Making the Most of a Test Drive

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, a test drive is your chance to see how the car drives and if there are any noticeable problems. Many times, there won’t be a lot of time to assess the vehicle. To make the most of your test drive, use these tips:

Before you go:

  • Do your homework, research vehicles that meet your criteria and budget.
  • Read reviews about the car so you know what to expect.
  • Get pre-approved for an auto loan beforehand.
  • Call our Auto Buying Service at 336.774.3400. They can do the legwork, offer advice and find a great deal in the process.
  • Bring your driver’s license and proof of insurance to the dealership.

Before you get behind the wheel:

  • 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.
  • Make sure the turn signals, headlights, brake lights and interior lights all function.

Ready to drive:

  • Once you start the car, let it idle for a few minutes. Listen for any troubling noises.
  • Check visibility. Can you see from all angles?
  • Look at all of the gauges and controls. Are they easy to locate and to understand?
  • Turn on the air, heater and radio to make sure they work properly.

On the road:

The salesperson might take you on a preset route. If so, make sure the route contains different driving conditions such as highway, stop and go, and a parking lot to test turn radius, reverse and backing up.

  • Ride comfort: Is the ride firm or smooth? How does it feel when riding over bumps. Does the vehicle feel tight and recover immediately when road conditions are less than ideal?
  • Acceleration: Be sure to try a quick acceleration to make sure you’ll be able to pull onto a highway with ease. Try to climb up and down a steep hill to be sure the transmission downshifts smoothly and how the engine responds. The power delivery should be seamless regardless of elevation changes.
  • Braking: Be sure to brake in various conditions – a smooth brake as well as a more forceful quick brake. You want to make sure the vehicle brakes smoothly. There should be no squeaking or grinding noises. This could indicate worn brake pads or rotors.
  • Steering and handling:  Steering should feel easy and controllable through turns. Resistance or pulling can be a sign of power steering or suspension problems. Make sure it doesn’t pull to one side or the other. You should also check the turn radius in a parking lot to see how tightly the car will turn.
  • Quietness: At some point, close the windows and turn off the air and the radio so you can hear what’s going on, especially at highway speeds. How does the engine sound? Is there excessive wind noise?

If the test drive goes well, request a vehicle history report and have the car inspected by an independent mechanic. Test drive several vehicles, on the same day if possible, so you can compare when it’s fresh on your mind. You also should contact your insurance agent to see how much the new vehicle will add or reduce your insurance premiums.

When you’re ready to make a purchase, we’re here to help. Please feel free to contact us or shop our auto buying inventory.


2017. Consumer Reports How to test-drive a new car like an old pro. Retrieved from:

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