Test drives are an unskippable portion of the car buying process. It's that time when you get to sit behind the wheel and drive a car you're interested in. It's an exciting time, but it's also important to stay focused. Staying alert and paying attention are musts.
While it might be tempting to treat a test drive like a joy ride, do your best to resist. Test drives are oftentimes the closest you'll get to a vehicle before you purchase it, and you want to be open to all the signs it might show. Here are some things to keep in mind before, during, and after each test drive.
Before You Start the Test Drive
Windows should roll down easily without sticking or stalling. The radio/stereo should work, test each of the knobs and buttons. When you use the door-locking functions, check that they really worked. That means getting out of the vehicle and trying each door from the outside to see if it really is locked. Then, unlock them and try again. This way, you'll be able to see if each door opens and locks as it should.
Next, move onto all of the dash controls. Do the windshield wipers work? Is the windshield wiper fluid tank filled? Test the internal and external lights: low beams, high beams, hazards, brake lights, blinkers, dome lights, dash lights, and any other lights you can think of.
During the Test Drive
Pay attention to how responsive the brakes are. Does it seem like you have to push down hard for them to work? Loosen your grip on the steering wheel and pay attention if the vehicle pulls in either direction. If it does, there might be something wrong with the alignment.
Be sure to take the vehicle onto a highway to see how it performs outside city limits. See how the acceleration feels and how the vehicle responds to slowing from highway speeds. Pay attention to how the vehicle handles at highway speeds. Does it ride comfortably?
Test Drive Extras
Before you head back to the dealership, put the car through a few more tests. Spend a little time switching lanes to get to know where the vehicle's blind spots are. Practice getting in and out of a few parking spots. Is it easy to maneuver? Does the size of the vehicle feel right to you? Oftentimes, drivers get a true sense of a vehicle's size the first time they try to get in and out of a parking spot.
After the Test Drive
Before handing the keys back, give the vehicle you just test drove a once-over. Check under the hood for any issues. Watch for leaks, odd smells, smoke, or steam coming from under the hood. Any of these things could indicate a larger issue with the vehicle. If you do have hesitations about the inner components of a vehicle you're considering buying, ask if you can have the vehicle looked over by a mechanic who's not affiliated with the dealership you're working with.
If you follow these tips for future test drives, you might be surprised by what you find. If you'd like more tips and ideas to ensure you get the most out of your next car buying experience, download this guide: