What to Do & What to Look Out for When Test Driving a Used Car

Thinking about buying a used car? It may be a great way to save money, but you want to be certain that the car is in good working order, suits your needs, and feels right to drive. But before we talk about those things, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of new cars.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car has advantages and disadvantages compared to buying a new car. Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons to consider:


  1. Cost Savings: Used cars are generally cheaper than new ones, allowing you to save money or get a higher-spec model than you could afford new.
  2. Lower Depreciation: New cars lose value much faster than used ones. You won’t suffer as big a hit on depreciation with a used vehicle.
  3. Cheaper Insurance: Insurance tends to be less expensive for used cars compared to new ones.
  4. Certified Pre-Owned Options: Some used cars come with certifications from the manufacturer or dealership, ensuring they meet certain quality standards.
  5. Extensive Choice: A wide variety of used cars are available, from almost new to classic models. This gives you greater freedom to choose a car that suits your needs and tastes.
  6. Reviews and Reports: For used models, there’s usually a wealth of information available about their long-term reliability, common issues, and other ownership insights.
  7. Ownership Costs: With older models, you’re not paying for initial extras like shipping charges, dealer prep, and other “new car” fees.
  8. No VAT (Value Added Tax): Private sellers do not charge VAT, whereas it’s applicable on new cars and can be substantial.
  9. Quick Ownership: Paperwork and delivery times are generally quicker for used cars as they are already in stock and registered.


Related Reading: The UK’s Most Reliable Used Car Manufacturers



  1. Limited Warranty: Most used cars come with a limited or even no warranty, depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle. However, you can easily change this point to a “pro” if you consider the great warranties offered by Click4Warranty.
  2. Repair Costs: Used cars generally have higher maintenance costs, and if you’re not careful, you might end up with a “lemon.”
  3. Limited Customisation: What you see is what you get. Your options are limited if you want specific features, colours, or trims.
  4. Financing Rates: If you’re taking out a loan, interest rates are generally higher for used cars than for new ones.
  5. Unknown History: Even with comprehensive checks, you can never be completely sure how well the previous owner took care of the vehicle.
  6. Shorter Lifespan: A used car will generally have a shorter remaining lifespan compared to a new car.
  7. Fuel Efficiency and Emissions: Older cars may not be as fuel-efficient as new models and might not meet the latest emissions standards.
  8. Outdated Technology: Older models might lack modern safety features and technology.
  9. Consumer Protections: Buying from a private seller can limit your consumer rights compared to buying from a dealership.

Note, though, that some of these disadvantages can be mitigated by test-driving the used car if you know what to look for.


Related Reading: Should I Buy a New, Nearly New or Used Car?


Tips for Test-Driving a Used Car

Test-driving a used car is an essential part of the purchasing process. You want to be certain that the car is in good working order, suits your needs, and feels right to drive. Here are some key things to look for when test-driving a used car:

Before the Drive

  1. Documentation: Make sure the car has all the necessary paperwork like the V5C logbook, MOT certificates, and service records.
  2. Exterior Inspection: Look for dents, scratches, rust, and any inconsistencies in paint that may indicate previous repair work.
  3. Tyre Condition: Check for adequate tread depth and any signs of uneven wear, which could indicate alignment issues.
  4. Fluid Levels: Check the oil, coolant, and brake fluid levels.
  5. Under the Hood: Look for leaks, damaged hoses, or worn belts. Listen for any unusual noises when the engine is running.
  6. Interior Condition: Check for any damage to the upholstery, seat belts, dashboard, and controls.
  7. Boot Space: Make sure it’s adequate for your needs, and check for the spare tyre and toolkit.

During the Drive

  1. Engine Performance: Listen for knocking or ticking sounds and check how smoothly the engine revs.
  2. Transmission: Ensure that the car shifts gears smoothly without any jerks or grinding noises.
  3. Steering: It should be responsive and free from play. Check for any sounds when you turn.
  4. Brakes: Test the brakes at different speeds to ensure they are responsive and the car doesn’t pull to one side.
  5. Suspension: The ride should be smooth and without any clunks. Drive over bumps to check the comfort and effectiveness of the suspension system.
  6. Alignment: Make sure the car drives straight and doesn’t drift to one side when you release the steering wheel.
  7. Dashboard Lights: No warning lights should be on while you’re driving.
  8. Air Conditioning and Heater: Make sure they’re fully functional.
  9. Windows and Locks: Check the operation of all windows, locks, and other electrical components.
  10. Visibility: Make sure you have good visibility from all angles.
  11. Noise: Listen for any unusual noises like squeaks, rattles, or wind noise.

After the Drive

  1. Smell: After the drive, smell for burning oil or other odours that might indicate a problem.
  2. Leaks: Check under the car for any leaks.
  3. Documentation: Review any included service records, MOT history, and other paperwork to ensure it matches what you’ve experienced.
  4. Haggle: If you’ve found issues, you can use these as bargaining points to lower the price.

Remember, it’s often advisable to bring along a knowledgeable friend or mechanic if you’re not comfortable assessing these factors yourself. Always insist on taking the car to a reputable mechanic for a full pre-purchase inspection if you’re serious about buying.

By taking the time to thoroughly test-drive and inspect a used car, you’ll be in a better position to make an informed decision.


Related Reading: Click4Warranty Guide to Buying a Used Car


What are your options for extended UK car warranty cover?

We don’t want to complicate this, so we’ve kept it nice and simple. Here’s three great options for mechanical breakdown or electrical failure car warranty cover, that’ll give you all you need, including cover for wear & tear.

3-Star Car Warranty

Select this option if you want affordable cover for a long list of covered components. Gives you up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts.

4-Star Car Warranty

Select this option to cover a wide range of components on your vehicle, and get up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT in the event of mechanical breakdown or electrical failure, or imminent failure identified during an MOT or service.

5-Star Car Warranty

Looking for comprehensive warranty protection? Our 5-Star warranty covers an extensive range of parts and offers up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts on your vehicle.


Related Reading: The Consequences of NOT Having Click4Warranty Car Warranty Cover