When you purchase a used car, one of the most important tasks is taking a test drive. Whether you buy from a private party, an independent used car dealer, or even a certified used car from a franchised new car dealership, a thorough test drive is necessary and this is where you find out if the car is the right fit for you

1. Examine the Exterior

Always start with a thorough inspection of the exterior of the pre-owned vehicle. To see if the colour matches from panel to panel, make it a point to examine all the body panels. Uneven paint can be an indication of collision damage that is poorly repaired. Look under the car for anything that drips or hangs down, and look under the vehicle for pools of fluid. Take a look at the condition of the tires and if they are matching and most importantly worn excessively.

2. Start the vehicle

Start the car and turn on the emergency flashers and headlights, then get out and walk around the vehicle. Listen out for any strange noises and pay attention to the exhaust’s smell and appearance. Make sure all the lights are working. It might only cost a few bucks to fix a burned-out light bulb, or it may be an indicator of a deeper electrical problem

3. Test the Interior Features

 It is a good idea to wipe commonly touched surfaces. By sanitizing the vehicle, you’ll ensure your safety. You want to make yourself comfortable by setting the seats, mirrors, and steering wheel in a good position once you’re in the car. Make sure you have good visibility through the windshield, the mirrors, and the dash. Hop into the back seat to get a feel for the amount of legroom rear-seat passengers will have

When you are comfortable, run through all of the features of the car to make sure they’re working. Check the interior lighting, if they’re pulsing from bright to dim, it could be an indication of an electrical issue. Make sure there are no warning lights on the dash and indicators that aren’t working. Check the power door locks, windows, power tailgate, and sliding doors work without difficulty or making screeching noises. Look at the ceiling around the sunroof, making sure there are no wet spots or other signs of leakage. Finally, turn on the stereo and make sure it is working properly.

Many people forget to check the heating and air conditioning system so make sure these are working. This should be checked regardless of current weather conditions because you’ll want to make sure the A/C works.

4. The road test

The most crucial time to use all of your senses is during the test drive. Check the seat belts to ensure that when you push the release button, they click into place and unlatch easily. Make sure you have good visibility of the road and no warnings will appear on the dashboard.  As you accelerate, listen closely to the engine and transmission for any sounds that might signal a problem. As you slow down and apply the brakes, pay attention to the sound and behaviour of the car, is it swerving whilst stopping? Can you hear a whistle? It can be from a leak in a window or a sunroof. Smell the air for unexpected scents, including gasoline and exhaust, coming through the vents. With your foot, feel the brakes, the steering with your hands and the comfort of the ride through the seat. By paying close attention to your senses, you will be able to identify problems.

5. After your road test

Assuming your test drive goes exceedingly well and you are considering making a purchase, getting a pre-purchase inspection from an independent mechanic should be your next step. A qualified mechanic will not only be able to identify problems that you might have missed on the test drive, but they will also be able to take a look at issues and tell you how much it will cost to fix each one. You should never skip the pre-purchase mechanical inspection, no matter how confident you are in the car. It could be a costly mistake you will regret for years to come. The only exception you might consider is when you buy from a franchised new car dealership that offers a pre-owned vehicle with a factory warranty.

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