Used Car Test Drive Checklist Article
Before you drive
- Get the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) so you can check the vehicle history report on DMV's website or with another vehicle history report provider.
- Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website for any recall information.
- If you have a friend or relative who is experienced with cars, bring that person along for the test drive.
- Check the engine oil, transmission fluid and coolant levels when the engine is cool.
- Examine hoses and belts for signs of excessive wear.
- With the engine running, listen for any knocking, ticking or tapping.
- Confirm the VIN. In more recent models it’s usually visible at the bottom of the font window on the driver’s side.
- Check the car’s body for potential signs of undisclosed accidents, like unevenness in the paint or ripples or dents in the exterior.
- Check the ground beneath the car before and after the engine has been running to see if there are any fluid leaks.
- Take out your ruler and place it inside one of the grooves of the tire’s treat. The tires should have at least 1/4 inch of tread.
- Check the tires for signs of excessive or uneven wear, cracks or splitting.
- Make sure the tires have no objects lodged in them, like nails or screws.
- When you check for rest, pay special attention to the underside of the car, the wheel wells, the edges of doors and windows, and the trunk.
- Are there any rips or stains on the seats?
- How does it smell?
- Do the heating and air conditioning work?
- Test the horn, turn signals, windshield wipers, door locks and dome lights.
- If you have a child who uses a safety seat, check to make sure your safety seat will work with the vehicle.
- Turn the key to the accessory position – the one right before the engine is engaged – and make sure all the dash warning lights illuminate.
- Are there are cracks that could develop into bigger problems?
- Do all the windows go both down and up?