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How to get the most out of a test drive

The test drive is one of the more enjoyable parts of car shopping. Some look at it as a chance to stomp on the gas, perhaps drive a car out of their price range, or just have a little fun, but the test drive addresses some important considerations. Here are some tips from experts about how to make the most of it.

Pick your own test drive route

Typically, the sales person picks a route that accentuates the smooth ride and to potentially hide strange sounds from the suspension. The savvy driver should pick a route that reflects their driving experience on an average day.

Use your senses

Driving a car involves every sense except taste. Pay attention to what your senses are telling you about the vehicle, whether it smells a little weird, makes a creaking sound when you take a corner, or has sightlines that you are not comfortable with. The sixth sense comes into play as well - you may not be able to put a finger on it, but something is off.

Bring backup

While you are busy driving the car, have a friend or spouse ride along. They are less likely to have a bias since it is not going to be their car. They are also not driving, so their senses may focus on other important but less immediate issues than watching the road.

Go through an operational checklist

It is highly recommended that a mechanic look over any used car before purchasing. However, drivers can help themselves by asking important questions:

  • Do the brakes operate smoothly and stop the car in a straight line?
  • Does the vehicle tend to pull one way if the driver briefly takes their hands off the steering wheel?
  • Does the transmission shift smoothly through the gears and go into reverse?
  • Do the instruments on the dashboard appear to function and reflect the operation of the car?

Sometimes a test drive is not enough

Problems in a vehicle can be nuanced and only reveal themselves once the driver uses it on a day-to-day basis. If an owner detects a problem, it may be necessary to consult an attorney with experience handling Lemon Laws and fraud here in California.

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