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Used Car Buying the Test Drive

Have you been thinking about buying a used car? Did you look for some tips on what to look at your used car buying choices? Buying a used car can be a real minefield if you are not familiar with the different aspects of evaluating a used car. After spending years in the car business buying and selling new and used cars I have put together some items you will need to consider when test driving the used vehicle that you are considering. The extra time you take before you make your purchase can help you weed out the vehicles that will cause you to regret your purchase for many years to come.

Used Car Buying Mindset

Get yourself in the right frame off mind when you are buying a used car because you are buying something someone else bought brand new and chose to trade-in to get a better car. People trade-in or get rid of cars for many different reasons, maybe they wanted a new more stylish car or they have been spending too much on repairs and decided it was time for a new vehicle. You will never be sure to the best thing to do is take the used car that catches your eye for a thorough test drive before making any decisions.

Checklist for Used Car Buying

Most people don’t buy a used car several times a month so no matter how good you think you can remember every thing to check a used car buying checklist is a good idea. There are many factors to consider and a checklist will you keep you from skipping over any of the important points. A list of items to consider and inspect during a test drive will help you be more objective and avoid the possibility of any car dealer scams or making an emotional decision rather than a logical car buying decision.

Used Car Buying and Weather Conditions

Many cars can handle very differently than expected in different weather conditions so make sure you take that into consideration. Obviously you can’t drive a used car in the snow in the middle of the summer or in the rain on a sunny day, but you can look the car over and imagine some of the things that you can expect in different weather conditions. One example might be ground clearance if you often find your self traveling in heavy snow conditions. In this example it might make sense for you to select a front wheel drive car rather that rear wheel drive. Try to picture driving the vehicle of choice driving in the different weather conditions that you encounter in your travels.

Driving a Used Car on Various Road Types

If you are buying a used car to be your daily driver or soul source of transportation it would be wise to test drive the vehicle on the same types of roads that you travel. If you regularly drive on the highway a test drive that consists of driving near the dealership on city roads will not be a good indicator of what you can expect if you buy the car. Be sure to drive in every type of road than you normally travel so you can evaluate every part of the vehicle and also use it to compare against you old car.

Some dealerships require the sales person to go with you for a test drive and if that is the case let them know where you want to drive the car. Often times car salesman will have a route they often take for test drives that avoids extreme conditions so the vehicle shows better, but you want all kinds of conditions. You want to check the acceleration, steering, braking and you want to do it with more vigor than you normally would because you are testing the car you might purchase. If you are dealing with a reputable dealer and not driving dangerously the salesman should not have a problem with your thorough test drive.

Used Car Interior Operation and Dashboard

During the course of your test drive keep an eye on the dash and gauges. Make sure they all seem to be working properly and the indicators for the turn signals work as designed. Check them in different driving conditions also, such as during fast acceleration, sharp turns or hard braking. Make sure that the interior lights are working and they go on and off when the doors open and close. Do the dash lights work properly and do the y dim and brighten. Any kind off electrical problem can be very costly to repair so it is a good idea to avoid them when buying a used car.

Used Car Visibility

Get in the used car you are considering and adjust the seat to a comfortable position and then take a look around. Make sure that you can see clearly in all directions while checking for any potential blind spots. All cars have potential blind spots depending on the driver. Make that your vision is not hampered in any way as you go through a normal driving routine. Consider the view when parking, backing up, passing, changing lanes and at night. Check the rear view mirrors and side view mirrors both for visibility and if they are power mirrors they should work properly. Turn on the windshield wipers and washers to make sure they will operate when you need them.

Used Car Drivability and Handling

While test driving the used vehicle you should make note of the steering and responsiveness. Is the steering wheel sloppy or does the car respond well with a small turn of the wheel? Then drive on a bumpy road or over railroad tracks and notice whether the steering changes or if it maintains control of the car. Does the car bounce excessively or does it recover well from large bumps in the road? Drive down the highway and ask yourself if the ride is smooth or rough. Would you be comfortable on a long trip driving this used car? These are examples of car buying questions you should ask yourself when you are test driving a used car.

These are some of the many things you need to consider when taking a used car for a test drive. First and foremost you should feel good about the performance of a used car before you worry about the styling color and other aesthetics.

Take our Used Car Buying Checklist with you when you inspect a used car you are considering and read the Used Car Buying Basics post.

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