Unless you're purchasing a vehicle from a trusted friend or family member, chances are, you're probably apprehensive about buying a used car. Test driving the vehicle is one of the key components when deciding on a purchase, but make sure you know what you’re looking for when before, during and after the drive.
Open and close every door or cover. An article from Yahoo! says that doors should open easily and glide on the hinges, and you should make sure doors shut as easily as they open. Squeaks may indicate that something needs lubrication, but sagging hinges will cause you to slam the doors more often to make sure they fasten. Make sure you check the gas tank door, hood, trunk and glove box to see if they open and close with no problems.
Listen to the car idle. You should listen to the car idle from inside the car, outside the car and outside with the hood up, Yahoo! says. Take note of any repetitive squeaks or other noises, and ask the dealer or owner to identify sounds you’re not familiar with. Clicking sounds may indicate lifter problems or oil pressure issues. Also check for fluid leaks on the engine, under the car and on the ground, and identify the source and type of leak.
Pay attention to the transmission. According to Yahoo!, you should put automatic transmission into revers and each other gear one at a time. Listen for sounds you’re not familiar with. When driving the vehicle, accelerate at a slow, steady pace and pay attention to whether or not it shifts smoothly or if it seems to slip or cluck at shifting points. If it’s a manual transmission, you need a clutch that engages smoothly without an obvious slip.
Try braking at various speeds. Do not stomp on the brakes during a test drive. You’re looking for brakes that seem to lop or have uneven braking at low speeds, Yahoo! says. Brakes shouldn’t hesitate or shudder when applied at highway speeds, and the pedal should be firm and engage the brakes within an inch of the top pedal.
Test drive at city and highway speeds. The purpose of this is to make sure you’re comfortable with the way the car feels at various speeds. Yahoo! says you should make sure it doesn’t shake or vibrate, because that could indicate problems with the suspension, tire inflation, tire pressure, tire integrity or various bearings in the drivetrain.
Find a level road to test the alignment. Yahoo! says to drive the car at an even speed, either down a straight street or along a straight stretch of highway. Keep your grip on the steering wheel relaxed and don’t move your hands. The car should be steady without veering to the left or right. If it does veer, check the tire pressure, but if the tire pressure it good, the front end alignment may have issues.
Inspect the interior of the car in full daylight. Keep an eye out for rips, burns, tears and stains. Make sure you inspect the seats, dash and floor, including the mats. According to Yahoo!, look for differences in the texture or color of the exterior paint, because it could indicate previous body work. Compare the paint color of the body to the color inside of the doors and under the hood and trunk, because that could alos indicate previous body work from an accident.
Miscellaneous checking points. Make sure you take note of any rust, electrical problems, air conditioning issues or broken glass, Yahoo! says. Look for dash lights that are lit up, check the oil and watch for overheating. All of these issues could set you back hundreds or thousands of dollars.
For more tips on buying a used car, check out more from Price My Auto.