9 Tips to test driving a Used Car

9 Tips to test driving a Used Car

Besides buying a home, the second biggest purchase will be your car.

Buying a used car should be a simple transaction. But if you have little mechanical knowledge or are easily persuaded, the used car market can take advantage of you pretty easily.

To help save you from unwanted pain, we have come up with a simple checklist to safeguard you against buying a lemon.

The Shortlist

Before going for a test drive, you need to have an idea of what type of vehicle you are looking for.

Set a realistic budget, including estimated running costs eg rego, insurance, fuel and servicing.  Have a look online and make a shortlist of cars that you like. 

Research various online forums about each car in your short list and find a balance of good reviews for a car that fits your price guide. Once you’ve narrowed it down, it is time to have a closer look.

Make a checklist

This list will be quite extensive if you are not certain what car you want. Your list should include important factors like fuel economy, space, comfort and safety rating. To narrow things down further, include factors such as interior and exterior wear and tear, braking performance, tyre condition, service history, stereo quality and whatever else you value in a car.

Set a benchmark

The checklist will enable you to compare vehicles easier. Cross off from your list any cars that you doubt and have a column to write notes of your observations after your test drive, like: “slight vibration in steering column when driving at speed.”

Visual Inspection

Walk around the vehicle and check for imperfections in the panel work and paint. Misaligned panels and differing shades of paint usually indicate that the vehicle was involved in an accident at one stage.

Check all 4 tyres and also the spare. If the tyre wear is uneven, you can presume worn suspension parts or the vehicle has been driven recklessly.

Under the bonnet

Pop the bonnet and check the fluid levels and cleanliness of water and oil. Both should be sitting just under full when the car is cold. Look for any excess oil that has been splashed around, as well as any obvious fluid leaks, worn hoses or belts.

Start it up

It is now time to start the engine. Give it a decent rev and make sure you look out for any signs of smoke coming out of the exhaust -  it is not ideal. Also listen for any strain to start and any other noises. Make sure you also turn on the air con to see how the engine copes.

Hit the road

If the car has passed the test so far, it is time to take it on the road. Try to drive the car on differing roads. On a winding stretch of road you can accelerate hard after negotiating tight corners. When you accelerate hard, listen for engine strain and watch for smoke in the rearview mirror as neither of these are good signs. With corners, listen out for clunks and rattles which could indicate worn joints. Do some smoother turns to feel for flat spots or odd sensations in the steering as this is another warning sign. Find a smooth spot where you can brake hard; if the car doesn’t veer to either side nor shudder, you are in luck.

Follow your mind

If you find the car you have your heart set on but as soon as you take it for a spin it doesn’t feel right, it is important to trust your instincts. Even if it is the exact model you are after and at the right price, if it feels like a lemon it most likely is. Have the confidence to move on and say: “no thank you”. Be honest with your appraisal and go with your gut.

Check the extras

If all this checks out well you may be on to a winner. Finally you will want to test all the extras. Turn up the stereo, the electric windows and all of the other car’s bells and whistles. Make sure everything is fully operational as even the simplest faults may require expensive repairs. Also ensure there is no outstanding finance on the vehicle (ask Approved Car Loans about our complimentary REVS check)

And also that the vehicle is currently registered. If you are still not 100 percent sure about the car, then get a second opinion.

Contact Approved Car Loans to organise your finance Pre Approval today and test drive in confidence.

Happy hunting.

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