Tips for test driving a car

You can learn a lot about a car by researching, talking to other motorists who drive the same car, and checking out the car’s service and accident history. Even with all this information at your fingertips, it’s essential to take the car for a test drive before making your final decision.

“You never really know if a car is the right fit for you without driving it first. This is especially important when it comes to purchasing a used car. Take someone with you who can experience the drive as a passenger, and who can be a good sounding board if you need it,” explains Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options. The MotorHappy online marketplace is home to thousands of previously loved quality-assured vehicles that have all undergone a stringent inspection and have a proven service history.

Test driving is an important part of the driving process, so below are some important tips:

  1. Check the car for damages or scratches. Even if it’s new or a demo car, there might still be flaws. You might be able to negotiate a better price. Alternatively, you can insist that the dealership or owner fixes anything before, or on condition of purchase.
  2. Check out the comfort factor – do you feel comfortable, and could you sit on those seats for long drives? Test out the passenger seat and back seat to assess if you’d be comfy on a drive.
  3. Assess the tech situation – does the car sync with Bluetooth? Does it have a CD shuttle or USB charging points?
  4. Check the mileage and ensure it matches up to what the dealer has disclosed.
  5. To get a full sense of the car’s driving capabilities, drive the car in different conditions, taking it through suburbs and the highway. Check to see if there are any blind spots when you turn, and how the vehicle fares when you’re overtaking.
  6. Test the car’s brakes by braking fairly hard and suddenly (just warn your passengers when you’re about to do so, and make sure there are no cars behind you).
  7. Drive over speed bumps and up a hill, stop at an incline and take off, try a twisty road to see how the car handles it.
  8. If there’s a built-in entertainment system or navigation system, try these out to see that they’re user-friendly.
  9. Check out the boot and back space, and if you have young kids, assess if the car will easily fit prams and infant or booster seats.
  10. Switch off the music if it’s playing, so you can get an idea of how quiet (or noisily) the car drives.

“If it is a used car, ask to take the car to your mechanic for a thorough inspection, or if they can come and evaluate the car on the dealer’s premises. If the dealer or owner refuses to allow you to do this, see this as a red flag and perhaps consider purchasing another vehicle,” advises Smit.