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Test Driving Your New Or Used Car

Nov 30, 2007
Getting a new car thrills and excites. Sometimes it is easy to get carried away in our initial response to a car. No matter how much you like a certain vehicle, take it for a long, serious test drive.

You should first plan on spending as long as possible on your test drive. Fifteen minutes is not enough time. You want to thoroughly examine the car and definitely have a mechanic check it out.

Take a look at the vehicle overall. Do the body parts line up? Does the paint match? Will doors open and close easily? Do the tires look like they wear evenly?

Check under the hood. You may not know exactly what you are looking at, but that is okay. Look for leaky hoses, worn belts, and dirty oil. Ask the dealer to show you the automatic transmission fluid. Smell it. If there is a burned odor, steer clear. The fluid should be clear and reddish. Transmission repair costs are not pretty.

Have someone show you the radiator water. It should have a light yellow or green color.

Make sure all of the warning lights and gauges work. Start the car and check all lights and functions. And here is a no-brainer - make sure no warning lights remain lit on the dashboard.

Look at the airbag indicator lights. If these lights do not illuminate as you start the car, or if they stay lit after the car is running, they are not working correctly.

Try on the seat belt. Test the vehicle in the early evening to determine the headlight visibility. If you already have a child safety seat, go ahead and install it. Not all seats are compatible with all cars.

Accelerate up to 35-40 MPH. Is shifting smooth and steering straight? When braking, a pull to the left or the right could indicate a problem.

If you buy via the classifieds, make sure to check the name on the title and match it to the name on the sellers drivers license. Just to be safe.

It would be nice to find the little ladies almost new car that was not driven more than 15,000 miles a year. Of course, low miles on the odometer would be a big plus, too. Even then, you can not assume that a low-mileage car is necessarily in great shape.

One major concern is odometer tampering. So do your homework. Ask for a detailed service history report. If records were not kept, you can check things out for yourself with the vehicle identification number. Provide this VIN number to your state vehicle history company to get a record of the cars former life.

Remember, no matter how in love you are with a car, think twice before purchasing one that has been wrecked. You do not need anyone elses problems. There are dozens of other cars you could enjoy just as much.

So test drive more than one car. You will never regret a wise, well-thought out purchase.
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