Used Car Test Drive Checklist

Are you looking to buy a used car? The buying process begins with taking a test drive. However, it isn’t just about driving. On top of that, you have your chance to check the car for any flaws. Our used vehicle test drive checklist can assist you with this.

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment on a test drive, especially if you enjoy the appearance and feel of the vehicle you’re driving. Keeping track of a checklist can help guarantee that you don’t overlook any major concerns or cover all bases.

How long does a test drive last?

Allow around 90 minutes for the whole process of arriving, driving the vehicle, and discussing possible deals afterwards. We recommend at least 30 minutes of actual driving time. You’ll be able to drive the car on a variety of surfaces and conditions once you’ve completed this step. After all, if you’re going to use the automobile for highway driving, why bother testing it around the city centre?

What is the best way to examine a pre-owned car?

Before you deal with the seller, we recommend investigating the vehicle’s past. You can run an online car check to do this. This type of check will tell you everything about the car’s history.

Before getting into the car, it’s also a good idea to verify the following things:

Top Tip: When arranging the test drive, request that the seller make sure the automobile is cool. You’ll be able to check fluid levels, such as coolant, brake fluid, and oil level during this time.

Check the car over carefully:
  • Is there rust on the underside, wheel arches, and sill edges? Because corroded steel or metal is the source of rust, if it’s present in the automobile’s structure it may weaken. Plastic coverings that conceal rust should be avoided, especially around the arches or sills.
  • Is there any damage to the bodywork? Are there any dents?
  • Is the exhaust pipe in good condition? Is it properly and firmly supported?
  • Examine the colour of emissions from the exhaust pipe. If you see blue smoke, it’s possible that oil burning issues are to blame. Diesel cars frequently produce black-coloured smoke, so keep that in mind. On a cold day, you could observe white steam instead of black smoke coming from your vehicle.
  • Are all of the lights and indicators functional?
  • Is the seat belt system in good working order and does it operate properly?
  • Do the tires have any faults? Are the inner edges of the tyres worn down (you may need to turn the steering wheel all the way to view the front tires completely)? If they have less than 3mm tread, you’ll want to change them soon.
  • Is the mileage realistic for the car’s age? To figure out what the mileage should be and whether the odometer has been tampered with, multiply the car’s age in years by 10,000.
  • Are there any electrical problems? Try the windows, heaters/blowers, air conditioning, wing mirrors, central locking, windscreen wipers, and horn.
Lift the bonnet:
  • Is there any question about the engine’s previous maintenance? Examine whether the oil has been filled to the proper level. Is there any indication of a leak or accumulation? Check the oil level using the dipstick. If the automobile is golden and new rather than black and ancient, it implies it has just been serviced.
  • Keep an eye out for yellow-mustard coloured build-up around the oil filler cap, especially on the inside, which might suggest head gasket issues.
  • Examine the water expansion tank. The contents of this should appear to be coloured water. It may be an indication of head gasket failure if it contains floating particles.
Ask for paperwork:
  • Ask to inspect the V5C and MOT certificates. Also, look for prior MOT warnings – they’re a good predictor of future problems that might need attention.
  • Ask to see the logbook to verify the service record.

Top tips during the test drive

Here are some things to look for and be cautious about throughout the test drive.

Before you start the engine, consider these things:
  • Don’t be sidetracked by the seller of the automobile who is trying to get your attention by talking about how it drives and sounds.
  • Wait a few seconds after shutting off the radio to get a sense of what’s wrong. A squeak from the engine might point to a faulty accessory or cam belt.
  • When the engine is cold, does it start readily? If not, a new battery or alternator may be required. Alternatively, the starter motor could be faulty.
  • Keep an eye on the indicators – do they go off soon after the engine starts? Is there anything unusual that happens when you drive?
  • Is the speedometer and rev counter working correctly?
While the test drive:
  • Is the automobile’s performance what you anticipated?
  • Is there little effort required to turn the steering wheel? If the car veers to one side, it’s possible that uneven air pressure in the tires or a problem with the vehicle’s suspension is to blame.
  • Is there anything unusual when you go past the ‘full lock’ position? These might indicate a problem with the power steering or suspension.
  • Keep a close eye on the temperature gauge. An overheated engine might indicate a more serious problem. Allow the automobile to sit for a few minutes after completing the test drive.
  • Is it easy to engage the clutch in a manual vehicle? When using the clutch pedal, listen for unusual noises. Is it simple to shift gears?
  • Is the gear lever cable ‘self-centred’ in the correct gear, or do you have to ‘look’ for each gear? It might simply be a minor spring that is causing the problem, but it may need to take out the entire gearbox from your vehicle to fix it.
  • Is it possible to come to a complete stop in time and without putting too much effort? When braking, is it possible for the car to drift one way or follow a straight line? Are there any strange noises (such as metal on metal) when you brake?
  • Test the handbrake on a hill, if possible. Is it effective?
  • Take your car on the road to find out how it performs on uneven terrain. Listen for unusual knocks and clunks while driving over speed bumps.
After the test drive:
  • Allow a few minutes after the test drive for the engine to cool before attempting to restart it when it’s still hot. It’s no good having a failing-to-start problem.
  • Is the vehicle convenient to drive? Is it right for you and your family? What about the boot size; is it adequate? Is there enough room in the back of the car for passengers?

When you go to take a test drive of a car that you’re interested in purchasing, it’s important to be prepared. You’ll want to make sure to check out all the features of the car and take it for a spin on different types of roads. Use this checklist to make sure you cover everything while you’re test driving!


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