Test Drive Tips

When buying a car privately or from an OMVIC-registered dealer, car buyers have to learn to protect themselves. One of the key steps is taking a thorough test drive – not just around the block! To get the most out of a test drive follow these simple tips:

Partner up

  • If possible, bring a friend or family member; they may notice something you don’t.
  • For security reasons, if going alone let someone know the details of your meeting (especially when purchasing privately) and take a cell phone.

Make sure it’s a good fit

  • Before taking the car out for a test drive, make sure it’s a good fit.
  • Adjust the seat and mirrors.
  • Can you reach the steering wheel and pedals?
  • Sit in the back seat – how’s the fit?


  • Test drive during the day. It’s much easier to pick up scratches, dents, paint imperfections and possible body work.
  • Consider the time of day for the test drive, an 8:00 a.m. test drive may seem like a good idea but depending on where you live, getting up to highway speeds may be difficult in rush hour traffic.

Drive on the highway

  • Don’t hesitate to take the vehicle on the highway; you need to see how it handles regular highway speeds.
  • Does it accelerate smoothly?
  • Is the steering crisp or does it wander?
  • Pay attention to how the transmission shifts at different speeds.
  • Find a safe/quiet location and test the brakes. Are they firm or does the pedal sink to the floor? Do they pull to one side? How does the suspension handle road imperfections?

Test all features

  • Test driving isn’t only about the actual drive but making sure all accessories and equipment function properly.
  • This includes air conditioning, heat, radio, Bluetooth, power windows and locks.
  • It’s also a good time to ask how many remotes (for locks/starter) the seller has as they can be expensive to replace.