Top 10 Tips for Test Driving a Second-Hand Car

When you test drive a brand-new car, you’re mainly looking to see things like whether you enjoy driving it or not, whether it is fast enough for you, or has enough boot space for your growing family. Test-driving a second-hand car is a whole different story. Without knowing its full history, there are always going to be things that you do not know. Taking it for a test drive and paying special attention to the below is the best way to get to know whether it is the right vehicle for you.

Here are our top tips:

  1. Start out by testing all the functions like the exterior and interior lights, heater, air conditioning unit, mirrors, brake lights, turning signals, safety belts, automatic locks and windows, windshield wipers, and seats.
  2. Next, open the hood of the car and check for any wet parts that could mean there are leaks.
  3. Before starting the car, check to see if the engine is already warm. If so, the owner probably warmed it up for you. Be wary of this as this may mean that the car has cold-start problems the owner doesn’t want you to know about. Be sure to ask!
  4. Start the car. Does the engine strain at all? This could mean the battery or electrical system needs some work.
  5. Once car is running, check under the hood for any leaks again. Sometimes the engine only leaks once the car is running.
  6. Once on the road, if you are driving an automatic car, you should not even feel the change in gears when driving slowly. If you’re driving a standard, the gear shifts should feel smooth and easy.
  7. Head to a quiet side road or an empty parking lot. While driving slowly, let go of the steering while. If it pulls to one side or the other, there could be a wheel alignment issue.
  8. Drive up and down steep hills. Does the car shake when braking down the hills? If so, the brakes could use a service. Does the car handle accelerating up a hill okay?
  9. Take the car on the highway/freeway. Look out for things like pulling to one side or the other, brake shaking or pulsing, excessive wind noise when windows are closed, strange engine sounds, or acceleration hesitation.
  10. Finally, before purchasing, take the car in for a professional assessment to confirm or deny any of your suspicions!

Now that you’ve got the knowledge, it’s time to shop! Head to or your Gumtree app (click for Apple & Android) and don’t forget to use your location settings to find a second-hand car close to home.

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