fbpx What Should You Check When You Test Drive a New Or Used Car?

Test Driving a Car: How to Get the Best from Your Test

Posted on 5th August 2022
Test Driving a Car: How to Get the Best from Your Test

When on the lookout for your next vehicle, the test drive is something you might look forward to, but you also approach with apprehension. What if your dream car doesn’t handle as you thought? What if the seller has some hidden secrets about the car? What if you get in the drivers’ seat and you just don’t feel comfortable?

These are all valid questions, and today we will cover the key things you should look out for when taking a car for a test drive. Whether it is a car you are securing new car finance for, or one you’re buying from a private ad, read on for our top tips.

Just remember that buying privately can sometimes be a trickier situation for organising a test drive. This could partly be due to the owner’s potential reluctance, but also due to the complications insurance can add to the situation.

1.      Check your insurance

This tip only really covers those buying privately as most dealers will have provisions in place to ensure you are covered when test driving a vehicle. If you have secured used car finance and have found a car on the private market, check your insurance policy. Before starting up the engine, you will need to see if your policy states you can drive another car with the owner’s permission.

This particular type of cover tends to be third party. In some instances, the person selling may have altered their policy to cover any driver, too. With insurance often being something of a minefield, we would simply advise checking with your provider in case you have any doubts.

2.     Call before arrival

This isn’t normally a problem when buying from a dealer, but is strongly advised when buying privately. A quick call to check the appointment is still available could save a wasted journey and show the seller how keen you are on securing the vehicle. We would recommend you do this regardless of who you are buying from, just to make sure you haven’t been double booked. In addition, ask them to leave the engine cold. This way you can check for any potential start up problems that may occur. You could also ask for any documents relating to the car to be ready for you. This should happen at a dealership regardless, but always ask just to be sure.

3.     Bring some items you can test out

Perhaps you have children that require a car seat. You will want to ensure they fit, so bringing one along may be a useful way to check that the vehicle will match your needs. Do you have a pushchair? In that case, boot space may be a premium. You may already have the answers to this if you are familiar with the car model, but there are some things that might be different. Factors like tyre tread and phone connections can all be quickly investigated. Use a tool to check the tread is sufficiently deep, and see if the connection to your phone works.

Whilst potentially novel things to check, the difference between checking them now and the cost to repair after purchase could be vast.

4.     Check under the bonnet

Before setting off, have a look under the hood at the engine and the fluid levels. Look for signs of damage, leaks, and upon starting it, listen for any rattling or banging sounds. If you detect any of these, you could be left a costly problem to repair. This is the key reason you should always ask the seller to leave the engine cold before you test it. A warmed-up engine may hide faults that will become clear when you start it for the first time from cold.

5.     Check the brakes

This is perhaps one of the most important checks. You can see how responsive and how effective the brakes are during a test drive – simply apply the brakes while driving. If they have a sharp response and you see the car slow down in a straight line, the brakes are in good condition. If they feel spongy or make scraping or squeaking noises, you may have problematic brakes. Another sign of faulty brakes could be where the pedal vibrates as you apply it. If you notice any of these problems, the brakes may be faulty and need replacing.

6.     Test the steering

The steering wheel is obviously a key part to any car, and if it vibrates as you drive, there could be a problem. It is also worth testing it when the car is parked. Turn the wheel all the way from left to right. If it makes a popping sound or some loud clunking noises, there could be damage to the steering wheel or the front of the car.

7.     Clutch and gears

If the gears make a crunching sound as you move through them, there could be a problem. You may also find that the clutch doesn’t bite until you have got the pedal to the top. This is a possible sign of a worn clutch. These are two problems that, if not noticed during a test drive, could cost a lot to repair.


All the cars sold through Euphoria Finance go through vigorous checks before leaving the forecourt, meaning you can be certain of a road safe, high-quality vehicle. With expertise in securing finance for first time drivers as well as those looking for poor credit car finance, we love to say yes, and ensure you can get fast car finance, so get a free quote today.

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