What To Look For When Test Driving A Car?

A car isn’t just something you run out and buy on a whim, it’s a big commitment. You want to feel confident while making the purchase and feel satisfied with your decision for years to come. Test driving the car in advance, as well as other vehicles you’re comparing it to, is the best way to eliminate buyer’s remorse. That’s why we wanted to help you get the most out of your test drive(s), so you can make an informed and confident decision. You should also know that testdriving a used car is different than test driving a new car, so we’ll offer tips for both.


  1. Start by reading reviews. Learning what other people didn’t like about their drive can help you focus on those characteristics to see if they’ll bother you too.
  2. Bring someone with you. A second set of ears and eyes is always helpful, but having the perspective of a passenger is important as well.
  3. Before leaving the lot, get familiar with the interior. Do you feel comfortable in your space? Get to know the controls and dash, not only will that help make the test drive safer, you want to ensure everything (turn indicator, radio knobs, etc) is in a sensible, intuitive location. You also want to collapse all the folding seats and try out any other convenience or entertainment features, including climate control.
  4. Start driving. Drive like you would any other day plus take it on the highway for a few minutes. Things you want to test include:
  • Speed and acceleration: how fast does it take to accelerate on the highway?
  • Maneuverability: if you take the car to a parking lot to try parking, u-turns, etc does it handle well and feel comfortable?
  • Bumps and comfort: when driving down an older road, does it feel awkward and bumpy or smooth?
  • Electronics: does the GPS, radio, Bluetooth and cruise control work properly?


Test driving a used car includes all the same steps as above, but you need to be on the lookout for some additional wear and tear. That could include literal tears on the seats, or scratches and stains, so be sure to sit in the back seat and inspect the perspective your passengers will have.

Unless purchasing from a reputable dealer that offers certified pre-own protection, your used car won’t come with any warranties or protection. If this is the case, you want to look for other deficiencies that could end up costing you money down the road such as…

  • Panel gaps: look for dents, loose panels, or gaps that are larger than others. If something is out of place with the panels, it could be a sign the vehicle was involved in an accident.
  • Rust, scratches and chips: inspecting the body panels, and inside the doors and trunk are especially important.
  • Exhaust area: check for dark or oily stains, they are often a sign of excess smoke which could mean a problem with the exhaust.
  • Head and Taillights: check your high and low beams, all the turn signals and ensure the plastic isn’t cracked either.
  • Battery: look for debris or rust around the terminals.
  • Undercarriage: again, looking for rust as well as fluids dripping from possible leaks.

Johnston Chrysler is happy to arrange a test drive for you on any of our new, or certified pre-owned vehicles and assist with any questions or concerns you may have.