The Test Drive

How to Test Drive a Car

It’s one of your largest investments—and one that you and your family are likely to spend a significant amount of time with. So how best to evaluate whether or not your new car will fit naturally into your life? A test drive, of course. That’s why it’s important to go beyond kicking the tires to see if the vehicle you’ve had your eye on is right for you.

How to Test Drive a Car

Don’t book a test drive until you read this! Our experts share top tips and things to keep in mind before and after test driving a new vehicle.


Making the most of your test drive is a simple matter of being prepared, keeping your eyes open and knowing what to watch out for. Prepare yourself for your next test drive with these handy tips and recommendations.

According to a survey by Cox Automotive only 32% of car buyers know the exact vehicle they want when they start car shopping—but 55% take only one test drive—the one they end up buying. That means you’re likely to try on more than one pair of jeans when clothes shopping, even when they have your size and you know what it is.

What You Need To Test Drive A Car

You won’t need any additional documents other than a driver’s license to test drive a car. You don’t have to show auto insurance for someone to let you test drive either. What you need is to do your research and figure out a brand and model that best suits your needs.

What You Should Do Before A Test Drive

Once you know the model you’re interested in, you should find a dealership and get in touch to schedule a time for a test drive. Remember that the dealership is where you may have to go for service in the future—so choose one close to you.

If you want a certain trim, make sure you request it. Don’t settle for something else just because it’s closer to the lot or it can be a quicker test drive. You ‘re going to make sure that it’s the car you want, because that’s the car you’re going to buy. You’re going to be investing a lot of money in it after all. If the right trim isn’t available, it’s okay to reschedule. Remember, you’re in the driver’s seat (or soon will be)!

Make sure to dedicate at least a couple of hours to the test drive. If you’re planning to do it on a weekend, be aware that the dealership could get busy. Others will have also scheduled test drives, and you may have to wait for a while. For this reason, it makes sense to schedule your test drive on a weekday or a less busy time. Take your time when deciding on a car. You should never feel rushed or be in a hurry. If you don’t have the time to thoroughly test out a vehicle, then come back later. Buying a car is a big decision and you shouldn’t rush it

Do your research

A test drive starts long before you get into the car; indeed, it starts the moment you decide that you’re buying a car and begin your research. Focus your research around your specific needs and those of your family.

Begin by reading reviews about the car or category you’re interested in. When reading reviews, pay special attention to those from your region to factor in weather and driving conditions. Then, narrow down your choices to at least a couple of cars.

Chances are, you have someone in your family or friend circle who knows about cars. You should ask their opinion. But be specific; you are only asking whether you should go for this or that model, not whether they would go for it.

You should also go online and read reviews from actual consumers. And don’t just go by the most favourable or unfavourable ones. The middle is where you’ll find the most in-depth reviews. Arm yourself with questions for the dealership related to your specific needs: Is the car good for city traffic? Is it comfortable for large families? How does it handle long drives?

If you’re looking to buy a redesigned model, watch online videos from amateur reviewers. They’ll be more relatable than marketing campaigns from the manufacturer. You can also take a look at the comments section and ask others for their opinions.

Bring A Friend

When you go to inspect and test drive a vehicle, take someone with you who understands cars and knows what to look for. For starters, pop the hood and check out the oil, coolant, transmission fluid, battery, fan belts and hoses. Also, look at the tires, paint job and any other cosmetic details of the car.

This serves two purposes. First, they can look out for things that you might miss. Second, it’ll make the test drive more objective. You may have already made up your mind and be biased toward the car. Their opinion is likely to be more impartial and credible.

Plan Your Route

Most salespeople have a ‘typical’ route for the test drives. To make the test drive more effective, you should match it with your driving routine and plan it a couple of days in advance. If you normally commute during rush hour, take a high-traffic route.

But it would also be preferable to plan a route that has all the necessary conditions. Your route should involve both stop-and-go and uninterrupted traffic conditions. The former will tell you how the brakes function. The latter will show you how smoothly you can shift gears and reveal the overall comfort level of the vehicle.

Walk Around It For Inspection

Once you’re at the dealership and your car is ready, don’t be in a hurry. Take your time to observe the car in detail. Most images in advertisements and reviews are airbrushed to make the car look more appealing.

Does the colour look as good as it did or online? The colour might look different when it’s dark or rainy outside, so it’s best to schedule your test drive during the day.

Next, check how spacious the vehicle is. Are the rear seats large enough for your kids? Can it easily fit your car seat? Is it difficult to fold the seats? Can you take them out? If you have pets, keep their needs in mind too.

Now it’s time to check the cargo space. Can you fit in everything that you’ll have to carry for your job? Can it hold all your grocery bags?

How easy is it to get in and get out? Do you have to bend too much to enter the vehicle? Do it at least three or four times until you’re absolutely sure about it.

Once inside, check the comfort level of the seating. Can you reach the pedals and move the seats easily? Is the dashboard visible and easy to understand?

What To Look For During The Test Drive

If the salesperson is with you during the test drive, they may try to talk to you about the car while you are driving. But you have to concentrate on specific features of the car to get the most out of your test drive. So don’t be afraid to ask for some peace and quiet. That means turning the radio off and listening for any strange sounds the car makes while driving, as well as while it is idling.

Braking. One of the first things you’ll want to check while you’re out on the road are the brakes. You’ll have to try at least one hard brake. Do you have to push the pedal all the way to the floor? Did the anti-lock brake function properly? Did the car move toward one side?

Handling. Is the steering easy to handle? Is it too sensitive or do you have to apply too much pressure? Is it different on a highway compared to an uneven road? The important thing is to ensure your test drive remains realistic and emulates your commute as much as possible. Are there any blind spots? How easy is it to adjust the mirrors? Are there any squeaks coming from the engine? These are all things you’ll have to look out for.

Accelerating. We know this is the fun part, but you’ll have to accelerate the vehicle both on even ground and an uphill road if possible. How responsive is the car when you accelerate? Is the pedal soft or hard to the touch?

Find A Highway And Hit 100 Km/H

Whether your salesperson is supportive or not, you should ask to take the car on a highway and hit 100 km/h. When you do, does it feel lighter or unbalanced? Does the engine rattle? Does the steering drift? Importantly, how easy is it to shift gears?

See if you can change lanes. Is it easy to steer at high speeds? Also, look out for the vehicle’s blind spots.

Infotainment System

The average car on the road is over 10 years old. And in that time, technology has changed significantly—so many of the features on that new car may be unfamiliar. Things such as drive assist, lane keeping, and turn assist weren’t around just a few years ago. Of course, the entertainment system must be state of the art, but the primary factor for its evaluation should be ease of use. Can you easily connect your Bluetooth? Can you operate the system while driving? Is the dashboard display easy to understand? Is it readable in the dark? Can you comfortably use the controls on the steering wheel?

What To Do After A Test Drive

Although the salesperson will be eager to close the sale, you shouldn’t be in a hurry. It’s a good idea to avoid buying a car on the same day you test drive. After all, the smell of a new car can have an intoxicating effect. Trust us, we know.

As soon as you finish the test drive, jot down your observations on a notepad or in your smartphone. Take notes and write out all of the advantages and disadvantages of this particular vehicle. If you end up with more cons than pros, then it may not be the car for you. This will serve a checklist for you to compare with your needs later. You should review your checklist to see whether your most important requirements were met by the car. You can also ask your friend for their opinion. You can always repeat the process with another make or model until you’re completely satisfied that you’ve found the right car.

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From planning your purchase to your first oil change, we take the guesswork out of buying, owning and maintaining your ride.