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Test Driving a Used Car: What to Look Out For

used car test drive

What to Look Out for and How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

Let’s talk about used cars.

If you’re in the market for a car and you’re considering a used car, we’ll gladly take you through the process of ultra-savvy selection.

One of the best ways to determine the actual quality of a used car is to take it for a test drive. This allows you to pick up on any underlying issues and see for yourself that the car is in good condition. As a leading car brand with over 20 years of experience in car safety and performance, Subaru can help you find the perfect used car for you that ticks all the boxes and will give you many happy and safe travels.

Why Test Drive a Used Car?

If you’re not test driving a used car you’re interested in, you’re missing out on your opportunity to experience the car and ask as many questions as possible. There are many valuable benefits to taking the time to test drive a used car, some of which include:

    1. The ability to assess the condition of the car. Test driving a used car allows you to evaluate the overall condition of the vehicle, such as acceleration, braking, comfort, suspension, and engine performance.
    2. Experience the car for yourself. Getting first-hand experience with the car you want is unmatched. While driving the car, you can gauge whether the car’s performance aligns with your style and if you detect any noises or issues you might not be aware of. Confidence and peace of mind. Sometimes all you need is a test drive to give you confidence in your decision. A successful test drive can help build trust and peace of mind.

On the other hand, if you do not test drive a used car before purchasing it, you run into certain risks and drawbacks. For one; you might not be able to pick up on any hidden mechanical problems or issues with the car. Also, every driver has their own unique driving preferences, and skipping the test drive might not allow you to become acquainted with the car. Lastly, the lack of first-hand experience may lead to disappointment if the car’s performance does not meet your expectations.

Used Car Test Drive Checklist

Before test driving a used car, you should do a thorough interior and exterior inspection to identify any visible defects or damage. The following are some items to check before test driving the car:

  1. Exterior:Check the exterior of the car for any dents, scratches, rust, or signs of a previous accident. Ensure that all the lights, mirrors, and windscreen wipers are in working condition.
  2. Interior:Check that the seats, carpets, and dashboard are free from any signs of wear and tear. Make sure that all the features, such as the heating and air conditioning, entertainment system, and comfort features, are working correctly and without failure.
  3. Post-test drive inspection: After the test drive, it’s essential to inspect the car again for any issues that may have arisen during the drive. Recheck the interior and exterior for any new signs of damage or wear and tear.

What to Check for When Test Driving a Used Car

Apart from trying to enjoy the ride itself, staying conscious of certain things is essential during the test drive. If you’re not sure what you should be looking out for, we’ve got you covered with this quick guide on what to check for when test driving a used car:

  • Engine noise and performance: Pay close attention to any unusual noises, vibrations, or smells. If there’s a ticking noise, smoke, or smell, it’s an indication that the car is not up to standard. Also, be sure to check the car’s power and acceleration to ensure it is running smoothly.
  • Transmission shifting and smoothness: Test the transmission’s shifting to ensure that it is working correctly and smoothly and that there’s no drag or failure with gear changing.
  • Suspension and ride quality: Check the suspension by driving over bumps or rough terrain to determine if it is in good condition. If it’s not a smooth drive, ask the sales representative if the suspensions have been maintained or need to be replaced.
  • Brakes and stopping power: Test the brakes by applying them firmly to check their stopping power and responsiveness. If it makes a screeching noise, odds are those brake discs and pads need replacing.
  • Electrical system functionality: Check that all the electrical systems, such as the lights and dashboard warning lights, are working correctly and optimally.
  • Tyres and wheels: Take a look at the condition of the tyres and ensure that they have sufficient tread and are not worn unevenly.
  • Interior features: Test all the features inside the car, such as the heating and air conditioning, entertainment system, and comfort features.

How to Test Drive a Used Car

Now that you know what to check for when test driving a used car, let’s talk about how to properly test drive a used car. Follow these steps to ensure a thorough and effective test drive:

  1. Preparing for the Test Drive
    Before you get behind the wheel, take a few minutes to inspect the car’s exterior and interior. Make sure everything looks and feels right. Adjust the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors to your liking. Familiarize yourself with the car’s features and controls, and then you’re ready to go.
  2. What to Bring with You
    Bring your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and any other necessary documents you may need to follow through with the test drive. You may also want to bring a friend or family member with you for a second opinion; it doesn’t hurt to get another valuable opinion.
  3. How to Evaluate the Car During the Test Drive
    Start the car and listen for any unusual noises. Test the acceleration, braking, steering, and suspension. Take the car on both city streets and highways to get a sense of how it performs in different driving conditions. Pay attention to the ride quality, handling, and overall driving experience.
  4. Post-Test Drive Inspection
    After the test drive, take a few minutes to inspect the car again. Look for any new or previously unnoticed issues that may have arisen during the test drive.

Test Driving a Used Car at a Dealership

When test driving a used car at a dealership, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider:


  • Dealerships often have a wider selection of used cars to choose from.
  • You can often negotiate the price and financing options with the sales reps.
  • Dealerships may offer warranties or other forms of protection.


  • Salespeople may be pushy or try to upsell you on features you don’t need.
  • Dealerships may not always disclose all the information about the car’s history or condition.
  • You may not have as much time to thoroughly inspect and test drive the car as you would with a private seller.

Tips for dealing with salespeople during a test drive:

  • Be firm but polite. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request more information.
  • Don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot. Take your time and weigh your options.
  • Be aware of any hidden fees or charges that may be added to the price.

Buying a Used Car Without Test Driving: Risks and Alternatives

Buying a used car without going for a test drive is a risky proposition that we don’t recommend. You won’t have the opportunity to inspect the car or evaluate its performance. However, there are alternatives to test driving that may be helpful:

  • Pre-purchase inspection: Hire a mechanic or automotive expert to inspect the car for you. They can identify any potential issues and give you a sense of the car’s overall condition.
  • Virtual test drive: Some dealerships offer virtual test drives that allow you to experience the car without leaving your
  • Reviews and ratings: Read online reviews and ratings from other buyers to get a sense of the car’s performance and reliability.

Test driving a used car is an essential step in the car buying process. By test driving a car, you can evaluate its condition, performance, and overall driving experience before making a purchase decision. It can assist you in spotting any potential issues and preventing fraud by dishonest sellers.

At Subaru, we understand the importance of test driving a used car. That’s why we offer a wide selection of high-quality, pre-owned Subaru vehicles that have undergone a rigorous inspection process to ensure their quality and reliability. We also offer a transparent and hassle-free buying process, with upfront pricing and financing options, so you can feel confident in your purchase decision.

Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly SUV or a sporty sedan, Subaru has a collection of pre-loved vehicles that will meet your needs and exceed your expectations. Visit our website or contact your local Subaru dealer to learn more about our used car selection and to schedule a test drive today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I test drive a used car from a private seller?|
Whether you are buying a used car from a dealership or a private seller, you should always give it a test drive.

What should I do if I notice a problem during the test drive?
If you notice a problem during the test drive, bring it to the attention of the seller or dealership. They may be willing to fix the problem or negotiate a lower price to account for the needed repairs.

How long should a test drive be?
A test drive should be long enough to thoroughly evaluate the car’s performance and driving experience. We recommend at least 30 minutes to get a good feel for the car.

What if I don’t know much about cars?
If you’re not familiar with cars, bring someone with you who is knowledgeable, or consider hiring a mechanic to inspect the car before making a purchase decision.

Is it okay to negotiate the price after the test drive?
Yes, it is common to negotiate the price of a used car after a test drive. Use any issues you noticed during the test drive as leverage for negotiating a lower price.

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