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Test Drive Tips to Buy a Car With Confidence

Making the most of this important part of the car-buying process By ,

Article provided by CARPROOF

The test drive is your opportunity to gauge how well the vehicle you’re interested in suits your lifestyle. It’s also a chance to catch any warning signs before you make a big investment. Before you shift the car into drive, here are 10 test drive tips to help you make the most of the situation.

  • 1. Bring a friend – this person can be an extra eye to help you spot any red flags throughout the process.
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  • 2. Decide what’s important to you – list your wants and needs for your next car. Maybe you care more about comfort, or you’re looking for a vehicle that can provide you with reliable handling in rough weather conditions.
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  • 3. Check out the history – take a look at the vehicle history report and see if anything that’s happened in the vehicle’s past is still an issue. This information can also be used in your price negotiations if you decide you’re interested in making a purchase.
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  • 4. Plan your route – research where you plan to drive the car. This is especially important if the test drive is in an unfamiliar location. Test out different environments like stop and go traffic, highway driving and both smooth and bumpy road conditions to see how the car reacts to each surface.
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  • 5. Take some time before you leave the lot –inspect the exterior and interior of the car before you leave the lot. Play around with the car’s accessories before you hit the road so you aren’t distracted during the drive – is everything working properly? Ask the seller to describe any special features now so you’re not distracted out on the road.
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  • 6. Drive it like you mean it – try accelerating, decelerating, passing and merging. What is the engine’s power like? Does it accelerate fast enough for you? Or does it have extra power that you don’t think you need? Does the vehicle upshift and downshift smoothly and at the correct time?
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  • 7. Evaluate how the car feels – is the steering wheel comfortable? Is it sensitive to the touch or is there a lag when you turn? Does the vehicle require constant adjustment while you drive? Make a variety of left and right turns to see how the car reacts.
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  • 8. Hit the brakes – brake both hard and soft – did the anti-lock brake system kick in as promised? Did the car pull to one side? Did you have to push the pedal to the floor to make the stop – these will be things you’ll want to bring up to the seller and your mechanic during a pre-purchase inspection.
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  • 9. Put it in park – try parallel parking the vehicle. This will give you another perspective on the angles of the car and the potential blind spots you could face on a daily basis.
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  • 10. Take your time – a thorough test drive should take about 30 minutes, depending on your route. Don’t rush through it – this is your best opportunity to see if you’re happy with the way the car looks, feels and suits your lifestyle.

Extra tips for a winter test drive
Winter can be a great time to test drive a vehicle as it gives you the chance to see how it handles in challenging weather conditions. Here are a few extra things to consider if you take a vehicle out for a drive in the winter:

  • - Bring a change of shoes so you don’t get the interior of the car dirty. A pair of sneakers can also give you a better feel of how the vehicle moves.
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  • - You should still drive the vehicle at both high and low speeds, but if the road conditions are icy or snowy, consider an empty parking lot for brake tests or any risky maneuvers.
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  • - Even though the temperatures are chilly outside, you’ll want to test the car’s air conditioning as well as the heat and defrost.
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  • - If the vehicle is covered with snow, ask the seller if you can scrape off some of the snow or take it through a car wash, so you can check out the car’s exterior.

Remember that taking a test drive does not mean you have to buy the car—this is a great opportunity to compare the different vehicles you’re considering and see which one feels the best to you. Get a checklist of what to bring along and tips to protect yourself when you meet with a private seller in this free downloadable guide