The test drive is crucial in helping you decide whether to buy a car. Find out how to take the perfect test drive.

Car checks

Insist on starting the car when the engine is cold as this is when starting problems, excessive exhaust smoke and unusual noises are most apparent – you may need to arrange this with the owner before you visit
Steam or a small amount of white exhaust smoke when you start the car is normally fine, and expect more smoke on cold or humid days. Blue, excessive white or black smoke can indicate internal oil leaks, head gasket failure or a poorly-tuned engine, work will be required in these circumstances
Listen for excessive exhaust noise, which could indicate a hole in the exhaust and that it will need replacing. Rattles may be caused by a worn bracket and are usually cheap and easy to replace
With the engine running, turn the steering wheel from one side to the other, cars with power steering often produce a slight whining sound, but it shouldn't be excessive. There should be no bumps, screeching or knocking and it should require consistent effort to turn the wheel
Test the handbrake by gently releasing the clutch in a manual car to feel the handbrake resisting forward movement. If the car moves easily, the handbrake is ineffective and will need adjustment

The test drive

Drive the car on a variety of roads and road surfaces, at slow, moderate and motorway speeds. Also use EVERY gear in mamual car to ensure that they all engage correctly
Try and spend between 15 and 30 minutes on the test drive to ensure you get a real feeling for how the car performs
Ensure that there is not too much play in the steering wheel and check the steering feels the same in left and right-hand corners, if not the suspension could need attention, or the car could have crash damage
Ensure the suspension rides over bumps quietly and effectively, without juddering or shaking. Noisy, bouncy or shaky suspension probably needs replacing
Accelerate briefly while keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror to check for excessive smoke from the exhaust
Brake sharply to see if the car pulls to the left or right. Vibrations or noises from the brakes and suspension could indicate worn or damaged parts which need fixing

Test driving a new car

The chances of youbeing able to test drive the actual car you will be buying is very slim, but you should be able to test a similar model.

Arrange with the dealer so you can test drive a model which closely matches the model you wish to purchase.
Don't just settle for a quick 5 minute trip around the block, see if you can have an extended test.
If you usually carry passengers or have the car loaded, try to replicate these conditions to check how the car functions in your real life conditions.

DISCLAIMER: This information is for advice and guidance purposes only. does not guarentee results.