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What To Look For In A Test Drive

There is very little in the world that is more daunting and exciting than taking a new (or new to you) car for a test drive. 

Not only could this be the vehicle that becomes your own; this is the make or break it part of the deal. 

Don’t let the salesperson distract you. Getting the facts and history of the vehicle you would like to buy is pretty essential to you and your new wheels having a long relationship. 

So, what do you need to look out for when taking a car for a spin? Here is our guide to getting the most out of your test drive.

Get Behind the Wheel

It probably goes without saying that taking the vehicle out for a drive is a crucial step regardless of if you are buying from a dealership or a private seller. 

Not only will you get a feel for the vehicle and how it performs, but you’ll also find out if it’s worth the price tag. 

If you meet resistance from the seller, and they don’t think you’re serious about the car, get negotiating! Sellers are always more willing for you to get behind the wheel when they feel more assured that you’re likely to go for it. 

Any faults with a car will often come to light in a test drive; giving you the perfect opportunity to bow out of a sale if you need to. Equally, never feel obligated to buy the vehicle just because you’ve taken it for a spin.

Insurance Policy

Check with your insurance provider before attending a test drive to make sure you are covered to drive another car. If you are buying from a dealership, they are likely to have this insurance in place already.

Most fully comprehensive insurance policies allow you to drive someone else’s vehicle under the third party policy. However, it’s always worth checking!

Things to Look Out For

Here is a simple guide to what to look out for on your test drive:

Cold Start

Testing a car when it’s cold is going to give you a clearer picture of how the engine responds. When an engine has been warmed up, the seller may be trying to hide something from you. 

Placing your hand on the bonnet will tell you straight away if the engine has recently been turned on. When you turn the engine on, listen carefully. If you hear anything out of the ordinary, alarm bells should be ringing. 

Brakes & Suspension

Testing the brakes will reveal a lot about the vehicle. Brakes that feel spongy and have little resistance are not going to serve you well beyond making the deal. 

Try to drive on a straight bit of road, and when no-one is behind you brake hard. See how responsive the brakes are and how well you stop. If the car veers off to one side, there is likely to be an issue with the brakes, suspension or tyre pressure.

If you’re driving along and hear any clonks, creaking or groaning it means there is something amiss with the suspension.

Gearchange & Clutch

Putting a car through its paces is worth doing in a test drive. Not only will you be able to see how well it handles its gears, but you will also see how smooth the clutch is. 

If you encounter any crunching from the gearstick or slip on the clutch, there may be a hidden issue with the vehicle. 

Keep an eye out for any smoke too as you accelerate!

What’s the Steering Like?

Does the steering wheel wobble or vibrate when you accelerate and brake? Putting a car through its paces will reveal any issues with the steering, tyres, suspension and wheels. It might just be that the wheels need rebalancing to fix any underlying problems. 

How are the wheel bearings?

Accelerating away from bends and corners will let you know if the wheel bearings are in order. If you hear a humming sound when you corner or hear the pitch change on each bend, the bearings may be on their last leg. 


Noone likes a hard sale, so don’t feel intimidated about making a deal if you aren’t comfortable. At the end of the day, any seller wants to have you sign the dotted line and see you depart with your cash.

So, play it safe. Don’t be massively enthusiastic about the wonderful experience you’ve just had on the test drive. Leave some haggling room to get the best deal for you.

Booking in a test drive is one of the greatest tools in your vehicle buying arsenal. So keep your wits about you, and enjoy the ride. 

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