When you take a car for a test drive, there are several things you should check. First, it is wise to take a friend with you. Get him to sit in the front passenger seat so you won’t have the salesperson there chatting to you and taking your mind off the car’s performance. Make sure your test drive lasts for 15-20 minutes. This will ensure that the engine is thoroughly heated up. Many dealers will allow you to take it home overnight or for the weekend. They hope you’ll become emotionally attached to it and give them their most wanted response – a sale.
If it’s possible, see if you can rent the same make and model for a week from a rent-a-car place. This will give you a far better idea of whether the car is suited to your specific needs. If you can’t do that, at least have a mechanic along on your test-drive, or pre-arrange to have him look at it, if it is a used car. And don’t use the dealerships mechanic – he won’t give you an unbiased opinion. If your mechanic finds a problem that will require fixing, get a quote and use it to negotiate a better price. If the problem is a big one, don’t buy the car.
Have an emissions test done while the car is out on the test drive. There doesn’t need to be visible smoke coming from the tail-pipe for there to be a problem with the emission. And in these days of anti-pollution, most states have laws against too much emission. This could be an expensive problem, but a proper test will only cost you about $20, so it’s worth it. High emissions usually spell trouble; you can’t even license the vehicle with them and if you’ve bought it ‘as is’ you’ll be the one holding the bill at the end of the day.
Other things to watch out for are clutch – smooth gear changes; brake pedal pressure – sudden and gradual stopping performance; seat comfort – head and leg room; defoggers – heating and cooling; lights – headlights, brake, reverse, turning, hazard and tail, interior lights; this might seem a bit silly, but check for ease of getting into and out of the vehicle. Nothing will aggravate you more over the life of your vehicle if you have difficulty in getting in and out. Some people bump their heads or knees every time they get into a certain type of vehicle. You don’t want this, or any other problem if you can help it.