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Test Drive Tips

10 Things to Look For

Woman test driving a car

So, you’ve been looking into purchasing a vehicle and you’re finally ready to pursue your top choices.  If you are shopping at CarShop, you have nothing to worry about as you are sure to find a great quality vehicle!  In fact, CarShop puts all vehicles through a 109-point inspection and CarShop Certified vehicles are guaranteed to be under 4 years old, have less than 50k miles, and have been fully reconditioned to look and feel like new, with no dings, dents or scratches.  

However, if you are shopping somewhere other than CarShop, here is a list of Test Drive tips and inspection items that we recommend based on 25+ years of delighting our customers:

Before beginning your test drive:

1. Check the Body

Walk around the vehicle and look for any noticeable dents, scratches, or rust. Small blemishes may reflect normal wear and tear, but anything significant can be a warning of how the car has been treated in the past.

2.  Balding Tires

If the tread on the tires is shallow, that’s a sign that they’ll need to be replaced soon. Consider whether the rest of the car is worth that kind of additional expense.

3. Test the Doors, Trunk, and Hood

  • Open and close every door, making sure they work smoothly and close tightly. Does the lock function properly on each one? What about the child lock?
  • If the vehicle has a trunk that’s operated by the key fob, test it out. While you’re back there, make sure there’s a spare tire and jack.
  • Check the hood as well, and make sure it stays open properly.

4. The Interior

  • Check the quality of the interior. Is the upholstery the material you want? Is it clean? Take a seat. Are you comfortable?
  • Notice small features that you’ll use on the day-to-day like cupholders, storage cubbies, and sun visors. Are they convenient to use, or will they cause irritation?
  • Check the seating for adjustability. If you’ll be needing extra storage, make sure that the rear seats fold down.
  • Spend some time with the dash. Test the climate controls to ensure the air conditioning and heating systems are in good shape.
  • You can also test out the entertainment system to make sure it’s to your liking. If you’ll be connecting to a device, check the USB and aux ports, and whether Bluetooth is enabled.

5. Special Features

  • Nowadays, some vehicles come with extra bells and whistles. Are there any you’re looking for specifically, like a sunroof or backup cameras? Make sure the vehicle has what you are looking for, and that they function correctly.
  • Looking at a convertible? Check how easy it is to raise and lower the top. Notice any storage space you’ll be sacrificing while stowing the top.  What is the condition of the top?  Any discoloration, dry rot, rips, or tears?
  • Checking out a larger vehicle? Review towing capacity and storage to confirm that it will be able to handle your needs.


Once you’re ready to get behind the wheel and go for a spin:

6. Listen Up

Before you go anywhere, turn off the radio, and listen to the engine for any ticks or high-pitched idling.

7. Press the Brakes

Do they feel solid? Test the emergency brake. Can you do this with ease? As you take the car on the road, notice any noise coming from the brakes. Pay attention to how it feels to brake from different speeds, and whether you come to a smooth stop.

8. Shift Into Gear

Is there any noise coming from the transmission? How touchy is the gas? As you begin your drive, notice visibility. Check blind spots, and whether the vehicle features blind-spot monitors.

9. Drive at High and Low Speeds

Feel how the car shifts into higher gears as you accelerate. Is it smooth? If you can take it on the highway, test how comfortable it is to merge and navigate traffic.

10. Maneuver the Vehicle

  • Try a U-turn. You’ll want to feel for the fluidity of the turn. Notice any squealing noises or thumping feelings in the steering, which could indicate issues with the power steering or suspension.
  • In a safe area like a parking lot, take your hands off the wheel and drive in a straight line. Does the car pull left or right? A strong pull could indicate poor alignment or more serious issues.
  • Park. Parallel park. Make sure you’re comfortable with the turn radius and height of the vehicle.


Interested in test driving one of CarShop’s thousands of high quality vehicles?  Come visit one of our stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Arizona and meet with a sales consultant to set up your ride!

If you don’t live near one of our stores, you can still buy from CarShop 100% online and we’ll deliver the vehicle to your door.  And thanks to our 5-day, 500-mile return guarantee, you have time to test drive your new ride all on your own. If it’s not up to par, just bring it back!