How to take a test Drive What Diesel’s definitive guide…..
Ever gone to buy a second-hand car and worried about what you’re getting? Our handy and helpful test drive guide will ensure your next buy is a good one.
It only takes a few minutes, but the test drive is the most crucial part of buying a used car. Knowing what to look for and where can be the difference between your next pride and joy or a permanent headache. There’s no need to worry though – follow our simple, straightforward steps and you’ll bag a treasured beauty rather than a banger.
Do your homework
It’s vital that you gather as much information as possible about the car you want to buy. Our monthly buying guides are a great place to start, but the next best thing is to check out a relevant forum online. Forums are run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, so they’re full of helpful and impartial information. Sign up, leave a friendly post asking for buying advice and chances are you’ll be inundated with handy tips within a few hours. The What Diesel website has its own online Forum and it’s also a good place to start. Alternatively, track down a marque specialist or independent dealer and ask them what to look for. They’re much more likely to give honest, impartial advice than franchised dealers and they rely on repeat business from happy customers, so it’s worth a call.
Trust your instincts
You’ve arrived at the seller’s home or forecourt armed to the teeth with knowledge, but what Ever gone to buy a second-hand car and worried about what you’re getting? Our handy and helpful test drive guide will ensure your next buy is a good one. next? Check out their body language. Salesmen are a confident bunch, but if they’re pausing, stuttering or not maintaining eye contact then they may have something to hide. Don’t let the seller take charge – you’re in the driving seat – literally. Start the car yourself from cold, as this will give you an indication of how well it idles, and you’ll spot any unusual noises or smoke when it fires up. Drive respectfully, but give the engine and gearbox a good workout so you get a true feel for the car. If the seller has a problem with this then walk away.
On the road
Listen out for knocks or clunks, as these can signify all manner of problems depending on the car. Can you hear a sloshing noise? If so, water may have found its way into the sills. Does the car accelerate smoothly? If there are any flat spots then this could point to engine or drivetrain problems. On a clear road, loosen your grip on the steering wheel – if the car pulls to one side, then there may be an alignment problem, or worse – the car may have been in a serious accident and repaired on the cheap. It’s also a good idea to test the brakes when there’s no traffic about, too. Once again, if the car pulls to one side, there’s a problem.
Make sure you fully test the steering. Try parallel or reverse parking the car into a space, as this will give you the chance to put the wheel on full lock at low speeds and check out how effective the power steering system is.
Off the road
It goes without saying that you should inspect the car with a fine tooth comb. If the seller complains about the amount of time you’re taking, then walk away. Try every single mechanical component – air conditioning, central locking, electric windows etc. If any of these don’t work, then consider it a haggling point rather than a sale killer. Make sure all of the engine fluids are at their correct level and they’re the right colour (e.g. the radiator coolant should be blue, not brown). Remove the oil filler cap and check the underside for sludge or unusual smells, as these can signify head gasket problems. Try to find out where the car is usually parked – if there are any curious looking patches on the tarmac then it could signify a leak.