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5 Checks To Do Before Test Driving a Car

Buying a new car can be an exciting time and getting behind the wheel for the first time in a test drive is no doubt a key element in the decision-making process. However, before you get that far there are a few other steps you need to take.

It’s important that you know you are getting a good deal for your money and driving the car – while a vital step – isn’t the only way to check out your potential purchase. It might drive fine on the day but that won’t tell you if there are any nasties lurking within the bodywork.

When it comes to purchasing cars our friends from Big Motoring World have experts advise. Which is why it’s no surprise that we turned to them to create a list of things to checkbefore youtest-drive your next sweet ride:

  1. Carry out a physical inspection

Make sure you check the car over carefully and thoroughly – it’s important to give it a complete physical inspection. Look for dents and scratches, signs of recent body repair work and fresh paint – all of these are warning signs to walk away.

You should also look under the car if you can, to check for signs of damage – make sure there are no scratches on the jacking points as this could be a sign the car has had to be jacked many times, indicating a problem.

Look under the bonnet for any signs of impact damage or repairs and make sure there are no rust spots. Check inside the car for signs of damp or damage, or any other problem issues with the interior. If there are any warning signs, then walk away as there are many other cars out there on the market.

  1. Check the oil

Have a look at the oil level and use the dipstick to check the colour of the oil – if it’s clear then it should be fine but if it’s dark or feels gritty or dirty then there could be a problem with the car’s ongoing maintenance.

  1. Check for any leaks

An oil or water leak could be disastrous and costly so make sure you inspect the engine for any signs of leaks or problems. There will be signs of stains or residue from ongoing leaks. Make sure you look at the ground where the car has been parked as well to check for any signs of leaks.

  1. Check the car electrics

Cars these days come with so many gadgets and electrics it’s important to make sure all of these elements work as well as the car itself. Make sure you check things like the lights, seat warmers, electric windows, heaters and air conditioning. It’s important to double-check everything before you take the car out as you might not get a chance on the test drive.

It’s all too easy to get carried away with a test drive and to make sure the paperwork is in order without checking all of the electrical items are working properly. The last thing you want to do is get home and find you can’t open and close the windows in the back, or that the heaters don’t work.

  1. Check the paperwork

Make sure the owner has all the relevant paperwork to hand including evidence that the car has a valid MOT, insurance and registration documents – ask to see all of these before parting with any money as you need to make sure they all match the details of the car.

You should also ask for ID so that you can verify that the seller’s address matches all of the details on the paperwork, particularly if you are viewing the car in a location away from the address on the papers. You need to be sure the person selling the car really owns it and has the right to do so.

It’s also really important to check the servicing records for the car – the owner should have receipts and bills to prove service records and make sure the mileage on them matches the car.

Check the MOT certificate and details to make sure it has a valid one but also to check if there were any advisories at the last test which could cause you problems or lead to a potential large repair bill.

Without a valid MOT, or one that is very short, you have no way of really knowing if the car you are about to buy is even roadworthy so it’s really important to check all of these details before you take it out for a drive.


Going for a test drive is an exciting element of buying a new car but it’s important to make sure it’s worth driving in the first place. You need to be sure that the car you are spending time with is worth it – is the paperwork in order, is the bodywork in order, is the car in fact roadworthy? Before you part with a single penny, make sure everything is working effectively.

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