What to look for when taking a test drive

What to look for when taking a test drive

With so many different car options on the market, it pays to do thorough research and test drives before making the final decision. After all, first impressions don’t mean everything. Far too often we are deceived by the appearance of a car, especially in car exhibitions, where salespersons would also keep crowing about different functionalities of the automobile. 

In today’s Kwiksure article, our experts will share some key tips on what to look for on a test drive.

Before you go:

  • Do your homework: Find out the type of car that suits your budget and lifestyle the most. 

  • Make a list: To narrow down the selection, list out the cars that you are most interested in. Learn more about their features and prices via official websites or car reviews sites such as Car1. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of a model helps you compare cars in a more sensible way.

  • Pick a day for test driving only: You don’t have to buy a car on the same day you test it. You don’t want to make a rash decision.

  • Locate dealerships in your area and make an appointment: Scheduling several appointments on the same day allows you to drive several cars and offers you a solid reason to leave the dealership.

  • Bring your driver’s license and proof of insurance: Bring your own photocopy or ask the dealership to do it for you. 

  • Do not drink too much water: Use the bathroom before the test drive so that you can stay focused.

  • Bring along a friend: Not only can your friend help you keep sane when the salesperson is pushing you, he/she can also give you a second opinion on the car.

How to test drive a car:


Is it easy to get in or out of the car without stooping or banging your head? Do you actually fit in the seat? What about the backseat? Can you tilt the driving wheel for a better fit? Do the pedal positions work for you based on your height and the length of your legs? Are they adjustable? These questions are crucial as you are likely to be in the same car for the next few years. An uncomfortable or unfit seating may even hamper your driving ability and shorten your reaction time.


Vehicles can be damaged during shipping (and test drives) so be wary. Check the vehicle body for scratches, dents, cracks, rust, missing pieces, etc. even with a new car. Examine the tires for remaining tread life and signs of uneven wear as it may be a sign of poor alignment. Ensure the brake lights and turn signals are working fine.


There is a variety of tech functions that need to be checked, especially since technology is playing an increasingly important part of modern vehicles. For example, can you easily pair your phone with Bluetooth? Is the infotainment screen intuitive and user-friendly? What about the navigation system and the steering wheel controls?


Talk with your salesperson about what kind of test route you would like (within reason). For instance, if most of your commute is on the highway, then drive on the highway. If you drive into the mountains a lot, then you should test how the car climbs (if possible). You should also check the specific points below:

  • Acceleration: Does the car downshift quickly and smoothly? Is there enough horsepower to go up hills? Engine hesitation is a bad sign.

  • Engine and road noise: How does the car sound when you accelerate? Look out for any grinding or squeaking noises behind the sound of the engine, which can indicate worn brake pads, tires, or rotors.

  • Braking: How does the pedal feel when you come to a complete stop? Do the brakes “grab” suddenly or feel jumpy, sticky or loose?

  • Steering and handling: Can you feel the road through the steering wheel? Do you feel any resistance or pulling when you make a 90-degree turn? Try switching lanes several times carefully to see how the car reacts at high speeds. 

  • Suspension: Is it stiff or soft? Does the vehicle ride comfortably on a rough road?

  • Blind spots: While modern cars tend to have larger pillars for added safety, they may create more blind spots. Locate the blind spot. Check the view from the mirrors and the rear window.

After the test drive

If the test drive goes well, you may want to request a vehicle history report and ask a mechanic to inspect the car for you. If you are still unsure, you may consider scheduling for another test drive session. The rule of thumb is to think carefully before cutting the deal. While there are a lot of things to consider in the test-drive process, you’ll also have to secure at least a third-party insurance policy for your vehicle and may also need to renew your vehicle license.

For further information about purchasing a new car vs a second-hand car, or anything related to cars, contact our specialists at Kwiksure today for impartial advice and free price quotations.

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