There are a lot of factors to consider when buying a new car. From the make and model you are thinking about, to budget, all the way down to the customisable options you want to add on. A test drive is an important factor that you should undertake before buying a car. It allows you to see first-hand whether the car is right for you. Here is a quick guide on what you should look for when test driving a car.

How to Book a Test Drive

You can typically book a test drive with the dealership that is selling the car. The dealer will either offer to book you in for a test drive in the near future, or they may let you drive it for a short while as part of your visit to the showroom.

The most important thing to consider when booking a test drive is to make sure you are insured. Dealers usually have special cover in place for this. In some cases your current car insurance will cover you, but it’s crucial to check before getting behind the wheel of a different vehicle.

In some cases you may also be asked to produce your driving license, so it’s helpful to have this with you.

Why Test Driving a Car is Important

Test driving a car gives you the best possible opportunity to really see what the car is like, before you buy. You may want to test the size and handling of the vehicle before committing to purchasing, and the test drive gives you this chance. In some cases, test driving a car also allows you to see whether it’s the right vehicle for your lifestyle too.

If you’re thinking of buying a second hand car, then test driving is even more important as it gives you a chance to make sure everything is in working order.

How to Test Drive a Car & What to Look Out For

Once you’ve decided to test drive your potential next car, use the opportunity wisely! There’s a whole host of features you should look out for when test driving, including the size of the boot, how the steering feels and getting to grips with the clutch and gears. Here’s a rundown of what to look for.


The first thing to look at is where the vehicle you have in mind is suitable for your needs. When you take a test drive thing about what you’ll be using the car for on a daily basis, is there enough space for the kids or a good boot size for carrying equipment…or the dog! Are you looking for a car perfect for nipping around town or do you think you need an SUV or crossover for weekend adventures?

Comfort & Accessibility

You want to make sure the car is 100% comfortable for you as well. Can you achieve the best driving position for you by moving the chair, and will you be able to complete long journeys in the car you’re test driving? You’ll also want to consider comfort for your passengers to by assessing whether there is enough leg and headroom in the rear seats.

You should also take accessibility into account. Can you get in and out comfortably, and can you see all the mirrors? As well as adjusting the headrest and seats, you should also ensure you can reach the seatbelt. If you do need any adaptations to the car or will need to store mobility equipment, it’s important to check that this is possible with the model of vehicle.

Wear & Tear or Damage

This may be more important when test driving a used car, but it’s still handy to check on a new car too. Check both the interior and exterior for any damage, no matter how small, as well as general wear and tear on the upholstery or other car parts.

Look for any dents, chips or scratches and ensure everything looks as it should. You might also want to check under the bonnet to make sure the car has been well-maintained. You should have a look at the tyre treads too, to confirm they are within the legal limit.

Engine & Suspension

It’s key that the engine is cold before you start your test drive. If it’s warm, it may be that the car has trouble starting from cold. If this is the case, be sure to ask the dealer about it. The engine shouldn’t be overly noisy, and you should also listen out for any rattles or clunking noises coming from the suspension. Look out for excessive amounts of smoke when starting the car or accelerating too, as this could hint at a problem.

Other than that, you may want to test that the engine size is what you were looking for in terms of performance. A bigger engine may give a sportier feel to your driving experience, which isn’t for everyone.

Steering & Brakes

When pulling off and starting your test drive, pay attention to the steering. It should feel responsive with no vibrations. Look out for any amount of free play, where the steering wheel can be moved side to side but the vehicle itself is not steering.

Similarly, brakes on a car you haven’t driven before can take some getting used to. Check that there is progressive stopping power as you press the brake, and perhaps find somewhere safe to practice an emergency stop too.

Clutch & Gears

As with the brakes, a clutch on an unfamiliar car can feel very different. Spend some time checking you’re able to engage all the gears without too much crunching, and see at what point the clutch starts to bite. If it’s too near the top, the clutch might be worn.

Don’t forget to check the reverse gear too, as its position can vary on different makes and models of cars.

Boot Space & General Space

This is really important as buying a car that isn’t the right shape or size for your lifestyle can be a huge mistake. If you have children, will the boot fit everything that you need, including prams? Are you an avid golfer, and would your clubs fit in the boot? If you travel regularly, do you have enough space for your luggage?

Making sure the car suits your needs can make all the difference. Don’t forget to take time to look around the space you have in the cabin, and whether the family fits comfortably.

How Does The Car Drive?

When test driving you need to see how the car feels. Are the steering and brakes responsive and smooth? Can you change gear on the car easily, without any grinding sounds? Think about where you’ll be driving on a day to day basis, discuss whether the car is suitable for motorway driving, or off-road if you’re looking for something more adventurous.


Something to also consider is whether you feel confident driving the car. If you’re used to driving a small city car then upgrading to a large SUV could be quite an adjustment, making the test drive even more important. Practicing manoeuvres in the car during a test drive, such as parking, will help you to decide whether you’d be confident driving the car on a daily basis or not.

Test Driving a Car: Your Questions Answered

It can feel a bit overwhelming test driving a car, with so many different factors to think about. Here we’ve answered some of the most common questions surrounding test driving a car, so you can book your next one with ease.

What documents do I need to test drive a car?

If you are attending a test drive at a dealership, it’s likely you will be covered under their policy. It can be handy to double check your own cover with your provider too.

There’s a chance you may be asked for your driving license so it’s best to bring that with you too. Some dealerships will take a copy of your license for their records.

Can you test drive a car without insurance?

Driving on UK roads without insurance is illegal, even if it’s a test drive down the road for 10 minutes. It’s important that you check you’re insured before you get behind the wheel of the test car. In most cases the dealer will have a specific policy in place for this, but it’s still your responsibility to make sure.

Can you test drive a car without buying it?

Yes, you’re under no obligation to buy the car if you test drive it. You might find that the car isn’t suitable for you once you have driven it, in which case you can simply tell the salesperson that you won’t be purchasing. A test drive is a great way of getting a feel for a vehicle without having to put any money down.

Can I test drive a SORN car?

Similar to insurance, driving an untaxed vehicle for any distance is illegal – unless it’s the journey to a pre-booked MOT appointment. With that in mind, you cannot test drive a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) car. If you did want to test drive such a vehicle, yourself or the owner would have to arrange to have the vehicle taxed first.

What happens if I crash on a test drive?

This is why it’s important to have insurance in place, even for a short test drive. Being involved in an accident or a crash on your test drive can be nerve-wracking, but it can depend on who is at fault. The dealer will be able to offer the right advice based on the insurance policy they have in place.

Book A Test Drive Today

If you’ve seen a car you’re interested in and want to book a test drive, or you just want to browse the range of cars we have in the showroom, get in touch today!