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What to look for when test driving a car?

gices
(Level 5)
17 Oct 2013 12:30, updated
26 Aug 2011, published

When people buy a car it doesn’t matter if it’s your first, second, third or fourth, you should always take the car for a test drive. Most people see a car they like and just go for it but just because it looks nice, is in your budget and has great recommendations and reviews, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is suitable for you. The best place to take a car for a test drive is directly from the car dealership, and just because you're going directly to them doesn’t mean you have to buy a brand new car from the showroom itself. You are under no obligations to purchase the car from them nor should you ever feel the pressure from them to buy the car.

When there is a new car on the market there are many places that will test drive them and review them for you. They look at the basics such as speed, manoeuvrability, how many miles per gallon, reliability and safety amongst other things but to be honest these are experts in the field and how it may seem for them may not be for you.

Things to take into consideration when taking a car for a test drive
First and foremost, make sure you have test drive insurance in place. Obviously you want the car to perform well but as a driver you will need to find a car that fits you and not the other way round. So make sure that the car is comfortable for you to drive and any others that may drive the car like a spouse. For example some cars have shorter leg room so if you have long legs you will obviously need one that is more accommodating. Also pedal spacing for certain makes and models differ, so if you have large feet, then this is important.

Handling is important especially if you have young children or pets as one that isn’t so smooth may cause problems on long journeys. So try and test drive it for at least half an hour and try driving on different types of roads to get a good feel of the car.

Accessibility is important as in the ability to get in and out easily; will your family have any problems getting in or out? Is the boot size sufficient enough to meet your needs? You’ll find that some SUV’s and 4x4’s are very high so if you have limited mobility it may be an issue, the same can be said for cars that are low too like some KIA’s.

Controls are also important as some people can never get over the way they switched on their wipers in the previous car, it may seem silly but these simple things can cause problems.

Visibility is very important, make sure you have good all round vision and that there are no blind spots, some cars have small rear windows like some of the Honda’s, therefore test drive reversing into a space.

If you have young children that still need car seats and or booster seats check that they are compatible, if you need to change them all it could be very costly.

Make sure you are covered by your insurance when test driving a car.

And if want to test drive a used car, check the following: * Make sure the gears function smoothly without making any crunching sounds
* Test the clutch to make sure that it isn’t worn, it should start to move off without the pedal reaching the top before biting, if it only starts to move off when you are just about to release the clutch then it could be worn
* When steering it should be smooth and you shouldn’t feel any vibration
* Braking should be smooth and stop in a straight line
* There shouldn’t be any funny sounds such as rattling and clonking as this could mean suspension problems
* Always check for excessive smoke from the exhaust pipe when moving off and driving, the engine should also be quiet whilst driving
* Make sure that the engine is cold before testing, put your hand on the bonnet, if it’s warm there may be a starting problem

If you test drive a new car and then go on to purchasing it brand new, you won’t have any problems but if you test drive a new car then buy one that is used you will almost certainly feel the difference. That’s why it’s better to always test drive a used car as you may be able to pick up on things like a brake pedal that’s stiff, clutch problems, steering problems, suspension differences and handbrake problems.

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