How to Test Drive Used Cars with Confidence

Ride Time, Tips, Used Car Dealer, Used Cars

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So, you’re shopping for a used car? Great! Before you spend your hard earned money, though, you should be confident you’re buying a used car you’re going to be happy with. Whether your buy a lemon or a great car isn’t a question of luck, though. The key to buying a great used car is to know what you’re doing.

Don’t Shop for Used Cars Without a Plan

A car is a big investment you’re going to live with it for years to come.

Don’t head straight to the dealer. Grab a pen & paper or your smart phone, we’re going to take notes!

Make a list of the features that are most important to you when selecting a car. As you look at and test drive used cars, grade each feature A-F or 1-10 and making notes of things you’ll want to remember later. Some things you should always have on your list:

  • ride
  • road noise
  • steering feel
  • tires
  • maintenance history
  • interior wear
  • seat comfort
  • sound system
  • brakes
  • exterior appearance/body work
  • anything else that’s important to you

Perform a Pre-Test Inspection

Before you begin your test drive, you should always perform a pre-test inspection. Check the tires for inconsistent wear, watch for rust throughout the undercarriage, and check under the hood for signs of poor maintenance.

If you’re happy with your pre-test inspection it’s time to get in the car!

Be a Test Passenger, Too

This car might not be a good fitSure, it’s called a “test drive” but don’t hog the wheel! If the dealer offers to drive, tell them “Yes please!”.

Riding along as a passenger is an important part of your test drive. While the salesman operates the vehicle, you’ll have time to familiarize yourself with the vehicle accessory controls and convenience features.

Adjust the seats, test out the heat and air conditioner and try out the radio. Make sure everything is working as you’d expect. Your test ride is a great time to ask questions, since you’ll want to just focus on driving once you get behind the wheel.

Your Turn for the Test Drive

Once you’ve taken the driver’s seat, take your time to get situated comfortably before heading out. Adjust your seat and mirrors, and be mindful of how the cockpit feels. If you buy this car, you’re going to spend many hours in that seat.

If the radio is on, shut it off so you can tune your ears to the sounds of the car. Start the engine, and be on your way. Plan to spend 10-20 minutes test driving the car on a variety of roads. You should operate the car for a number of miles at 50km/h and 80-90km/h to get a feel for how it handles.

Take the car to an empty parking lot, roll the windows down and drive slow, tight circles in both directions. Listen for unusual (expensive!) noises that can indicate problems with power steering or constant velocity (CV) joints.

When you get back to the dealership, don’t be pressured into making a deal. Let the dealer know you need more time to consider your options. Go home with your notes and think it over. If you need more time behind the wheel, schedule another test drive.

Once you do find the right car, especially if you noticed anything suspicious during your test drive, take it to a mechanic for a professional and unbiased assessment. This usually costs from $75-$200, and is money well spent.

Enough Reading, It’s Time To Shop for a Used Car

We know you’re excited to buy a new or used car, but we’ll say it again: Take your time. Make sure you find a car you’ll be happy with.

If you want to make sure you get a great deal on your trade-in, come in to Ride Time for a free trade-in evaluation. Even if you don’t buy your next car from us, we’ll make sure you get a great deal by honoring our trade-in evaluation price no matter who you buy your car from.


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