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How to Test Drive a Car

last updated May 30, 2019

Test driving is the last step to finding that car you have always wanted to own. Having a test drive is the only way that you can prove that the ride feels as good as it looks on paper. Why should you believe the opinions and reviews of people when you can experience it for yourself in a test drive?

How to Test Drive a Car

Test driving a vehicle, especially a new one, is fun and very easy. Don’t worry if you have never been on a test drive before because we have created a very simple guide on how to test drive a car.

Bring a friend

Some motor vehicle sales shop will allow you to test drive by yourself while others ask the salesperson to accompany you. The good thing about bringing a friend for the test drive is that they can help you make an objective opinion about the car. They can also be valuable witnesses in case you crash the car during the test drive.

List key features

Before test driving a car, it is important that you list down the particular features that you are looking for in a new vehicle. This list will help you to evaluate different cars at the end of the test drive and enable you to identify the one that meets all the requirements easily.

Map out your route

It is important that you map out the route that you will use during the test drive so as to have a productive session. Driving around aimlessly might help you to know how the car feels but you will not learn how the car performs on different terrains. Trying the vehicle in different environments will enable you to monitor the reaction of the car and see if it makes any strange sounds during the transition from one terrain to another.


At the end of the test drive, try parking the car in a parallel position. This will give you a view of all the blind spots that you will be dealing with on a daily basis if you decide to buy that car. It is also recommended that you step out after parking and take a deep look at all the exterior features of the car to ensure that you didn’t miss something.

How long does a test drive last?

An average test drive should take approximately thirty minutes but this is not to say that you can’t test drive the car for a longer time duration. Dealerships will differ in the amount of time they allow each driver and you should inquire about this before beginning the test drive.

If you want to familiarize with the car you intend to buy, it’s recommended that you take it on test drives many times in different weather conditions. This way, you will be able to know how the car performs in different climatic conditions and determine if it is the best choice for you.

When buying an old car, the duration spent test-driving should be longer than that of a new one. This is to allow you to identify any problems that the car might be having in performance, control or maneuverability. You should also be allowed some time to take it to your mechanic so that he can access the status of the car and advice you if you should buy the car or not.

Can I test drive a car alone?

The policy of the dealership determines if you can test drive a car alone. With new cars, they tend to be strict because even a small scratch can affect the value of the car. However, if you show up at the dealership looking mature and responsible, they might let you test drive the car alone. Some salespeople will also let you stay with the car overnight so as to see if it fits well in your garage.

When test driving alone, it is important that you look out for the following factors so as to determine if that is the car that you want to buy.


If test driving an automatic car, note how it shifts from one gear to another when maneuvering through a hilly place. A manual car will provide better feedback about the transmission status of the car as you can determine how easy it is to shift between different gears and the weight of the clutch.

·Air Conditioning systems

Many people fail to test the air conditioning systems in new cars during the test drive and come to realize after they have bought the car that the climate control systems are not working.

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The braking system is the most important determinant of how safe a new car is. While test driving, take notice of how hard or easy it is to press on the brakes as well as the response time of the car.

·Electronic devices

If one of the main features of the car is that it is equipped with extra electronic devices such as reversing assist or navigation system, put them into use and monitor if they are functioning as they should.

What do I need for a test drive?

It is important that you are well prepared before you test drive the car that you intend to purchase so that you don’t fall a victim of sales strategies applied by the well-groomed salespeople at the dealership.

·Proof of identification

The auto shop will need some form of identification before they give you the car keys. Having your driver’s license will make the process less tedious as it is proof enough that you can handle the car comfortably. It is also recommended that you bring with you a copy of your insurance just in case you crash the car during the test drive.

·Know if to Trade-in

It is likely that when you show a keen interest in a certain car, the salesperson helping you to choose a car will try to inquire if you are willing to trade in the car that you were using for a reduced price of the new car. You shouldn’t agree to trade in even if that is what you intend to do. This is because if you imply that you will trade in your old car, the salespeople will be left evaluating it when you for the test drive so as to offer you a price that is beneficial to them during the trade-in.

·Driving with the salesperson

You are entitled to asking the salesperson to come with you for the test drive so that they can pinpoint the crucial features of the car that you might not see while driving by yourself. This will also prove to be handy if the car is involved in a crash as the salesperson can explain to the dealership what exactly happened.

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 What happens if you crash on a test drive?

Ever wondered about what would happen if you were involved in an accident during a test drive? Well, the dealership will obviously cover for the damages through its insurer. It can, however, come after you and claim that you pay for the damages caused if you didn’t have the authorization to test drive the car or if they prove that the accident was as a result of negligence on your side.

When there is indisputable evidence that you caused the accident, your car insurer will have to pay for the damage of the car. This is why it is always important to have your car insurance coverage you even when you are driving a rented car. In case the insurance doesn’t cover you in such circumstances, you will be forced to pay for the damage of the car with your own money.

What if you are injured during a Test Drive Crash?

Some test drives crashes are very so serious such that they cause injury to the people involved in the accident. If it is determined that the accident was as a result of a malfunction of the car, the dealership and its insurer are responsible for compensating you for the pain and suffering that you experienced as a result of the accident.

If the other driver involved in the crash is found liable, their insurance company should compensate you for the injury and the dealership for the damage of the car. It is recommended that you take pictures of the scene after the crash and find any witnesses who will validate your story so as to ascertain who is to blame for the accident.

Final Thoughts on Test Driving

Test driving a car before you buy it is very important as you get a feel of the car and its functionality. You should, however, be very careful not to crash during the test drive and kill any dreams that you had of owning the car. Visiting the dealerships during the morning hours will give you ample time to inspect the car and interact with the salesperson as the traffic of buyers in very low during this period.

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