Examine these things during a test drive

Entering a car dealership and seeing the possibilities of what you’re able to take for a spin can get your blood pumping quickly. That doesn’t mean the first vehicle you try should be the one you jump into on your first test drive. Finding the right car involves picking out the things you want, as well as ensuring the vehicle operates reliably. Here’s some things you should examine on a test drive.


This can be a tricky process if you don’t know what you’re looking for. For those who don’t know much about the mechanical side of cars, the transmission provides a central propulsion system to the tires of your vehicle, thereby increasing or decreasing the torque and rotation of your tires. If you have a manual transmission, the transmission will involve shifting gears with a clutch and center shifter stick. Automatic transmission is much more basic and easier, often featuring a Park, Reverse, Drive and Neutral option.

The key thing to look for when testing or listening to a transmission is clean shifts. Does the transmission upshift and downshift normally? Does it shift smoothly? You should be able to feel the gear slide into place smoothly and not jerk the vehicle violently forward. If it is the latter, that’s a huge warning sign. Replacing or rebuilding a transmission can run into the thousands of dollars. Don’t invest in a suspect vehicle when many other options are out there.


You can never have enough stopping power when operating a moving vehicle. Make sure the brakes are either in high quality or in good condition. If purchasing used from a dealership, ask for new brakes as part of the deal. Be sure the brakes aren’t warped. This can be determined by taking the vehicle on the freeway (which is something you should always do on a test drive) and lightly tapping the brake at freeway speeds. If the vehicle pulsates, vibrates, shakes or pulls one way, the brakes are most likely warped and need to be replaced. If the seller isn’t willing to replace them, negotiate that into your offer price.

Emergency Brake

It may appear like a second thought, and it may not seem important to some drivers, but if you can’t rely on your vehicle to not move with the parking brake deployed then you’ll always worry about parking on a slope.

Are you ready for a test drive? Visit our Auto Buying Center to scope out your next set of wheels!

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