Used car test drive guide

Your checklist for test
driving a used car

How to inspect if it is the right fit before you commit

You’ve searched countless vehicle listings, watchlisted your favourites, now it’s time for the exciting part! When it comes to testing out used vehicles, it’s important to set your expectations, get prepared, and know what to inspect.

If you haven’t already, check out our guide to buying a used car. With your preferences for a vehicle in mind, let’s get down to business.

Why it's important to be prepared for the test drive?

Test driving a used car is your opportunity to see how it handles in a range of different road and traffic conditions as well as get hands-on experience with the vehicle’s many features.

But testing out your next ride starts before you even see the car. Do your homework and research the model and trim level to learn as much as possible before you take the wheel – that way you’ll know what to expect before you make the trip!

Before starting the engine

Now that you’ve read about the model inside and out, it’s time to check it inside and out. Take your time inspecting and ask the Dealer any questions as you do.

  • Here’s a short checklist of what you can give a once over:
  • Open all doors and sit in the seats both front and back
  • Adjust the seats – if the rears fold down flat, try it out
  • Check all compartments and inspect any extra storage areas
  • Check the tread of all tyres and let the Dealer know if anything looks worn or damaged
  • Open up the boot and see how easy it is to get to the spare tyre
  • Inspect all windows for chips and the body for scratches and dents
  • Look over the seats, carpet and boot for wear and tear
  • Test out the lights and blinkers with someone outside checking

Make a mental note of any features (like storage space or anchor points for a child car seat) which may not fit your needs.

Remember, don’t feel pressured to make any major compromises if the vehicle doesn’t seem right for you – it’s better to go back to the drawing board now than realise you’re not happy with your purchase months later. 

Taking the keys and hitting the road

Before you arrive, familiarise yourself with the area the car is located and plot out a driving route. If there’s any nearby highways, don’t be afraid to factor that in so you can safely test how the engine handles at 80-100km/h.

Taking a used car around the block isn’t enough, you should allow at least half an hour to test the vehicle in a variety of traffic situations.

Also, it’s always a good idea to bring a friend or partner with you to help remember any observations on your drive. Plus, it’s nice to be able to talk it out before making the big decision!

What’s important to consider on a test drive?

If possible and safe, test drive how it handles acceleration on the highway. Try it out in a variety of traffic conditions. Listen to how the engine idles at a complete stop. Check gear changes are smooth and decisive. Anything sound or feel out of place? Mention it to the Dealer when you return.

Drive with the steering wheel perfectly straight and make sure the car stays aligned to the road. Try taking some corners and parallel parking on a quiet street to check how the power steering feels and how wide the turning circle is.

Try out or inspect all the controls, dials and gauges. Does everything make sense and is laid out how you want? Is it easy to use and understand while driving?

Tech check
Check all the electrics - sound system, infotainment, Bluetooth, steering controls, heating, air-con, power windows and any additional features like driving modes.

You’ll be spending a lot of time in this seat if you decide to buy, so make sure you feel comfortable, well-supported and have enough room for your legs. Depending on your height some cars will be better suited for you than others.


Questions to ask the Dealer after the test
  • Ask about the additional features or part replacements mentioned in the listing. Genuine parts and accessories are always best.
  • Ask if there are any scratches or dents in the exterior, chipped glass or damage to the interior.
  • Most importantly ask them for the used car service history. Checking service history tells you if it was serviced by a Dealership, when the next service is due and what it’s expected to cost.

A Toyota Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle means peace of mind

Choosing a Certified Pre-Owned Toyota is the best way to feel assured of your used car purchase. It eliminates many of the risks in buying a used car and includes many of the great services and assurances you might expect from a new Toyota.

Every Certified Pre-Owned Toyota can come with the following:

  • Full service history
  • Independent CarHistory® background check
  • 1-year additional Toyota-backed Warranty#
  • 90 point inspection by Toyota Technicians
  • 1 year free Toyota Roadside Assist*
  • Get a Guaranteed Future ValueF2 with a Toyota Access car loan

Get the ultimate peace of mind

Test drive checklist

Your guide to inspecting a used car with confidence and finding the perfect fit.

What is a certified pre-owned car?

A Toyota Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle comes with an additional 1-year Toyota-backed warranty#, full service history, 1 year nationwide Toyota Roadside AssistP9 and an independent background check. You may also have the option of a Toyota Access loan for Guaranteed Future ValueF2, and it's eligible for Toyota Genuine Service from your local Toyota dealer.