Ten Easy Test Drive Tips: Carry a notepad and pen. Write impressions down on the spot. A flashlight can be handy for looking in dark corners. Bring a rag to clean hands and a friend for moral support.
Walk around the car. Open and close all of the doors, windows, hood and trunk lid. Look for rust. Note any strange odors. Look under the car.
Sit in the driver's seat. Are all gauges readable and controls within reach? How easy is it to adjust the seat and belts? Is there enough back support?
Turn on the ignition, but not the engine. Did all warning lights come on? Check all other lights, including turn signals, brake lights and high beams.
Check visibility front, rear and sides. Watch a passing car to note blind spots. Are there any cracks in the windshield or back window?
Start the engine. Is the idle smooth? Are there any strange noises? What happens when the air conditioner is turned on? Does everything work?
Begin driving. Does the transmission work smoothly? If manual, does the clutch pedal travel and engage smoothly? Is the steering responsive?
Listen for wind, tire or engine noise while driving. Drive over a rough road to check for body rattles and suspension stability.
Test acceleration on an on-ramp. Does the car hesitate? Is there enough power to match traffic? Is steering effort required to keep the car moving straight? When braking, does the car pull to either side?
Parallel park on a level surface. Pay attention to how the car handles. Get out and check the alignment of front and back wheels from a distance.
Check fluids. Low levels may indicate leaks. Look under the vehicle.
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