17 Things Look for During a Test Drive

Test drives are opportunities to drive a car around before you buy it. These can be excellent chances to check out a vehicle closely and make sure it has everything you need and want in a car. Preparing in advance for the process of a test drive can ensure you know what to look for, what to ask the sales representative with you, and how to determine if the car is right for you. Read on to explore 17 things to pay attention to before, during, and after your test drive.

Before the Test Drive

Take your time before a test drive to inspect the exterior and interior of the vehicle. Consider making a list of aspects you want in a car before you even arrive at the dealership to make the entire process easier. For example, if you know you want a sunroof in your car, writing this on a list can help you remember to check for one at the dealership. Here are some ideas for what to pay attention to before you start the drive.

Exterior Appearance

Examine the exterior appearance of the car to make sure it has the aesthetics you're looking for. It's also a good idea to check for any scratches, dents, rust, or other damage. Scrutinize areas like the doors, windshield, rearview mirrors, and lights.


Investigate the tires to make sure they're in good condition. Obviously, tires are one of the most important parts of a vehicle, so this is an essential step. Use a tire tread depth reader to measure the tire tread, and inspect the tires visually to determine if they look new and full of air.

Interior Appearance and Feel

Survey the interior of the car to ensure everything is clean and functional. Decide if the seats are comfortable and if there's enough legroom. Adjust the position of the driver's seat, mirrors, and wheel if possible to make sure you're cozy while driving.


Look at the odometer reading to learn the mileage of the car. In addition, note any alerts or emergency warnings. Now is also a good time to make sure all buttons on the dashboard work.

Cargo Space

Scout out how much cargo space the vehicle has. If applicable, learn how to fold the seats down to reconfigure them or gain more storage space. Explore the front for center console storage, cup holders, and door pockets.

Sound System

If you want to listen to the radio, your own music, or anything else in your car, assess the sound system. See if it's compatible with your phone. In addition, make sure the sound is high-quality and loud enough for you.


If the car comes with navigation or other infotainment, test these features out. This can help you confirm each feature's functionality and learn how to use it. You can also ask the sales representative with you or check the owner's manual if you're uncertain about how to operate the vehicle's technology.


Verify that all the lights in the car's cabin work. It's also beneficial to experiment with turn signals and brake lights. As it's the law to have functional taillights, this step is critical before a test drive.

Air Conditioning System

Turn on the air conditioning system to make sure the cooling and heating work in the car. This is a good factor to pay attention to during your test drive, too. While you're at it, check that you can roll down and up all the windows.

During the Test Drive

While you're driving, keeping various things in mind can help you assess the car properly and choose if it's the right purchase for you. The main rule of thumb is to make sure that the car is functioning properly. You can also check for certain performance and handling features you're seeking in a vehicle. Pay attention to the following factors during your test drive:


Pay close attention to the brakes to inspect how responsive they are. Listen for sounds to ensure the brakes aren't squealing. It's also important to determine whether the brakes are feeling sticky when you press and release them.


Examine the responsiveness of the accelerator pedal. Focus on how long it takes to accelerate to high speeds on the highway. Make sure you can merge onto higher-speed roads effectively.


The transmission is the component that moves power from the engine to the wheels. Find out if you can switch into drive, reverse, and neutral smoothly. Also, verify you can hold and maneuver the gear shift easily.


Verify the steering is sufficient. Complete tight turns to review the turning radius. It's also a good idea to think about steering responsiveness when you're switching lanes.

Safety Technologies

Analyze any driver-assist technologies that come with the car. These could be backup cameras, collision warnings, blind-spot alerts, and lane departure warnings. Ask the sales representative about airbags, too.

After the Test Drive

Whether you're heading to a new or used car dealership, consider bringing a checklist to make sure you have everything you need to purchase a new vehicle. Here are some examples of things to think about after your test drive:


Make sure the cost of the car fits in your budget. If it doesn't, there are often ways to finance the car so you can afford it. You can also always test drive other vehicles that are more affordable for you.

Financing Programs

See what financing programs the dealership offers. There may also be specials and discounts available to save you money on your purchase. You can also decide whether you want to purchase or lease the car.

Required Paperwork

Prepare the necessary paperwork for buying a car. This typically includes your driver's license and proof of residence. It's also important to establish your form of payment.

As you can see, there are plenty of things to consider when you're taking a car for a test drive. Luckily, test drives are just that: tests. These are just low-pressure, stress-free ways to aid you in finding the best car for you. Plus, the sales representative from the dealership will be right there to help you every step of the way.

Planning ahead can enable you to approach the test drive and car-buying process with confidence. If you have any questions, contact us or give us a call at 573-747-4888. CarSmart of Farmington will be happy to assist you. Our team wants to do everything we can to get you a car that fits your lifestyle and budget.


CarSmart of Jackson

2856 Sappington Dr

Jackson, MO 63755


Think CarSmart

4854 US Highway 67

Farmington, MO 63640