Top 5 Things to Look for When Test Driving a Car

If you have your eye on a new or used car, at some point you`ll be given the opportunity to take it out for a spin under the watchful guidance of the dealer or owner. Once you`re behind the wheel, do you really know what to look for during that all-important test drive?

A test drive can tell you a lot about a car`s engine, brakes, suspension and turning radius. It can also tell you about the car`s basic manageability and the quality of its construction. However you can check car's recalls, and repair defects by checking a VIN number. This will give information about a car's owner's history, maintenance records, owner's information, lemon history, and more.  Here are five of the most important things to look for the next time you take a car out for a test drive.

1. Handling and Turning Radius

Having a good turning radius on your car is crucial, especially if you drive a lot in urban traffic. Take the opportunity to turn the car at different speeds. Does it take too many rotations of the steering wheel to get out of the road, or can it be done quickly and smoothly with just a few turns? Go to a parking lot and drive a few full circles or wheelies; does the car handle them smoothly?

2. Suspension and Speed

Make sure that you get the car out on the highway so that you can check the speed and acceleration. You`ll also want to get the car out onto roads with a few curves and bumps. You don`t have to go off-roading to find out whether or not a car has stable suspension and handles well on different terrains; a few winding curves and exposed potholes will give you an idea of how easily the car can take them.

3. Brakes

Testing the brakes is easy; just take a few well-timed starts and stops at different speeds. Warn the dealer that you`re also going to want to brake hard a couple of times, because this will tell you how well the car can handle quick, unexpected stops.

4. Visibility

If you can`t see out of a car at every important angle, then give it a pass. Take the car out on a quiet road and change lanes for a while. As you weave across lanes, check the visibility and make sure that the mirrors are reflecting everything you need to see. If you`re having any visibility issues, or if the car has a pronounced blind side, you`ll want a car with better sight angles.

5. Interior

After you`ve checked out the mechanics and construction, it`s time to look at the interior. This is when you should push all the buttons and find out what they do and whether or not they work. Are the controls where you can get to them, or do you have to reach for things? Can you see the buttons on the dashboard and do they light up sufficiently at night? You should also check the quality of the dashboard buttons; are they cheaply designed and do they look like they might fall off after a year or so?

In the past, car buyers used to say that they would rather sacrifice a bit of comfort for compactness and better gas mileage, but with today`s modern designs, you really don`t have to. A compact design is no excuse for an uncomfortable, too snug interior. Is there room for you and your passengers to sit comfortably, with legroom to spare? Is the ceiling high enough, or would you feel claustrophobic if you had to sit in the car for an all-day drive?

Whether you`re taking your test drive from a dealer`s lot or a private home, chances are that you`ll only have a few minutes of driving time, so you`ll need to use that time wisely. By looking at and other resources, you can find out what to look and listen for, what questions to ask and how to tell whether you`re looking at the car of your dreams or the all-time lemon of your worst nightmares.