Going to buy a used car in NZ is like heading to a store to buy a new shirt; if you don’t try it out, you might end up with a bad fit or shoddy quality. The dealership’s equivalent to a fitting room is the all-important test drive. That said, taking your potential purchase on a test drive can be a tad more complicated than trying on a garment.

While we take pride in curating the highest quality selection of used cars in Auckland, many dealerships and private sellers don’t share the same philosophy. Cars represent a big investment, and the test drive is your opportunity to ensure you’re not throwing good money into a bad car. So, what does a comprehensive test drive look like?

Research the Car Before You Get Behind the Wheel

Test drives start well before you get your hands on a car. In fact, they begin with some good old-fashioned research. If you’re not already a car connoisseur, chances are you’ll need to brush up on the ins and outs of your chosen vehicle.

You may know that a specific car comes with a Bluetooth stereo and alloyed wheels, but what about its engine configuration? What are the common problems associated with this vehicle? Are there any years of production that are listed with manufacturer faults? Most importantly, you’ll need to know what certain sounds or sensations mean before you climb behind the wheel.

For example, a screeching sound emanating from the bonnet can indicate a worn-down serpentine belt, while juddering as you accelerate can be an indicator of a faulty or aging transmission. Some problems can be fixed by negotiating with the seller, but others are deal-breakers and should be treated as such.

All this information and more is readily available on Google, and it’s important to know if you want to walk into that test drive with your eyes wide open.

Plan Out a Route

Once you’ve booked your test drive, plan a route that’s designed to put the car through its paces. While you don’t want to turn the test into a Fast and Furious film, you do want to present the car with obstacles that can test out its limits and assure you of its health. Tailor this route to test for common issues with the model—vthe ones you found in your research.

For example, if your chosen car’s model commonly suffers from a quickly degrading transmission, plan a route with a lot of traffic lights to test out its starting and stopping capability. Alternatively, if your model’s known for issues with its gearbox, try out a route with some dips and twists to get a sense of how the car adapts to them.

Now, It’s Time to Drive

Finally, the time has come to get behind the wheel. While you are approaching this test drive with a lot of prior knowledge, make sure you keep your eyes and ears open for anything unexpected.

Don’t be afraid to give the car a thorough visual inspection before and after driving it. Look for dents in crucial areas like the bonnet, any issues with the lights, visual corrosion, and even significant blackening on the exhaust pipe (this can indicate a very dirty or malfunctioning engine). A genuine seller will wait patiently, as this is standard procedure, but car dealers with something to hide will often hurry you along.

As you’re driving your route, listen for any vehicular complaints in the form of groans, squeaks, squeals, or shudders. This is especially important around hills, corners, and periods of acceleration or braking. Most cars can drift along smoothly at a cruising pace. The real test comes when you change speed or direction.

Take a mental note of any issues you observe on the drive and be upfront with the salesperson about them once the drive is over. At best, they will offer to remedy the issue or provide a comparable discount so you can remedy it yourself. At worst, you’ll need to find a new car. Either way, you don’t drive off the lot with a bad car and, eventually, you’ll get the chance to drive away with a good investment in great condition.

Book a test drive at a MotorCo dealership today.

We’re Auckland’s number one dealership for European and Japanese used cars, and we pride ourselves on providing quality vehicles for our customers to choose from. Each of our team members is friendly and knowledgeable, so when you book a test drive with us you know you’ll be getting honest and insightful answers to any questions you have.

Book in your test drive today!