Test Driving A Used Car – Checklist



Whether you go privately or with a dealer, ensure you drive the car before you buy.

Quick check:

Does your car insurance policy include driving other vehicles? If you have a fully-comp insurance policy, you might have third party cover. 

Dealers have a traders-policy that permits customers to drive fully insured. The salesperson usually needs to be in the car, although some main dealers now offer 24-hour ‘take-home test drives’.


Typically, you will have carried out a car history check before a car test drive.

How To Test Drive A Used Car



Right, you are testing a car to make sure it is mechanically sound and isn’t producing unusual noises or puffing out excessive smoke.

Also remember to check the driving experience. Do you feel comfortable behind the wheel of the car and do you enjoy driving it? If not, there’s a good chance you need to try a difference make or model.

Let’s not forget the dreaded parallel parking. Take your time and see how easy it is to manage. Will your new car easily go on the driveway?

Car test drive checklist

How to test drive a car before you buy, check list.

Fit for all the family?

If you’ve little ones that need car seats, make sure they fit well. If your child seat includes Isofix attachment points, double-check the car has the right fittings.

Dog lovers might want to see if their mutt has enough room to jump in the boot.

Comfortable for driving confidence?

Being confident behind the wheel is easier when you feel comfortable. Once you are in the driver’s seat, take some time to make adjustments to the lumbar, forward/backwards and up/down functions.

Modern cars also include steering-wheel adjustments. Find the position you like and then adjust the door mirrors to your liking.

Test drive for at least 20-minutes

Drive at slow speeds in traffic, as well as faster sections on a dual-carriageway. You’ll learn the most about the car (and if you like driving it) when you try it thoroughly. Check for some twisty and bumpy road surfaces that put the vehicle under stress.

Turn the radio off

Drive without distractions. Feel free to tell the salesman you’d like to listen to the car, not talk about the weekend sport.

Do a break test

When it is safe to do so, execute an emergency stop. See if the car pulls to the left or right under heavy braking and listen out for any odd grinding, banging or clunking noises.

Do a clutch test

Have a go at pulling away on an incline. It’s a great way to see how the car performs at low speeds and lets you know if you can handle the way it drives.

Do a grunt test

See how the car performs. Is the engine pokey enough for you to get around safely, or were you expecting a bit more engine bhp?

Listen out for suspension and unusual noises

This guide has touched on it already. During a test drive, remain alert and use your senses. It is common to hear to odd tab or squeak sound that might be the parcel strap or a pencil rolling about in the door panel.


The key is understanding the car before you buy and foreseeing any potentially expensive repairs once taking ownership.

Can you parallel park the vehicle?

We all love a bit of parallel parking. See how easy it is to test drive reversing the car. Is there decent visibility that meets your driving style?