The Ultimate Test Drive Checklist


In the market for a new car? Used a car buying service to find your vehicle? Ready for the test drive to make sure it’s the one for you? Here’s our ultimate test drive checklist to help you through it!

Can I Test Drive the Car Alone?

It depends on the dealership or the owner of the car. In some cases, you might have to hand over your licence for safekeeping until you return. This is common for private sales. Dealerships have different policies, so it’s best to ask them.

What do I Check in the Car?

There are four key areas to check the car:

Outside the Car:

  • Check the tires, their make and their model. You want to know what the previous owner has been using. Also, check if they’re pumped or flat.
  • Are there any dents, scratches or bumps on the car? Too many and it might indicate that there has been an accident. Keep an eye out for rust spots too.
  • Check the colour of emissions from the exhaust pipe. Any strange colours might indicate a problem with the engine.
  • If the lights and indicators work properly and as expected.
  • Take a look underneath to see if everything is as expected. Keep an eye for any loose pieces or replacements.

The History of the Car:

  • Ask to see the logbook to check the service history. You want to know if the car has been checked by professionals when it should be.
  • Look at any extensive repairs that have been made to the car by researching the car online.
  • Ask to see all certificates relating to the car, so you know everything about it.

Under the Bonnet:

  • Check how the engine sounds when you turn it on. Large, irregular sounds might indicate a problem.
  • Check the oil filter by pulling out the dipstick and seeing the condition of the oil in the vehicle. This can indicate how well the owner has looked after the car.
  • Look at the water tank. Are there any cracks or leaks? Is steam coming out of it?

Inside the Car:

  • Check how the engine starts. It is smooth and automatically or does it struggle to get going? You should always see what happens when you turn it off.
  • Does the A/C and heater work as they should?
  • Consider the dashboard and how everything looks and works. You should also test all the features of the vehicle, such as the BlueTooth, steering wheel, brakes and so forth.
  • Look out for any cracks/damage on the dash, door panels, or leather seats. Keep an eye for any rips in the upholstery too.
  • Check how the gears and transmission are changing. Are they smooth or rusty?
  • Locate and test the main switches, such as the wipers/washers, headlights and hazard lights.

How Long is a Test Drive?

Hand presses unlock on the car remote control.

Overall, the whole process should take an hour. It should take you 30 minutes to thoroughly check the vehicle and another 30 minutes to test drive it. In total, this should give you a detailed and personal assessment of the vehicle and whether it suits your preferences or not.

What do I Check When Driving?

Now that you’ve given the car a decent and detailed sweep, it’s time to take it for a spin on the road. When driving, here is what you should be keeping an eye out on:

  • The steering wheel – does it vibrate or struggle to turn? Or is it smooth and aligned?
  • The brakes – make sure you start and stop the brakes constantly at different speeds to ensure they’re reliable (just be safe while doing it).
  • The engine – check if the car rides smoothly without any problems, particularly during accelerating, decelerating and when driving steadily. Keep an ear out for any unusual sounds, such as rattling.
  • The transmission – change the gears as you’re driving to see what the reaction is and if there are any potential problems.
  • The terrain – Try driving on different types of roads, if possible. Highways, countryside, suburb roads and inner-city streets are your best options to see how the car holds up in all conditions.

We hope that this guide helps you during test driving your new car. Take the time when inspecting the car, and give it a thorough test drive. This ensures you have the experience possible while finding your perfect car!

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