Not everyone can afford a mechanic to accompany them on a test drive and determine whether the pre-owned car they have their sights on is worth purchasing. Fortunately, you can conduct your own investigation, based on the following tips from Eugene Herbert, a motoring safety expert and MD of MasterDrive:
Take the car for a test-drive for up to 30 minutes to see if it’s comfortable for you (the seats, ride height), is convenient for your lifestyle (has enough space for your needs), suits your driving style and has the features you want in a vehicle.
Arrange to test-drive the car in the morning when the engine is still cool so that you can easily detect whether it gives trouble starting up.

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During the test-drive, do the following:
  • Walk around the car to check for any dents, scratches and rust.
  • Look for wear on the pedals and steering wheel and determine whether these bear out the claimed mileage of the car.
  • If you have children, check if there are Isofix seatbelts.
  • On the road, pay attention to how the car drives. Ensure that the brakes aren’t sticking and that the engine’s fully responsive.
  • Look for oil leaks on the ground where the car was parked.
  • During your test-drive, do an emergency stop. If the car’s in good condition, it should pull up smoothly and straight. If there are faults in the braking system, you’ll notice them immediately.
  • Take someone you trust with you on the test-drive to offer objective advice.
  • Negotiate for discounts from the dealership and ask for any extras you might need to be included in the car at no extra cost.
  • Ask about the car’s warranty and whether it has a service plan. A maintenance plan is even better, since this includes parts, wear and tear and service costs. These will help you determine whether you can afford the car’s upkeep in the long run.
  • Insist on seeing the owner’s manual and service book to determine the number of owners the car’s had and fully establish its service history.