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Car Buying

Buying a Car: Test Drive Items You Can't Forget

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

If you're interested in buying a car, then you probably know how important it is to take a good, thorough test drive. Test driving can make or break your car decision by letting you know how comfortable a car is, how loud it is, whether it offers good visibility and much more. But your test driving process should be more than just a drive: You also should remember to check a wide variety of other items -- especially if you're considering a used car. We've listed a few of the easiest items to overlook during the test driving process in order to help ensure you won't forget them.

Electronics

We all know to check the turn signals, the stereo, the windows and the headlights during a test drive. But do you always remember to check the other electronics?

You should -- especially as electronics become more and more common and important to modern cars. Does your car have a sunroof? Make sure it works -- and that you know how to properly use it -- before you do the deal. Same with keyless entry, a power tailgate, an infotainment system and practically any other electronic item you can think of (such as adaptive cruise control or power sunshades). If any of these systems aren't working, it can be expensive to get them fixed.

Here's another electronic item that's frequently overlooked during the test drive: the rear-seat DVD player. If this is an important feature to you, be sure to bring a DVD along to the dealer or to look at a car being offered by a private seller. While the seller may have a DVD, it's best to bring along your own to make sure the system works and to be sure that you easily understand how to operate the controls.

Wear Items

Although it's common to have a used car checked by a mechanic to make sure there aren't any serious issues, many drivers overlook simpler things such as tires, brakes and other wear items. Regardless of whether you have your potential used-car purchase checked over by a mechanic, you'll want to make sure you at least consider the status of the car's tires, its brakes and recent services (the time of its last oil change, for example). After all, if a car needs tires, brakes or servicing, it might add hundreds of dollars -- and sometimes thousands -- to the purchase price.

Our Take

The term "test drive" is a bit of a misnomer -- especially in today's modern age of complicated cars filled with modern gadgets and electronics. In fact, you'll really want to do a lot more than just drive when you're looking at cars; you'll want to check out all the electronic features to make sure they work, and you'll want to consider wear items and recent services. While many drivers forget to check these things, an informed shopper will remember -- and it could end up saving thousands of dollars.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Buying a Car: Test Drive Items You Can't Forget - Autotrader