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Test driving my new car – what to look out for?

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Are you considering taking a potential car purchase out for a test drive? Here are some things to consider to make the most of your test drive.


Is the test drive vehicle similar to the model you intend to buy, or are there additional options you aren't interested in or don't want to include? You may not be getting an entirely accurate experience of your vehicle if it's the latter case1.


Some vehicles will have a variety of different modes, such as four-wheel-drive, economy or sports. Make sure to check them all to ensure you know the full capabilities of the vehicle1.

Next, consider driving in a wide variety of different road and traffic conditions2. Try both freeway and city driving, up and down hills as well as on flatlands and, if you can, different road surfaces. All this will give you the opportunity to see how the vehicle adapts to different conditions and is also why it may be a good idea to set your own route rather than following somebody else's (such as the car yard salesperson)2.


The test drive may not only be about the performance of the vehicle – it can be about comfort too. The average Australian commute is 15.6km3, and that doesn't include weekend driving either - so you don't want to be in a car that is uncomfortable. Adjust the driver seat, the steering wheel and the mirrors, and also check the rear view for visibility. Head into a quiet car park or road and try the reversing and parallel parking manoeuvres too4.

You may also want to consider taking a friend with you. That way, you can get a different perspective on the car, as well as getting an evaluation of the passenger seating. It's not only about the comfort of the driver, after all5.


Safety should also be a primary concern, regardless of whether you are buying new or used. However, pre-owned cars may be more likely to have ongoing issues from previous damage6. Check for any rattling sounds as you drive over speed bumps, and be sure to check the brakes as well for responsiveness7.

For used cars, consider observing the exhaust for smoke while accelerating and, if it's safe to do so, check the actual alignment of the car. If you feel the car pull to one side while driving in a straight line, the car may need repair work done by a qualified mechanic to fix the issue8.

Everyday use

Consider your everyday use, not just the performance and comfort of the vehicle. If you are intending to have younger children as passengers, ask about or investigate child seat mounting options. The same concept goes for cargo. For example, do your golf clubs, snow skis or surfboards fit? Consider coming prepared with measurements.


Lastly, consider checking the miscellaneous features of the car. Cruise control, voice control and Bluetooth if fitted, as well as the radio, the aux cord and device charging capability9. The air conditioning is a must to try as we head into a hot Australian summer, while the windscreen wipers, headlights, horn, brake lights and indicators should all be reviewed as well10Some of these are merely advanced features, but others are a safety, performance and comfort must. Don't forget about them.

Depending on the vehicle you are looking at, there may be some other features that you need to check. If you are uncertain of anything about the car, feel free to ask the seller about every facet of the car you are concerned about and don't be pressured into an immediate sale. It's better to be accurate and considered than impulsive - or you could end up with buyer’s remorse. For more tips and tricks about your car, check out the rest of the IMB blog.


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1 - Motoring

2 - Choice

4 - CarsGuide

5 - Choice

6 - CarsGuide


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