How to test drive and check a new car

Choosing a new car is exciting, but it’s important not to get carried away. Before reaching a decision, always test drive the car thoroughly to make sure it feels right for you and your driving needs. Read our test drive tips below, plus a checklist of what you should do as soon as your new car is delivered.

Tips when test driving a new car

Top tip

Take your time – the dealer may even let you keep a car overnight or a weekend.

You’ll focus better during your test drive if you don’t have the pressure of a salesperson sitting beside you.

Whether you’re planning to buy a new car or a used car, it’s vital to give it a thorough test drive. This is your chance to make sure you feel comfortable in the car and enjoy driving it – before making a decision you might otherwise regret.

Here’s how to make the most of your test drive:

  • Allow at least an hour for your test drive – in town, out on the open road and on a motorway if possible.
  • If you’re on a motorway or dual carriageway, try overtaking – checking for good acceleration and any blind spots.
  • Don’t forget hills – how a car pulls up a hill can be very revealing.
  • Try a challenging route to see how well the car hugs the road when cornering.
  • Remember to try braking hard to test the car’s stability in an emergency.
  • Take a passenger to find out how the car feels to them.
  • If you have the car for an extended time, try driving it with the back loaded up as well.
  • If there’s built-in sat nav, ask the salesperson for a quick tutorial. Is it straightforward?
  • Be firm but polite if the salesperson tries to use the test drive as an extended sales pitch.
  • Even if you think you’ve made up your mind, try a similar car for comparison – you may be surprised.

Other points to check

  • Is it easy to get in and out of the car?
  • Is it comfortable inside? Try adjusting the seating and steering wheel
  • Is there good vision? Check for blind spots and try reversing the car.
  • Check there’s enough space in the back. Remember, if you have kids, they grow fast!
  • If the rear seats fold down – is it easy?
  • Is there enough room in the boot? Is the sill low enough for loading – or your dog!

Planning for your car’s delivery

Top Tip

For help working out a new car’s running costs, try using our Car costs calculator.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to drive away in your new car on the day you purchase it. If it’s being built to your specifications, you may have to wait weeks, even months. The same applies if you’ve been put on a waiting list.

Agree a delivery date with the dealer, then keep in touch with them to make sure they stick to it.

In the meantime, you’ll need to make sure your car is insured before you take delivery of it. If you’re already insured, you could take the opportunity to shop around in case you could get cover at a better price.

What to check on the day of delivery

Here’s a checklist of what you need to do as soon as your new car arrives. If you discover any faults or something’s missing, contact the dealer as soon as possible.

  1. Check that you’ve got all the car’s manuals, the service history booklet and the V5C vehicle registration document (logbook).
  2. Check the car outside and inside, making a written note of anything that’s not quite right – down to the tiniest of scratches.
  3. Check the paintwork, then look at the lines and gaps around the panels to make sure they’ve been properly fitted.
  4. When checking inside the car, remember to look at every detail – from the seams on the seats to the fit of the fascia.
  5. Note the mileage. Anything above 25 miles on the clock should ring alarm bells, unless your car had to be driven to the dealer.
  6. Make sure that you understand the car’s service schedule, so that you do what’s needed to keep it in warranty and to have a full service history when you sell.
  7. If your car has hi-tech optional extras, it’s a good idea to get the dealer to show you how they work.
  8. Remember to tell the dealer about any faults straight away.

Your next step

Find out about warranties on new cars