Whether you’re planning to buy a new or a used car, you have the same status – that of a customer. This means you must not let go of your standards and make any compromise. A test drive is a test drive; it must be done accordingly and you should be really careful about anything you notice.
Test drives should be no problem even when you are buying from a car supermarket where they have thousands of pre-owned cars and countless shoppers. With private sellers, it’s up to you to set when this happens and how.
The most important homework you must complete before a test drive is to make sure you’re prepared with the right information and you are aware of what your expectations are. If you notice any issues with the car, know that these won’t get solved with the test drive. Know when to walk away.
Be in control of the driving route. If you don’t do this and you don’t have a clue where to go, then the car owner will guide you and will take the vehicle to the friendliest roads. Don’t let them take you only on one type of road, but make it as varied as you can: city streets, country roads, highways, parking lots. Also, take control not only when it comes to the route, but also to the duration of the test drive. The seller may try to rush things and limit the driving session.
A most important aspect is that of leakage, burning or smells. You may not be able to see what happens inside of a car, but when something is wrong your nose can smell it. The vehicle owner may or may not be aware of the issues. If they are, they will mask it with a strong air freshener, it’s a common tactic. Take that down and put it away in the trunk. Drive and when you’re done let your nose figure out if there are any strange smells. This will give you a clue of what may be happening underneath.
Repeat the moves, it will help you see whether it’s easy for you to handle using this car on a frequent basis or not. Open and shut its doors several times, get in and out, start the engine repeatedly and so on. Doing every gesture just once can’t tell you if it will come easily or not when it’s repeated.
Do more than is needed. The current driving situation may not require you to test all the controls and features of the vehicle. However, you must know how these work. Test the heating, the air conditioning, modify the mirrors’ position, see how the steering wheel can be adjusted etc.
Be attentive and don’t take the kids with you. At most, you can have your spouse join you, especially if it’s a decision making process that involves the two of you.
Test driving a used car from a private seller doesn’t have to be any different from testing a new car. It is true you don’t expect the vehicle to be just like new, but you cannot afford to close your eyes to the obvious issues.