5 Things To Look For When Test Driving a Car

The process of buying a vehicle can be both an exciting and a daunting feat at the same time. For most individuals, a vehicle is the second largest purchase they’ll make, right behind the purchase of a home. As such, it pays to be diligent and well-informed about the specific vehicle that you’re interested in buying. With the average price of a new car in Canada hovering around the $50K mark, it’s no surprise that budget-conscious drivers are looking at the used car market, in search of a fair deal for their next vehicle. Auto Depot Sudbury is your local Sudbury dealership for high quality used cars. We make sure to carry a wide variety of vehicles that cater to our customers’ needs so please feel free to browse through our inventory of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs to pickup trucks. When it comes time to see the vehicle for yourself, give us a call and book a test drive appointment with one of our product specialists. For your benefit, we’ve compiled a list of the key things to look out for when test driving a vehicle. Keep these tips in mind on your next test drive to be confident that the vehicle you’re interested in will last you for years to come. 

Read More: 

[Car Buying Tips for New Drivers]

[Advantages of Buying a Pre-Owned Car]

[Best Used Vehicles for Budget-Conscious Buyers]

Young man with a salesman in a motor show

1. Perform an Exterior Walkaround of the Vehicle 

The first thing you should do before even getting into the vehicle is a thorough exterior inspection. By doing so, you can check for signs of unusual wear and tear, visually inspect vital components and gain an overall understanding of the car’s current exterior condition.

  • Make sure to check all four tires.
    Look for uneven tread wear, check for puncture marks and ask about when they were last replaced or if winter tires are also included with the vehicle.
  • Take a look at the underbody of the car.
    Check for oil leaks by looking for oil stains on the ground or oil covered underbody components. Look for any damage on the vehicle’s undercarriage, bumper, door sills etc.
  • Test out power functions.
    Ensure that the car’s power door locks, windows and other small-motor operated features are functioning properly. If the vehicle has a power key fob, ensure that the key fob functions continue to work as intended.
  • Look for rust.
    Walk around the car and check for any signs of rust on the vehicle, especially on locations where two or more body panels meet.
  • Look for scratches and dents.
    Inspect the car’s body panels and keep an eye out for any large scratches or dents that would not have been a result of regular wear and tear situations.

2. Perform an Interior Walkaround of the Vehicle

Once you’ve performed an exterior walkaround, it’s time to move to the interior of the vehicle. You spend almost all of your time inside a vehicle so it’s in your best interest to make sure that the interior is in peak working condition. Before taking the car out on the road, make sure to check out the things listed below so that you can be confident that the car’s interior meets your needs.

salesman showing new car to african couple in showroom
  • Check the doors, trunk, hood, tailgate etc.
    Open all of the doors and make sure that they open smoothly. Listen closely for any creaking or metallic rubbing noises that may be a sign that the vehicle may have been in an accident. Do the same with the car’s trunk, hood and tailgate. Should the car be equipped with a power lifting tailgate, check that this system works properly.
  • Excess wear and tear
    Check for signs of excessive wear and tear on the vehicle’s seats, steering wheel, multi-media interface buttons, door panels, switchgear and other frequently-used interior items. If these components are more worn down than expected for that specific vehicle, it may point to previous owners who cared little about their vehicle, which bring up further red flags about other aspects of the car.
  • Inspect for water damage
    Take a look under the vehicle’s floor mats. Should you see any signs of excess moisture or rust, this may indicate that the vehicle has taken on water damage or is prone to moisture remaining inside the cabin.
  • Technology
    If the vehicle is equipped with technology features such as a touchscreen interface, power sunroof, bluetooth functionality, etc., make sure to test out whether or not these features still work as intended.

3. Understand How to Operate the Vehicle

Make sure that you’re aware of how the main driving and safety components of the car function. Although almost all vehicles function in a similar fashion, some vehicles may have a slightly different way of getting something done. As such, you as the driver should be aware of how to start the vehicle, how to operate the turn signals, know where the hazard light button is located and know how to engage the emergency parking brake. Should the vehicle be equipped with a manual transmission, ensure that you’re comfortable with using a stick shift vehicle. Do not attempt to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission if you are unfamiliar as it poses a risk to yourself, the people in the vehicle with you, as well as other motorists on the road
Lastly, make sure to adjust the driver seat, mirrors and steering wheel to an ideal driving position prior to heading out on the road.

4. Things to Look Out for While Driving

Now that you’ve done the due diligence of thorough exterior and interior walkthroughs of the vehicle, it’s time for the actual test drive. Below are a handful of things to look out for while out on the road.

  • Outward visibility.
    Getting behind the wheel of a car that you’re not used to means getting accustomed to its interior layout and design. Some vehicles may have different sightlines than what you’re used to so it pays to make sure that you’re comfortable with the amount of outward visibility that the vehicle your test driving has.
  • Acceleration & engine sound.
    Find a safe stretch of road and hit the gas so that you can listen for any odd sounds that might be coming from the engine bay. Are there knocking sounds? Does something sound off with the car’s exhaust system? Is the car accelerating at a speed that you’re comfortable with? Should any of these questions have negative answers, it may be in your best interest to have the car inspected by a licensed mechanic before moving forward with a deal.
  • Brake feel.
    Brakes are a vital part of any car’s safety system. You want to make sure that your car’s brakes properly engage whenever you press down on the brake pedal. During a test drive, try engaging the brake in a variety of ways and see if anything feels “off” about their performance. Perform a hard brake, a gradual brake and pump the brakes to test out whether there’s still a good amount of material in the brake pads or if they’re worn out and should be replaced.
  • Steering feel.
    The next thing to test out is the vehicle’s steering feel. Ideally, a car’s steering wheel should remain in the position you point it towards and be relatively comfortable to control. If you feel the car pulling to one side more than the other or if the steering wheel feels like it’s vibrating or shaking, it may be in your best interest to have the car inspected by a licensed mechanic.
  • Throttle response.
    Similar to the acceleration tests, check to see how the vehicle’s throttle response feels in relation to the amount that you’re pressing down on the gas pedal. Lethargic, unresponsive and clunky feeling throttle response may be symptoms of more serious problems hidden under the hood of the vehicle.
  • Handling on rough roads.
    Living in Sudbury, driving on unpaved country lanes and pothole-ridden main roads are nothing that we’re not used to. As such, it’s a good idea to drive through less than ideal roads to test out how the car’s suspension system handles the added stress.

5. Drive on Roads that Mimic Your Regular Commute

Although it may be exciting to imagine the many adventures you can take with the vehicle, the reality is that it will be used primarily to get you to work, school and run necessary errands on a day-to-day basis. As such, it would be in your best interest to know how the car will feel during your daily commute. Take the vehicle on a test drive route that’s similar to the drive you’d be doing on your morning commute so that you can experience what it’ll be like for the majority of your ownership experience. Drive on a mixture of main roads and highways to see how the vehicle handles and drive both at low and high speeds to get a taste of what driving in traffic and on the open road would feel like.

Auto Depot Sudbury is your local Northern Ontario dealership for high-quality used vehicles. Interested in test driving one of our cars and testing out these tips for yourself? Visit our Sudbury, ON showroom at 933 Kingsway and speak with one of our knowledgeable sales professionals about taking one of our vehicles out for a test drive.