Test Driving a Car: 5 Things to Know Before You Go

Picture of a man and woman in front seats of a car looking out into the low setting sun.

Buying a new car? A thorough test drive is the best way to make sure you get the perfect one for you. Read on for our top test drive tips.

Get comfortable

A recent survey carried out by AIB and showed that most Irish drivers spend around 10 hours per week in their cars. And since you’re going to be spending so much time there, it makes sense to be comfortable. To ensure your comfort, when you first get in the car - see if the seat is fully adjustable to your height, that all pedals and controls are within easy reach, and that there’s sufficient legroom. Driving with your knees on the steering wheel is never advisable. You should also check that you can move the driver and passenger seats back without squashing your backseat passengers. It’s even a good idea to bring your family along to see if they all fit!

If you’re going to spend a lot of time driving, make sure you’re comfortable

Take control

Unresponsive steering can quickly drive you to distraction, so it’s crucial to test it properly on the road. Start by listening out for any unusual noises, such as squealing or grinding when you turn the wheel. Once you’re driving, get on a straight road and let the wheel rest lightly in your hands. You’re looking here to see if the steering pulls to one side. You don’t need to be Lewis Hamilton, but it’s also good to test the car at different speeds, as the steering may start to behave differently on a motorway. You should ensure that all the dials and instruments are easy to see and operate. And before you get all hot and bothered – check the air conditioning and stereo are working properly too.

It’s always a good idea to test out the boot size when you’re buying a car

Check the storage

Boot size is something that you may not initially consider. But if you regularly carry a lot of sporting equipment, shopping, or luggage, you’ll quickly come to regret a car with insufficient space. Bring along a selection of everyday items that you may need to carry in the car regularly and check that they’re easy to fit, secure, and not difficult to get in and out of the boot. It’ll stop your big shop turning into a weekly struggle. Also, see if the rear seats can fold down to give you some extra luggage room – it can be a lifesaver on family holidays.

Listen for any unusual noises while you’re having a test drive

Listen for noise

Once you’re driving the car, you’ll want to test noise levels. To do this, you should drive at different speeds with the windows open and closed. Turn the radio off, so you can listen for any unusual noises such as squeaks or rattles, which could be an indication of an unseen mechanical problem. Keep a close ear on the engine noise too. If it sounds unusually loud, it’s not going to get any quieter with age. Also, make sure you can carry on a conversation with your passengers without being drowned out by engine or wind noise – unless you prefer it that way!

Good visibility is extremely important for comfort and safety when driving

Check visibility

Good visibility is extremely important for comfort and safety when driving, so always keep your eyes open on a test drive. Your visibility will be dependent on a number of factors including the interior design of the car, the windscreen, and the wing and rear-view mirrors. Squeezing into a tight parking spot can be difficult enough without turning it into a guessing game! To prevent this, make sure you can see exactly what you’re doing when reversing. And don’t stay in the dark about how your lights perform - if possible test drive the car at night too.

For more top test drive tips, watch our video with motoring expert Geraldine Herbert.

You’ll spend plenty of time test driving cars, which is why we don’t want to make you wait for car finance. Visit our car loan page to find out how you can get a decision on your loan in just *3 hours.

And if you have any further questions, why not ask us on Facebook or Twitter @AIBIreland?

* 3 hour loan decision applies to fully completed new personal loan applications processed within 3 hours 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri excl. bank holidays. Loans from €1,000-€30,000. Excludes applications: to restructure or clear existing AIB credit facilities; received through Branch and referred to lender for review, from customers in financial difficulty; for Student and First Job loans; applications through Business Centres; or where total borrowings exceed €100,000 (excluding Home Loan debt up to €600,000).

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