Doug's Credit Center Blog

How to perform a proper test drive


When it comes time to start looking around for new or used vehicle often times the search can become quite tedious and can even get frustrating for some. Financing a car can be one of the largest purchases some of us will make in our entire lifetime next to a mortgage, so doing the research is highly recommended. Even with a poor credit history you can still get approved for auto loans in your area by filling out an online auto loan application if you’re worried about the financing.

After you have selected a few vehicles that you would like to test drive there are a few things to do before and during the test drive(s) to gauge how each vehicle suits your everyday needs such as:

  • Get friends help -Having a friend of family member accompany you on your test drive is a great idea. Having a second set of eyes and ear is always helpful to help spot any potential red flags when you’re eyes are locked on the road. If they are willing, have them jot down some notes for a recap at the end of your drive.
  • Know what’s important to you – It is important to know what you need from a vehicle compared to what you want. Go through your daily routines that you would typically perform in your vehicle. What is most important to you when it comes to comfort, drivability, and even the placement of cup holders and arm rests.
  • Have a route planned – Just like being comfortable in the vehicle, it is important to know how it handles on various road conditions. As most car dealerships are not in your area you may want to map out a test route to drive when in an unfamiliar area. Try to find the most comparable driving conditions as to where you will typically be driving the vehicle. Between highways, dirt roads, stop and go traffic, or extra bumpy roads to see how the vehicle reacts.
  • Wait, dont just drive off! – Hopping in a vehicle for a test drive and just taking off may not be the best idea when trying to get a proper feel for an automobile in such a short period of time; do a walk around the outside and inspect the vehicles accessories inside and out. How is your reach to the commonly used items like cup holder, window and radio controls, and what about the gear shift?
  • Is that really how you drive? – Be sure to hit the gas like you normally would; does the acceleration and deceleration meet your needs? Hop on the highway to try merging and passing, do you notice any awkward blind spots?
  • How does the car feel to you? – Does the steering handle like you want? Is it too tight or loose? Do you constantly need to adjust the steering to remain in a straight path?
  • Brake Check! – Find a safe area (a parking lot works well) to gauge the cars stopping power; make sure to let any passengers know before doing this. Trying aggressive and passive braking to try and trigger and anti-lock braking systems like promised. If the car pulls to the left or right during braking make a note for your recap and mechanical inspection.
  • When is the last time you parallel parked? – Attempting to Parallel Park a vehicle allows you to fully gauge the different blind spots and turning radius of a vehicle. Get out and check your work, did you find it difficult to get it right? While out of the vehicle look over the vehicle once again in a new environment/lighting conditions to see if you missed anything.
  • Round 2 – Sometimes it takes driving the vehicle at night to fully grasp what the vehicle is about and if it is a good fit, don’t be afraid to ask for another test drive with a different family member to help you decide.
  • Take your time – A thorough test drive can easily take up to 30mins so take your time. Financing a used car is a big commitment so use the test drive to your advantage.

A road test is not only designed for you to test the vehicle, but also for the vehicle to test you; how does it react to your driving style? If you find the automobile you are trying to finance can keep up in any department, maybe you need to look at a different vehicle.

When looking to finance a used car with credit problems the test drive is even more important. Being granted a second chance at an auto loan may be your last for awhile if defaulting on your next loan; so be prepared and calculate what you can afford before even applying online.


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