new car test drive checklist

Preparing for a Test Drive: A Checklist

Finding a new car can be exciting, but the process can also be intimidating. You have to narrow down the type of car you want, whether it’s a new Audi for sale or a well-maintained pre-owned choice.

Either way, you’ll want to take a test drive, but how should you prepare so you get the most out of the experience? Keep reading for tips you can use in your car-buying journey.

Before the Test Drive

As you’re getting ready to go to a dealership, there are a few steps you should take for a smooth process.

Research and Selection

Do your research so you know which makes and models you are most interested in. This includes checking the available features that matter most to you. Check out online reviews to make sure there are no surprises. You should also compare your budget to what’s available.

Schedule an Appointment

When you take a test drive, you want enough time to explore the vehicle and talk to the salesperson about it. Scheduling your test drive gives you a good opportunity to learn about the vehicle you may buy. Call the dealership for an appointment. If they don’t offer appointments, ask if there are optimal times to come in for a test drive.


Make sure you have all the documents you need for your test drive. You will need a valid license and possibly proof of insurance. You should also bring any paperwork needed to purchase the car in case you decide to buy the car after the test drive.

During the Test Drive

Once you get to the dealership, your focus can shift to the car. This is the time to make sure it’s what you really want.

Exterior Inspection

Look for any rust, scratches or dents and examine the tires. Test all of the lights as well. If anything is damaged, talk with the dealership about whether the problem can be fixed before you purchase.

Interior Inspection

Once you’re inside the car, inspect the condition of the seats and upholstery and check out how the climate control and other systems work. Put the front seats into the position they will be in during regular use, then sit in all seats in the car to make sure they are comfortable and there is enough leg room. If you have a child car seat, bring it to make sure it fits.

Driving Test

Start your test drive in a quiet place to listen to the engine. Drive in different conditions: city roads, highways and residential areas with lots of stops. Pay attention to how the car accelerates as well as braking. Try to parallel park to make sure you feel comfortable with the size of the car.

Get the Most Out of Your Test Drive

Once the drive is over, it’s time to assess whether the car is the right fit for you. Take some time and consider what you liked and didn’t like. If there are other cars you want to test drive, try them and compare each drive. By preparing yourself and paying close attention, you can use a test drive to find a ride you’ll love.

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