the dashboard. If one of these lights fails to light up, it may mean there is a problem with that function.

Key in the ignition

Check the engine performance

Used cars can have issues with their engines. To check if a used car’s power train can still deliver when you are on the road, take it for a spin. First off, drive around and look for an empty parking space or road near the dealership. During your first hundred meters, make sure that the radio is turned off. Listen to the engine and look out for any suspicious sounds such as a crackling noise. Do this at both a low speed and accelerating slowly.

Woman driving a car

Assess its shifting and handling

Next, shift the gears higher and evaluate how the car feels as it nears the speed limit. Did it transition as smoothly as it should have? Turn around corners and see if the steering wheel feels heavier. As you do so, constantly monitor the engine’s temperature. This will easily tell you if the engine is being put under a lot of stress, which will give you an indication of its overall condition. If the car has cruise control, check to see if it is working and if it engages when you hit the brakes or clutch.

Changing gears in a car

Is the suspension aligned?

If you have the privilege of driving with no cars around you, let go of the steering wheel for a few seconds and check if it pulls to one side. If it does, it is an indication that there may be issues with the tire alignment. If you feel vibrations when you apply the brakes, the car’s drum brakes may already be worn out. Car vibrations during high speeds can also tell you if the tires are unbalanced and vibrations during low speeds usually indicate tire issues.

Car suspension

Check its turning

Look for an open parking space or lot where you can test drive its turning radius. Turn the wheel from lock to lock, starting on the left and turning it all the way in one direction at low speeds and listening to any abnormal noises. Do this when turning right. Doing this will tell you if the car has issues when turning at its limit. No noise means there is practically no issue.

Car turning a corner

Drive on different terrains

Don’t be shy to go over humps and run over some pot holes. Drive as much as possible on your daily road conditions. When there is a knocking noise when hitting bumps or turning sharply, this may indicate that the ball joint in its front suspension may be damaged making the car unfit to drive.

Speed bump

Listen to cabin noises

During the whole course of the drive don’t forget to listen to the noises in the car’s cabin especially the windows. How is the wind noise in the car? If you are a person sensitive to noises, such as creaking noises, then you may also need additional expenses for repair costs.

Measuring cabin noises

Bring a professional

If you are a new driver and have no idea about what problems to look out for during a test drive, you may want to bring a professional with you. It can be someone who has more driving experience than you or someone who is familiar with the issues of the particular model. If time permits, you can also do your research, especially on the car model’s recall history (if there is any) and what previous owners say about it.

The point of a test drive is to notice, as best you can, if there are problems with the car, so you can point them out to the seller or dealer when you are negotiating the price. But most importantly, so you can be sure that the car is safe for you to drive.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Test drive is a must whether you want to buy new or used. The difference is that the dealership would allow more test driving mileage for the used car as compared to the new one. If you are buying a second hand car, you need to ensure it is really good. Read this tips from Carmudi Philipines […]

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