Test Driving a Used Car in Adelaide

By Luke Caesar - General Manager - July 15, 2017

Test Driving a Used Car in Adelaide

When you’re buying a car it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the purchase. If you’re not careful you can easily miss little details about the car might bother you later on, or worse, that later on will bother you, or worse, cost you money.

We’d recommend 2 test drives when you’re buying a used car.

Two Test Drives to Buy A Used Car

The first one is where you’ll get a feel for the car, how it handles, and whether you personally like the car. It’s also a good chance to take down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) so you can later run registration check and PPSR search.

If these checks come back okay and you really like the car, your second test drive will be to take the car to your mechanic or someone you trust, for a second opinion.

The First Test Drive:

There’s a bunch of stuff you should check out before you actually drive off.

Here’s our 12-point pre-drive checklist:

12 point pre-drive checklist

  1. Check the tyres for wear - make sure they are even, and each tyre has at least a half a centimetre of tread. It’s easy to do this with a coin to check the height. If the tyres aren’t wearing evenly it can be a sign something bigger is wrong with the car, or it’s been driven roughly and has worn suspension.
  2. Check under the car for fluid leaks, both before you start the car, and then with the engine running. Once the engine’s running pay attention to any smoke or smells too.
  3. Open and close the doors and boot to make sure they operate smoothly.
  4. Lock and unlock the doors from inside and outside.
  5. Check that the headlights, brakes and indicators all work.
  6. Open the bonnet with the engine running to listen for knocks, hisses or ticks. While you’re there, pull up the oil and transmission fluid dipsticks to check for dirty fluid or low levels. Check the hoses and fan belt for cracking too.
  7. Squat in front of the car and look down the sides to make sure there’s no ripples that indicate it’s had body repairs.
  8. Check door edges and hinges for rust.
  9. Lift the carpet in the boot to check for rust.
  10. Check that the heater, airconditioner and dashboard instruments all work as they should - including the music and any safety cameras.
  11. If you can see through the wheels, look at the disc brake rotors to see if they’re scored.
  12. If the seller has used an air freshener, open the windows for the drive. This gives you a chance to find out how the car really smells.

Try to drive the car for half an hour the first time you test it. During this time you want to make sure you’re 100% comfortable with the power of the car and how it handles.

Have a go at reverse parking - you might find it tricky in an unfamiliar car, but you’ll get a feel for whether it’s going to get easier with practice.

If you have small children, take your seats and pram with you to make sure they will fit comfortably and safely. If you’re active and love the outdoors, you may want to check that it’s possible to fit roof racks to carry bikes, surfboards, or camping gear.

Where to go on your test drive

Now you’re ready to drive - make sure you know what insurance the dealer has and whether you’re covered if anything does happen on the drive.

In Adelaide it’s pretty easy to drive on a heap of different types of roads within just half an hour, so make the most of your test drive time.

  1. Get the speed over 80 kmph to detect any high speed rattles that you don’t get at lower speeds.
  2. Turn the radio off and listen to the engine for any unusual sounds while you accelerate or at a constant speed.
  3. Do the gears change smoothly?
  4. Are there any vibrations in the car body or steering wheel at any speed?
  5. When you accelerate, does the car pull to one side or the other? In a safe place and lower speed, take your hand off the wheel to see if the car veers to one side.
  6. When you apply the brake, is the pedal squishy?
  7. Drive up a hill and on different road surfaces.
  8. Do a U-turn or turn a tight circle with the windows rolled down to check for noise coming from the CV (constant velocity) joints of a car with front wheel or all-wheel drive. If there’s clicking or whining as you turn a circle, this is a sign the CV joint is failing.
  9. Be polite to the owner or salesperson, and be sure to tell them what you’re doing so they don’t get a nasty surprise at each test point on this list.

One more thing you’ll want to check before agreeing to buy the car is the cost of comprehensive car insurance.

If you’re deciding between a couple of used cars, it pays to make a chart with each important aspect of the car, and grade each from A to F. This will help you to be clear in your mind when you’re back at home deciding which car to go with, and not make an emotional decision that disregards some of what you’ve learnt.

Compare your observations from the test drive with driving your own car or a benchmark model over the same roads to get a clear picture of the suspension and handling of the car being sold.

Test Drive Checklist

Now you’re ready to take your next used car for a test drive - download our checklist here to guide your assessment and compare different cars:

Buying a Used Car: Used Car Test Drive Checklist

If you’d like to test drive one of the Used Cars Adelaide current stock vehicles, send us an enquiry or message through Facebook and we’ll set up a time with you.