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Tips to make your test drive count

By Motor Match •

A test drive is a crucial part of the whole car buying process, so you need to make sure that you’re well-prepared in order to get the very best out of it. We’ve picked out some of the best tips and tricks for when you undertake your next test drive.

For many parts of the country under Tier 4 restrictions, test drives might not be available, but there’s no reason why you can’t put some practice in to get ready for when the moment eventually arrives. 

A test drive is a crucial part of the whole car buying process, so you need to make sure that you’re well-prepared in order to get the very best out of it. We’ve picked out some of the best tips and tricks for when you undertake your next test drive. 


peugeot 3008 on a road

Ask questions beforehand

If you’re buying from a used dealer, then make the most of having the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can about the car. Ask why it was traded in and what sort of servicing history it has. Also, ask how long they’ve had it in stock - if it has been around for a little while, there could be a reason why other people have been put off buying it. 


Try out all of the major controls

Once you’re inside the car, give all of the major buttons and controls a test. Test the lights, the indicators and fog lights, as well as all of the switches for the heating and ventilation.

On used cars, there’s a likelihood that something could be faulty, but making sure that you try all of the key functions will ensure that everything major is in good working order.  


Listen out

Make sure that you’re able to start the car from cold (a warm car can disguise all manner of faults) and listen as you turn the key. Any strange noises or whistles? This could signify issues with the starter motor or fanbelt, both of which could prove costly to repair down the line. Keep the car running and check the exhaust. Is it running cleanly? A small amount of white condensation is normal (particularly on a cold day) but white smoke could highlight a much deeper problem. 


red ds parked on a driveway

Up and running

Once you’re up and running with the car, make sure that you’re concentrating on key parts of the car. Does the steering feel linear and direct? Do the brakes bring the car to a stop smoothly, or do they feel squishy and under-powered? All of these aspects need looking at closely to ensure they’re working properly.

Plus, make sure that the engine pulls strongly under acceleration and look in the rearview mirror when doing so - diesel engines shouldn’t produce any black smoke whatsoever, while white smoke on any car could highlight an issue with the head gasket and is well worth avoiding. 


Suspension

Of course, the suspension is a key part of a car’s make-up. One of the best ways to test it is to drive to a large, open space - a supermarket car park is ideal - and drive slowly in a circle with the steering on full lock in one direction. Listen out for any grinding and crunching noises before switching the steering to the opposite direction.

Do this when reversing and it should help to flag up any issues with the suspension. 


Horn 

Don’t forget - try the horn! It’s an often-overlooked aspect of a car and one which is absolutely crucial. So give it a try!


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