How to Test Drive a Car

teen driving with mom

At Allegacy Federal Credit Union, we believe in helping you be your best throughout the car buying process, not just the financing.

If you’re in the market for another vehicle, paying attention to the little things during a test drive can save you a headache later. Still, nearly 50%* of Americans say they spend 30 minutes or less test driving a car before they buy. Whether you’re buying new or used, test driving a car is an important part of making an informed decision. Get it right by following these 5 steps.

Before You Go:

  • Research vehicles that meet your criteria and budget
  • Get pre-approved for an auto loan beforehand
  • Call our Auto Buying Service. They can do the legwork, offer advice and find a great deal in the process. Call 336.774.3480.
  • Bring your driver’s license and proof of insurance
  • If you’re shopping used, print out Nationwide’s used car checklist* to bring with you

How to Test Drive a Car

  1. The test drive begins as soon as you’re on the lot
  • Examine the vehicle’s body for dents, cracks and rust. Check the windshield for nicks and cracks.
  • Check the tires for remaining tread life and signs of uneven wear. The latter can indicate poor alignment.
  • Try out the turn signals and brake lights.
  1. Start the car and let it idle for a few minutes
  • Make sure the engine runs strong and listen for any troubling noises. Turn on the radio, heater and air conditioner to be sure they work properly.
  • Check the dashboard for warning lights and verify that the gauges work.
  1. Drive the car on a street with stop-and-go traffic
  • Notice how the brakes feel when you come to a complete stop. Listen for any grinding or squeaking noises, which can indicate worn brake pads and rotors.
  • How does the car handle on rough roads? Drive slowly and listen for noise that indicate steering issues.
  • The car should navigate smoothly and effortlessly. Resistance or pulling can be a sign of power steering or suspension problems.
  1. Drive on a highway where you can reach speeds of 55 m.p.h. or more
  • Does the car accelerate quickly and move smoothly from gear to gear? Locate the car’s blind spots
  • Make sure the steering doesn’t pull to either side, which can indicate suspension or alignment problems.
  • Listen carefully for any squeaks, whines or rattles behind the sound of the engine.
  • Drive up and down a hill to verify that the car shifts appropriately.
  1. Find a parking lot or street to practice parallel parking
  • Make sure the steering doesn’t feel stiff and you can finely maneuver the car while parallel parking.
  • Ensure that the car shifts gears smoothly– if the car jolts or makes a grinding noise when shifting gears, it can be a sign of a bad transmission.
  • Get comfortable with fitting the car into a standard parking space, particularly if the vehicle is a larger truck or SUV.

If the test drive goes well, request a vehicle history report and have the car inspected by a mechanic. Remember never to settle when it comes to test driving a car – test drive multiple vehicles during the shopping process to be sure you end up with the best option for you.

*These sites are owned by an independent third party unaffiliated with Allegacy.  These links to third party sites are provided only as a convenience.  Allegacy does not manage the operation or content of the website you are about to enter.  Allegacy is not responsible for the privacy or security policies on the sites or other linked third party sites.  Beware of disclosing personal or account information.

How to Test Drive a Car in 5 Easy Steps,, July 14, 2015

Posted in Borrow + Buy, Learn

Third Party Site Disclaimer


You are now leaving the Allegacy Federal Credit Union website. The Credit Union does not operate this alternate site to which you are linking and is not responsible for the content of the website nor any transactions performed on this website. Privacy and security policies may differ from those practiced by the Credit Union.

Cancel Accept