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Car Test Driving Tips




If you don’t test drive a car before buying it, you may find when you own the car that you don’t like the way it drives. What do you do? Chances are you’ll probably try to sell it and recoup the money you invested and start over.

To start, make a list of the most wanted options on your ideal car before you go to the dealer. Be sure to test drive one that has the same mechanical options you desire.

The following is a list of areas to which you should pay close attention when taking a test drive.



Sit in the driver’s seat. Adjust the seat so you can depress all pedals fully. Your hands should be on the steering wheel at approximately 9 and 3 o’clock, with your arms out-stretched and a slight bend at the elbows. Can you adjust the seat back? Now put on the seat belt. Does the seat give you good thigh support?

Is the lower seat back firm? Are the pedals too close together? Enough head room? Most importantly, you can read and understand all of the gauges easily? Can you reach all of the controls easily? The radio should have push buttons.

Don’t be fooled by soft car seats, firm support is best. Is there enough leg room?


While belted in the driver’s seat adjust all mirrors. Pretend you are changing lanes and look to the right and left. How much of the roof supports get in the way? Will the car be easy to park? From the driver’s seat, how well can you see out the rear window? Can you see where the car ends?


While the driver’s seat is adjusted properly for comfort, step into the seat directly behind. Is there enough leg and foot room? Does the rear seat force you to slouch? Do you have small children that will outgrow seats during ownership? Does the front passenger eat have enough room in the floor area to move around? Does the glove box hit you in the knees?


Judge for yourself which is best for you – a hatchback or a trunk? When loading the car, must you lift objects over a high rear lip or can objects be slid in like a station wagon? Would a shallow trunk be better, because then you don’t have to bend so far? Or do you carry large, heavy objects?


Brake pedal free-play should be no more than one-half inch, check to see that that’s all it is. Does it require a lot of effort to apply the brake? After you are familiar with the car, test the brakes. Brake rapidly from 40 mph to a full stop, trying not to skid.

Were the brakes easy to control? Were you I control?


The ride is best judged while driving at a constant speed o the kind of roads you usually travel. Also driving on the highway and rough secondary roads is helpful I your evaluation. If the ride is too soft, it could be unsafe. You don’t want a harsh ride either. How does the car feel on broken pavement?


Does the car feel nimble? Is it easy to control? Does the car body lean too much for comfort on turns? Do you enjoy the way the car handles?


Acceleration varies in cars – some take 7 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. Others take up to 20 seconds to do the same. While good acceleration is safe, keep in mind that too much is wasteful. Does the car have enough passing power? Is a quick merge onto the highway possible? How is the power on a hill?


Try to park the car. How easy was it to park? Steering that is too light can be dangerous and if it is too heavy can cause fatigue. Is it worth the effort, or should you get power steering?


Are the air controls easy to understand and use? With the windows up, can you get enough fresh air where you want it? Is the fan noise loud when it’s turned to a high speed? Is the car drafty with all controls off at highway difference?


Too much noise can be irritating, distracting and unsafe. The common sources of noise are the tires, wind and the engine. On the highway with all the windows rolled up can you carry on a conversation in a normal voice? Does the noise make the car seem too busy? Evaluate with the windows up and down, notice the difference.

The best way to use the above listed information is to prepare a check list of all listed items and rate the different cars you drive.

When buying a new car, make sure you know what all the available options are, spend some time deciding which are most important to you.