Used Car Inspection

How to Inspect a
Used Car on the Test Drive

How to inspect a used car on the test drive...
The 8th of 8 steps in the used car inspection guide.

The eighth and final step of the used car inspection guide is how to inspect a used car on the test drive.

Here is what most people consider the fun part of the car buying inspection process. Although fun, you'll definitely not want to lose focus while whipping around corners and passing other cars on the highway.

Remain focused on the
task at hand and before you...

Sport the driving gloves, cap and sunglasses to hit the open road there are a few things to check for.

When You
Start The Car

    Perform a smoke check:

  • Black Smoke = Indicates the car may need a tune up and is probably running "rich."

  • Blue Smoke = Indicates it's burning oil. If so, it means the engine needs to be rebuilt.

  • White Smoke = Engine is burning coolant or water, or even transmission problems. Be sure it is not just the cool humid weather.

    Next check for:

  • Smooth idling engine.

  • Listen for any knocking or other noises.

  • Rev the engine. It should rev smooth with no hesitation or coughing.

  • Make sure there are no exhaust smells inside the car.

  • Check the brakes and ensure that they are firm with decent resistance. Soft brakes could be a threat to your health on the drive.

  • Apply the parking brake. Does the car stay put when you lift your foot off the brake?

    On to the test drive...

  • Don't let the salesman talk your ear off, because you want to listen closely for sounds.

  • Same applies to the radio...turn it off, you've already tested it.

  • Listen for any obvious noises.

  • Drive the car on both the highway and streets.

  • Take to a safe place and apply the brakes with some force a few times. Not enough to cause loss of control or a roll over!

  • When you apply the brakes feel for any softness or pulling and listen for screeching.

  • Notice any abnormal, bouncing, shaking or pulling.

  • Notice how the car shifts through its gears. Feel for any clunks or uneasy shifts.

  • While stopped (car idling and foot on the brake) shift through each gear and notice any clunks or rough shifts.

  • If the vehicle is a 4x4, then check to ensure it works.

When you are done with the test drive reinspect under the hood and look for leaks from the engine or on the ground.

If you were running the AC during the drive this may drop water on the ground and that is harmless.

Now that you've inspected the car on the test drive,
What would you like to do next?

< Go Back To Step 7
Inspect Interior
|Move On To Summary >
Inspection Summary

Or you can...

Review the entire Used Car Inspection guide by returning from -
Car Test Drive to Used Car Inspection main page

Go to Insider Car Buying Tips home

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