Buying A Used Car- Part 7: Test Drive- Mechanical

Posted Thursday, Nov 15, 2018

We’ll finish our test drive in this article by looking at the last aspect of the automobile: the mechanical aspect.

mechanicalHopefully, you started the car when you first approached it, so the engine is already warm before you leave to drive. At this point, it’s time to head out onto the road. Depending on who you are dealing with, you may be conducting the test drive with a salesman in the car with you; this salesman may dictate the route you take. Sometimes the route is longer than others, so that’s why I advise you to allow the engine to warm as you walk around the vehicle; no matter how short the route you take, the engine will have heated. While on the drive, attempt to accelerate and decelerate in different ways and at differing rates. In this manner, you can check the engine for hesitations/misfires, the transmission for slips/stutters, and the brakes for sounds/shaking. You can also check some of the controls you examined earlier (heat, a/c, windows, etc.).

Make sure you rely on your 5 senses during the test drive: Do you see anything amiss, like the temperature gauge reading too hot; Do you hear anything amiss, like squealing from the brakes; Do you smell anything amiss, like burning oil; Do you feel anything amiss, like a slipping transmission? Unless you’re being extremely thorough, you don’t need to employ your sense of taste, though (although I suppose old motor oil tastes different than new).

When you return from the drive, open the hood and use your senses again. Look, listen, and smell for leaks, oil, steam, smoke, knocking, and ticking; any symptoms of a mechanical issue. If you follow this methodical examination of the mechanical, you should have an excellent idea of the issues, if any, regarding the vehicle. Now you can decide if you want to move forward to the last step of car buying: negotiating and closing the deal. If you do decide to move forward, the test drive should have given you material to use in the negotiation.

And one last thing: look in the trunk; if it’s really clean, there’s a good chance the car was well cared for. If someone was so meticulous with his or her car care as to keep even the trunk immaculate, the rest of the car should have been taken care of as well. Lastly, you want to make sure the car is coming with a jack and spare tire.

Photo courtesy of




Buying A Used Car- Part 6: Test Drive- Interior

Buying A Used Car- Part 8: Deal Closing

Tags: , , , , , , ,