Buying a car is always exciting (and expensive). If you're buying used, then the test drive becomes even more important. You're not just getting a feel for the drive of the car, but you need to be on the lookout for any issues and red flags too.
Before You Take A Test Drive
Make sure you're using a reputable dealer such as Ron Skinner & Sons, there are many horror stories out there so it's best to get a recommendation from family or friends.
Then, once you think you've found the car for you. It's time to take it out on the road.
Start The Engine From Cold
Before you take it out from a spin, you want to make sure it starts up the first time, without any issues. An engine that's already been warmed up can cover up a whole host of problems.
Check The Suspension
Look at the car to make sure it's sitting evenly on its suspension. When you're driving it, be aware of any bumps or noises that might indicate some work needs to be done.
Test The Brakes
Car's that have been sitting around in a showroom or forecourt will need a few brake test to clear any surface rust before you test them properly. After the first 10 minutes or so of the test drive, the brakes will be working at their peak. Find a safe space to try a more abrupt brake, the car should pretty much stop in a straight line (or slightly to the left if there's a camber on the road). If the car pulls strongly to the left or right then it can be an issue with the suspension.
Test out the handbrake on a hill.
The steering wheel should be straight when you are driving in a straight line. Any wobbles or vibration could indicate a bigger problem. Try and get up to a higher speed, as some steering issues only become apparent when you're going a bit faster.
Run Through The Gears
Find somewhere that you will be able to get up some speed (legally, of course). Work your way up through the gears and look out for any signs of the clutch slipping or difficulties changing gears.
Press All The Buttons
Once you're happy that all the major components of the car are sound, it's time to check all of the other minor things.
Check that every button does what it is meant to. Do the windows go up and down, does the radio turn on, do the windscreen wipers work. It's easy to assume that everything is fine, and even if it turns out to be an easy fix, at least you'll know upfront and can make a considered decision of whether you're going to buy.
Remember, The Choice Is Yours
You must be able to trust your car absolutely. You will be spending a lot of money to buy a used car and relying on it to keep you motoring safely. If there are any issues at all, no matter how minor, ask for them to be dealt with before you buy, or at the very least haggle down the price.
Don't' let any sales tactics or pushy owners pressure you into buying, there are plenty more cars out there for you.