What is a Test Drive?

Sheri Cyprus

A test drive occurs is when a person tries out a vehicle to check how it runs and maneuvers. Those in the automobile magazine industry often test drive new vehicles and publish a review of how well the vehicle operates. A test drive is also a common part of buying a new or used vehicle.

The results of test drives are published in auto magazines.
The results of test drives are published in auto magazines.

Before the actual test drive, it's a good idea to start with a cold engine rather than allowing the seller to start the vehicle for you first. You should see how the vehicle operates with a cold engine. Also be sure that all parts of the vehicle are in working order such as wipers, defrost, heater, air conditioning, gauges and lights.

During the test drive, cover flat, straight surfaces as well as hills and curves if possible. Where and when it is safe to do so, take your hands off of the steering wheel just for a moment to be sure that the front wheels don't pull to either side, but instead remain on a straight path. The vehicle also shouldn't pull to one side when braking. Vibration or odd noises when braking could signal serious problems.

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Watch out for any hesitation in the shifting of the transmission as well as any roughness in the acceleration of the engine. A test drive should include local roads as well as the freeway so that you can see how the vehicle reacts at different speeds. If anything concerns you during the test drive, don't make an offer to buy the vehicle – at least until you've had time to consider the cost of any needed repairs.

Remember that just because you take a vehicle for a test drive, it doesn't mean that you must make an offer. Also, you should examine the vehicle after the test drive. Some auto buyers even get the vehiclethat they test drove lifted up to have the suspension, exhaust, brakes and catalytic converter checked thoroughly. Any sign of leaking should be a huge concern. Don't forget to inspect small things before or after a test drive such as windows, doors and the trunk.

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