There is a difference between test driving a used car and testing a new car. So many things are involved. Test-driving a used car often demands thorough checks than a brand-new one. You need to turn it inside out, from the body to the cabin, bonnet and boot to detect any sign of trouble. Before you test drive a used car, you need to check if the car suits you and your demands, which includes size, space, practicality and how it drives and if it is in the best possible condition. Here are the major checks you need to carry out before testing a used car.

Body and paintwork

This is what the eyes notice at first. So, you need to check for any forms of damage to the body like scratches and dents. You need to check for contour on the panels, as they could mean poor repair from damages. In the case of a convertible, ascertain that the roof is in good condition and it operates without any hitches.

Also, the colour of the paint has to be uniform all over the car and if there is a sign of bubbling paintwork, the panel might have started rusting.

Tyres and suspension

Wear and tear affect tyres, so check if they are still running on enough treads. This can be done with the edge of a coin by inserting it into the grooves and if the outer band is covered, the tyre is good and otherwise.

Uneven wear across the tread could indicate faulty suspension. You can do a quick check by pushing down each corner of the car. If the car bounces smoothly, then you are good to go.

Cabin checks

Make sure that there are no damages to the lenses of the car’s lights and indicators and their functionality. Also, check for mileage on the paperwork and make sure it tallies and that the wear in the car is the same as the miles on the clock. Wear of the pedal rubbers could indicate a much higher mileage especially if the odometer reads low miles and checks if the steering wheel or gear lever is smooth.

Do not forget to take note of the comfortability of the cabin; do you have easy access to every part? To achieve this, check if:

  • You can easily pull out and retract the seat belts
  • You can smoothly adjust the seat and steering wheel
  • The electric windows or mirrors work perfectly
  • The car is equipped with a sat-nav and it works
  • The ventilation’s airflow is not restricted to the kind of noise it makes
  • All the equipment, including central locking, the stereo, interior lights work accordingly and are well-fitted.
  • All other controls work properly if any.

Car seats and boot

Depending on your family size, you need to check how much room you have. A simple test drive with your family will satisfy your curiosity. Check if it fits well or okay with your kids and wife. You will want to carry out this exercise to avoid any regrets.

Also, if you are the type that shops a lot, you need to know if there will be enough room for shopping bags, prams and kids and check if the rear seats can be folded. Concerning the boot, check if it is in good condition and if it has enough room to accommodate your stuff. And do not forget to check if the spare wheel is available and in good condition.

Test driving a used car

Check if the bonnet is locked and the engine is cooled off to discover any problems easily. The engine should run smoothly with less noise when in motion. This allows you to detect unusual noises or rattles, and excessive smoke which spell a bad omen.

Moreover, the steering should be responsive to swerves; it shouldn’t vibrate or feel uneven. Changing of gear should be seamless and the clutch should be sharp, there’s a problem if the pedal feels too high. Another important component is the brake, which should also be highly responsive and when pressed, it should halt the car in a straight line.

However, to get a more rounded idea of the car’s drive, you need to drive the car over a long distance, probably your usual journeys as it will allow you to practice better with manoeuvres and parking. The car could have a good drive but might not fit well with you, so you have to take note of this while having a feel of the car’s drive.

Does my car insurance cover a test drive?

First off, you should always check for insurance before you drive a car different from yours. So, you need to check if you’re insured to test drive a used car. If you are, then there will be a specification that reads thus “drive another car with the owner’s permission” on your insurance but it’s usually for third-party only. Otherwise, you can always check with the seller’s insurance to know if it covers a test drive if yours do not. They might be able to extend theirs to it.

If the above-mentioned solutions are not applicable, request a temporary comprehensive cover from your insurer. This is perfect especially if you plan on test-driving several cars. You can also check with dealerships.

Paperwork checks

This is very important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Every used car comes with documents detailing its maintenance history and previous owners, so should yours. Make sure the paperwork is in order before purchase. The paperwork includes a V5C registration certificate (log book), MOT certificate, Get a free MOT check, and receipt.

Do I need a vehicle check?

Of course, you do. Simply to avoid cases involving cars that have been stolen, scrapped, written off, imported or exported; this will give you peace of mind. You can also request a full background check of the car you want to test drive especially when you have the motive of buying it. Key points like the car’s history, legal status, mileage, specifications, pollution and emissions ratings will have been taken care of in the check.

Price negotiation

Your bargaining power needs to be strong when test driving a used car with the aim of purchase. You can ask the seller to get minor damage fixed instead of walking away. But always remember that you are in charge of your money.


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