woman in a car happily driving

What to Look for When Test Driving a Used Car

Buying an affordable used car can be an excellent way to save money while still obtaining a reliable vehicle. However, it’s essential to thoroughly test drive the model you’re interested in before making a purchase; this way, you ensure it meets your expectations and offers a smooth driving experience.

Before you make a final purchase, our team at Car City in North and South Carolina can give you some tips. Read on as we guide you through the key aspects to consider when test-driving a used car, allowing you to make an informed decision. Check out our blog for more resources on finding the right vehicle and contact us with any questions!

Exterior Inspection

Begin by closely examining the exterior of the car. Look for telltale signs of rust, dents, or scratches that may indicate previous damage or overall poor maintenance from the prior owner. It’s also important to check the tires for even wear, as uneven tread wear could indicate alignment or suspension issues.

Interior Comfort and Functionality

Step inside the car and assess the overall comfort and functionality of the interior. Adjust the seats and ensure that you can find a comfortable driving position. Test all switches, knobs, buttons, and controls to ensure they are in proper working condition. Pay attention to the quality of materials, upholstery, and any signs of excessive wear or tear that could be concerning.

Visibility and Safety Features

During the test drive, evaluate the visibility from different angles. Check the rearview and side mirrors to ensure they provide a clear view. Take note of any blind spots that may hinder your ability to see while driving. Test any safety features present in the car, such as airbags, ABS, or advanced driver-assistance systems, to ensure they function correctly.

Engine Performance and Noise

One of the most critical aspects of test driving a used car is assessing the engine performance. Start the car and listen for any unusual noises, such as knocking or rattling, which might indicate engine issues. Accelerate gently and test the responsiveness of the engine. Ensure that the gears shift smoothly and without any hesitation.

Assess Acceleration and Power

During the test drive, evaluate the car’s acceleration and power by gently pressing down on the accelerator pedal. Note how the engine responds and whether it feels smooth and responsive or if there’s any hesitation or stuttering. Ensure that the car can accelerate adequately and effortlessly merge into traffic.

Braking and Suspension


Test the brakes to ensure they engage smoothly and bring the car to a complete stop without excessive noise or vibration. Pay attention to how the car feels while turning, as well as its stability on different road surfaces. Be wary of any excessive body roll or clunking sounds, as they could indicate suspension problems.

Transmission and Gear Shift

If the used car you’re test-driving has a manual transmission, assess the ease of gear shifting. Ensure that all gears engage smoothly and that there is no grinding or resistance between gears. If the model has an automatic transmission, test its shift response time, making sure there are no delays or jerking motions during gear changes.

Handling and Steering

Evaluate the car’s handling by taking it through different road conditions, including straight roads, curves, and bumps. Notice how the car responds to your steering inputs and if it feels stable and controlled. Excessive play in the steering or a pulling sensation may indicate alignment or suspension issues.

Overall Driving Experience

Throughout the test drive, you should remind focus on gauging the car’s overall driving experience. Consider factors such as road noise, ride comfort, and ergonomics. Ask yourself if the car meets your expectations in terms of power, handling, and comfort. Remember to test drive the car under various conditions, including neighborhood street and highway speeds, to assess its performance at different speeds. This is crucial since you’ll want to be able to drive the car on all different types of roads.

Ensure a Smooth Used Car Test Drive with Car City

A comprehensive test drive is crucial when purchasing a used car. By following these guidelines and paying close attention to each aspect, you can make a more informed decision about the vehicle’s condition and its suitability for your needs. Remember to take your time during the test drive, ask questions, and trust your instincts. With the right approach, you’ll be well-equipped to make a confident purchase and enjoy many miles of trouble-free driving in your used car.

Let Car City in North and South Carolina be your partner in finding the right vehicle for you or your family. With our certified quality inspections and easy financing options, we can help you find the perfect model that’s the right age, make, and style you’re looking for.