In terms of expense, buying a car is normally the second-biggest purchase most people make in their lives. Taking a car for a test drive is essential to find out if the vehicle you’re considering buying fits your particular requirements.

A thorough test drive not only gives you the chance to experience how a car handles, it will also give you a better idea of its performance, volume, storage capacity, acceleration and grip.

Often, you’ll have already been swayed by a car’s looks, color or styling but it’s important to take an impartial view when you take a car out on the road. A test drive is your opportunity to properly verify the vehicle and discover both its limitations and its potential.

Test drives become even more important when it comes to second-hand cars. Taking a car out on the road is the best way to discover potential problems that might not be obvious from visual checks alone.

Arranging A Test Drive

Before taking a car for a test drive, you should check you’re insured to drive the vehicle. If you’re buying a new car, most dealers will automatically cover you. No matter the value of the car, most car dealerships will have already arranged fully comprehensive insurance. For example, a well-known Ferrari dealership in Los Angeles offers unlimited, fully-comp insurance for any prospective buyers – however, the situation can get considerably more complex when buying from a private seller.

Check with your insurer that you have full cover to drive another person’s vehicle. Sometimes the seller will have arranged for comprehensive insurance covering other drivers but, if you’re relying on your insurance, in most cases you’ll only be covered on a third-party basis.

Performance Checks You Should Make During A Test Drive

Take your time when taking a car for a test drive and be sure to perform tests to learn the limitations of the vehicle. Again, this is particularly important when buying a second-hand car. If possible, try to test drive more than one of the same car – so you can compare performance. The key things to check during a test drive include:

Transmission, Gears & Clutch: Gear changes in a car should be smooth and effortless without jolts. If you need to let the clutch out a long way until it ‘bites’, it could be a sign of clutch damage which will require work to repair or replace. As a rule, gear changes should be smooth.

Engine: If a seller invites you to test drive a car with a warm engine, ask to wait until it’s cooled down. Starter problems are far less frequent once an engine is warm so insist on waiting until the engine is cool, then try starting the engine yourself. Also, look for signs of the engine emitting smoke when driving – never a good thing.

Suspension: The suspension in a car should work smoothly without rattles or thumps. If you hear any untoward bumps or clunks, it can be a sign that the suspension will soon need replacing.

Steering: Test the car’s steering by weaving side to side on a straight road and checking for inconsistencies between your steering movements and how the car reacts. Steering should be smooth and responsive.

Brakes: Perform a slow brake maneuver and emergency braking stop to check the responsiveness of the brakes. If either fails to respond as you expected, it can be a sign work will need to be done.

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