How to test drive a car

How to test drive a car

Taking a test drive is essential in deciding if a car is right for you. This guide is here to give you some pointers on what to do, so you can get the most out of it.

Once you have a few cars in mind, then simply book a test drive to see how each model feels to drive. This will be your chance to get to know each model in person, to check if each one meets your needs, and to see if there’s any instant chemistry on your way to finding “The One”.

It’s important to use this as an opportunity to carry out a rational checklist of key points (see below), as well as gauging your first impressions, feelings throughout, and final thoughts.

First impressions

How do you feel about the size of the car from the outside? How do you feel about the design? Walk around the car first (a full 360 degrees, once or twice) and decide if there is anything you particularly do or don’t like about the exterior and the shape, as you’ll be seeing it every day if you do decide to buy, so you want it to feel right.

Take a seat

Is it easy and comfortable to get in and out of? Are the seats too low, or too high, for easy access? Do you have enough space in the driver’s seat? Does the driving position feel good? Adjust the seat and steering wheel to suit you. Even how the door opens and closes can have an effect on the practicality of getting in and out, and how you feel about it. 

Bring the kids

If you have kids, from very young, to teenage and beyond, then they will have their own requirements if they’re regularly in the back. From car seats for a baby (will these fit comfortably? And be easy to take out, and put in the car?) to tall teenagers (do they have enough leg room, and head space? Do they have the room they need to avoid endless complaints or squabbles? Do their knees press into the back of the front seats?).

Enough space in the back?

Is there enough space in the boot for you? Do your golf clubs fit? Feel free to bring them along for the test drive too. Does it feel straightforward and easy to put the rear seats down, if you’ll be using the back for storage too?


How does it feel to start the car, and start moving? Does it feel comfortable to drive? How does it compare to what you’re used to (for example, if it has a bigger engine, quicker acceleration, different handling, it’s an automatic etc.), do you like it, or is there anything that puts you off?

All types of road

It’s important to drive on different types of roads, from village or town to motorways, to see how the car feels in all different settings.

Also, you need to see how it feels at 70mph (does it rattle and make an annoying noise? Or does it feel smoothly zen and coast along with an air of perfection that you’ve long been hungering for?). Try some rough roads too (does it have adequate suspension to serenely circumnavigate a smorgasbord of potholes? Or does it jolt up and down and leave everyone feeling both shaken and stirred?).

Don’t be gentle

In your new car you may have to emergency brake, and you may have to turn quickly. You don’t need to replicate these possibilities with aplomb in the first moments of your test drive, but it’s worth getting a feel for how the car deals with some peppy acceleration, a hard-ish brake, and a smattering of quick cornering.

How’s the parking?

Reverse park to see if it’s comfortable for you (especially if you’re going for a bigger car). Are you ok with the dimensions of the car and your view? If the model offers parking aid technology that’s new to you, then try out these features to see how they feel, and to get to know them before you decide to buy them.

In the car park, see how the model feels at low speeds, and check the visibility you have from inside the car when you park in different positions. You may have new visibility obstructions in a new car, from wider front pillars, to small back windows or rear quarterlight windows.

If you park in tight spots, then an obstructed view when reverse parking might be enough to put you off buying, or might make you more likely to pick a trim or options that include the likes of parking sensors, reversing camera, or self-parking aids. Or an obscured view might be enough to put you off getting tinted windows. 

Explore every detail

Familiarise yourself with all of the controls, buttons and gadgets. You’ll be using the lights, wipers, air con, stereo, Bluetooth, and lots of other bits on a daily basis, so get to know them and check you understand how they work, and that you’re happy with them, rather than left confused or frustrated.

Play around with the seat and steering positions too, and the centre console, and anything you would use as part of your journeys.  

Extended test drives

Some dealerships offer extended test drives, such as overnight, 48 hours, or even up to a week. It means you can get a feel for driving at night, for what ownership would feel like, and for how the model looks on your drive. So, it’s really worth asking about this, and taking advantage of a longer test drive if your local dealership offer them.

Have fun

Driving should feel good. After you’ve interrogated every essential element of the car and given it some serious scoring in key categories, then let go, and allow yourself to just see how much you like being in it and driving it around, maybe with some music on. Does it make you smile? Does it feel like “The One”?

Try more than one car

Test drive different cars, to feel the differences between them, and to make a more informed choice.

If you have a shortlist of three car from different manufacturers, try them all, and compare and contrast.

If you have your heart set on one model, then try different versions of the same car to compare the engines and wheel differences between entry-level and higher-trim options.

Equally, if you are unsure between petrol and plug-in hybrid, try both, to see how they feel.

With this in mind, do your test drives on the same day, if possible, so you can be sure about your comparisons. If you do one a week later, and another a week after that, then you won’t have everything clear in mind, and you’ll have forgotten or mixed up those small little details and differences. Doing it on the same day is best.

Book any test drive here

You can easily book a test drive through us, on any model you’re interested in. Just pop in your details, and what car you are interested in, and we’ll give you a quick call to double-check what you’re interested in, and see if you want to test drive any other models, or want any advice first.

Once we find out your needs and wants we’ll then get the relevant local dealerships to call you to arrange a suitable day and time to test drive, and ensure that they give you the best quote for exactly what you’re after.

Remember there’s never any hassle or obligation or costs, it’s just a chance for you to try any car on for size, to see if it might be for you. So if you have a car in mind, then book a test drive today, and explore it for yourself!

Book a test drive

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