Test Driving a Used Car

Written by George Steels. Posted in Cars

You have found a great used car , you have done all the necessary checks in terms of documentation, you are happy with the general appearance and condition of the car, and there is only one thing remaining; the test drive. The rule is never buy a car that you have not driven.

Before you take the car for a drive you need to ensure that you are adequately insured. Nowadays it is very rare for cars to be insured for any driver (normally they are insured for specified drivers) so unless the seller can show you an insurance certificate that confirms that you are insured, you will need to arrange special insurance for a test drive. Generally you can do this online.
Preferably start the car with a cold engine to ensure that there is no battery or other starting problems. Listen for any strange noises and inspect the exhaust for any sign of dark smoke that could indicate that oil is being burned. Also check that there are no exhaust leaks (generally you can hear them).

Check the power steering by turning the wheel from lock to lock. If there is any juddering or knocking there is a problem. Check the handbrake for function – it should prevent the car moving away when you gently raise the clutch whilst in gear.

Next you can move off and try out the car on different road surfaces and at different speeds. Make sure that the gears work properly and that the clutch does not have excessive travel. If it is an automatic ensure that it is smooth and the kick down function operates correctly.

Make sure that the car does not drift when driven in a straight line and that the steering wheel is centralised. Try out sharp braking and check whether the car pulls to one side. Also make sure that the suspension works correctly giving the correct amount of stiffness for the car.
When the drive is finished keep the engine running and again check the exhaust with a hot engine.