Take the stress out of test driving a car

14 October 2020

Buying a car can be a pretty extensive process. Firstly, there’s all that research – which car is going to suit your needs? Which one fits your budget?

After you’ve finally settled on a potential set of winners, then comes maybe the most crucial part of the decision-making process — test driving the car. Whether you’re looking at a new or used car, you’ll never truly know if it’s the right car for you until you get behind the wheel.

What to look for when test driving a car

Testing the look and feel

When inspecting a car, make sure the interior and features match up to your needs and lifestyle. For example, if you like to get away for the weekend, boot space or roof rack fixtures may be a priority. If you’re buying second-hand, this is where you can see if the photos and description match up to reality.

Things to look out for:

  • Check the interiors and modifications, depending on your needs. For example, how many cup holders there are and if the car can easily accommodate a baby capsule.
  • Adjust the driving seat and mirror to make sure it’s comfortable for you.
  • Test the technology, eg the Bluetooth and touch screen operating system, and see if it’s in working order.
  • Sit in all the seats to gauge what condition they’re in, and how many people can comfortably fit in the backseat.
  • Check the air conditioner and heating works properly.

Testing how the car drives

When you’re test driving a new car (as opposed to a used one), you aren’t usually looking for potential faults or mechanical issues. If you’re test driving a used car, on the other hand, you need to rely on your own judgement when it comes to assessing the mechanical features, and whether it drives as advertised.

Try following these tips:

  • Go for a longer drive. You can get a better feel for the car on a longer drive than just around the block.
  • Check the steering and whether the car pulls to one side, or you feel any vibration from the wheel. This could mean there’s a problem with the suspension.
  • Take note of the brakes. You shouldn’t need to press down on the pedal too hard, and the car should stop smoothly without vibrating.
  • Keep an eye on the colour of the exhaust smoke. Black, blue or white could indicate different engine issues.
  • If you’re testing a manual car, try out as many gears as you can to see if they run smoothly.
  • Listen for rattling, especially as you drive over bumps and while turning. Rattling can be an indicator of suspension issues amongst other things.
  • Test the windscreen wipers to make sure they’re in working order and the wiper blades haven’t deteriorated.
  • If you’re testing a used car from a private seller, check they have insurance before you start driving. Suncorp Comprehensive Car Insurance can cover test drives, as long as the policy holder is in the car.

Explore Suncorp Comprehensive Car Insurance

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Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision about this insurance. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.