Car Test Drives: What to Check Off Before You Drive Off

Whether it’s your first or your tenth, buying a new (or new to you) car can be both overwhelming and exciting. Before you’ve even set foot on the car lot, you’ve already made so many decisions, like whether you’re buying new or used, getting a sedan, SUV, or truck, which make and model, and how much car you can afford. Finally getting to test drive one is the fun light at the end of the car-buying tunnel and one of the last steps before you take your new ride home. But as excited as you are, it’s important that you don’t sign on that dotted line without consulting this test drive checklist:  

Before you start the car

  • Make sure the dealership has insurance so you won’t be liable for potential damages during the test drive.
  • Look for dents, scratches, damaged paint, and chips on the windshields.
  • Check the tread on the tires with the classic penny test: Insert an upside-down penny into the tread of all four tires; if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, the tread is low and will need replacing.
  • Confirm all doors properly lock.
  • Check underneath the car to ensure no fluids are leaking.

When you’re in the car

  • Start the car and check the dashboard for warning lights, like the check engine light, air bag warning, or low tire pressure or oil.
  • Test the mirrors, windshield wipers and fluid, turn signals, brake and dome lights, power windows, emergency brake, radio, charging ports, and any other features listed for the car.
  • Before you start driving, check the brake pads to ensure they feel firm and responsive, not spongy, and that the pedal doesn’t go all the way down to the floor.

While you’re driving the car

  • While in the parking lot with no cars or people nearby, ensure the steering wheel does not turn to either side when briefly released.
  • Pay attention to any shaking of the steering wheel or car in general at varying speeds.
  • Safely accelerate quickly to see how the car responds.
  • Apply the brakes at different speeds to test for responsiveness.
  • If you are able to do so safely, park on a hill with the car in neutral and engage the parking brake–but be prepared to take control if it does not remain in place.

Once you’ve found the car that checks off everything on this–and your own–list, it’s time to hit the road with financing from the lender with the rates you want and the service you deserve: Suffolk Federal. Learn more and apply for your auto loan now.

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