test drive


The Test Drive

Getting a feel for the vehicle you think you want, and making sure there are no strange noises or clunks is an important part of the buying process. This is particularly the case if you are buying a used car.

It's also good to test how comfortable you feel in the driver's seat.

Organising a test drive with a licenced dealer, or car owner if you're buying second hand, is the smartest way to make sure your purchase is the right one for you. Here's what to expect.

To test drive a new car it's best to contact the car dealership with your preferred time either by phone or online.

You can always try your luck and just turn up. But planning ahead means you won't waste your time if the vehicle is unavailable.

If you're buying second-hand, arrange a time with the owner that suits you both.

Before the test drive


Check the car's insurance. If it's a privately owned car, discuss the owner's insurance and know who will pay for repairs and the excess in case of an accident. Some insurance companies will extend temporary cover on a vehicle or your own cover for a nominal fee.

Reputable dealerships often have special cover in place to cover test drives, but make sure you find out if this is the case.

If you're asked to sign a release form (or any documentation), be clear about what you're signing.

Check to see if you're liable for any damages or excess and if in doubt, contact your own insurer to discuss temporary insurance or an extension on your existing policy.

Plan your questions, do your homework and, if you're not completely confident, ask an experienced friend or family member to come along so you have an independent sounding board.

Book your drive on a weekday if possible, as it will usually be quieter than the weekend and you'll have more time to spend with the dealer afterwards.

If you're testing a few different cars, try to do your test drives close together so you are better able to make a true comparison.

Finally, try to test drive the exact make and model of the car you want.

Things to consider


How does it sound?

Listen out for any excess noise from the engine, windows, and inside the cabin. If there's a sunroof, open it and listen to the difference.

What happens when you accelerate or turn on the air-conditioning?

Does the car feel powerful enough when you accelerate? Since air-conditioning uses power, do you notice a change when you turn on the air-conditioning?

What are the brakes like?

The car should slow down in a straight and controlled manner. And, when it's safe to do so, put the car to the test with different braking actions (sudden, soft etc.).

Does the transmission feel smooth?

If testing an automatic, are there any jolts during the upshifts and downshifts? If the car is manual, does the gearshift and clutch action feel seamless?

How does the quality of the ride feel?

Try to drive the car in a variety of situations (hill, curves, bumpy surface, flat long stretch etc.).

How does the car handle the road?

If a car feels stable and controllable, you will feel more confident. What happens when you swerve or turn?

What's it like to park?

By doing a parallel park you should be able to identify any blind spots.

After the test drive


There is no obligation to purchase after test-driving. But if everything's gone well, and you're ready to talk price with the dealer or owner, then by all means start now.

Ask plenty of questions and make sure you understand every detail of what the transaction will involve. If you're test-driving other cars, or simply need more time, be honest and let the owner or dealer know. A good sales person will give you the space to decide and respect your right to make your own decision.