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How to Test Drive a Used Truck

When making a large purchase, like a truck, you want to know what you’re buying. You don’t want to sign on the dotted line, fork over your hard-earned money, and discover you bought a clunker.

Taking a vehicle for a test drive is essential when purchasing any truck, especially if you’re buying a used one.

If you’re new to the process, there are a few things you should know when taking a test drive. We’ll show you all you need to know when test driving a used truck. So buckle up, and let’s get started!

What Happens On a Test Drive?

During a test drive, the potential buyer takes the vehicle for a short excursion. This allows them to ensure that everything works and that they’re comfortable completing the transaction. It’s typical for the person making the sale or a dealership’s sales team member to ride along.

The driver should have the opportunity to experience real-life driving conditions. This includes feeling the vehicle accelerate up to cruising speed on the interstate and how the truck handles the speeds.

Being able to experience stop-and-go traffic or inclines and declines in the road is also beneficial.

Why Is It Important to Test Drive a Used Truck?

Test driving a used truck allows you to use your senses to make an informed decision. Your eyes and ears should be working overtime while test driving a used truck. You want to look and listen for any signs of an issue. Once you complete the transaction, any concerns with the truck become your problem.

Pro Tip: If you’d rather buy a used RV instead of a used truck, use these tips on How to Determine the Value of Used RVs.

Woman test driving. truck.
Keep both your eyes and ears alert when test driving a used vehicle.

What Specific Things Should You Look for When Test Driving a Used Vehicle?

Test driving a used vehicle starts before sitting in the driver’s seat or putting the key in the ignition. You want to inspect the outside and inside of the vehicle. Inspect every inch, looking for any potential issues. Test all of the windows, fans, and features. Be sure to pop the hood and trunk too! Don’t be afraid to use your hands to touch or inspect the vehicle. However, be careful not to cause any damage. It’s not your truck yet!

When you have the hood open, it’s a good idea to start the engine in preparation for the test drive. This allows you to visually inspect the engine running and listen for any grinding gears. If everything checks out, close the hood and climb into the driver’s seat.

During the test drive, you must use all your senses. You want to use your eyes while driving and make sure that you’re comfortable with the placement of instrument panels and that there aren’t any warning lights illuminated. Listen to the engine and transmission when accelerating and any odd noises when braking. It could be a red flag for a more significant issue if you smell any strange odors, especially mold.

The test drive is your chance to catch any potential mechanical issues that might not be obvious without driving it. If the vehicle pulls to either direction, it could need an alignment or have other problems. Make sure you get a good sense of the car’s performance and mechanical condition.

Man test driving truck
Take the used vehicle you’re test driving out for at least 20 to 30 minutes to ensure it is in good working condition.

How Long Should a Test Drive Be?

It would be best if you planned to test drive a vehicle for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes. However, if you’re serious about the truck, you should take it over different road surfaces and driving conditions. If you’re purchasing from a dealership, they likely have a pre-planned route that they typically use or that insurance requires.

Don’t expect to take the vehicle home for the night or to put a ton of miles on it. If you’re not satisfied with the length of the test drive, don’t be afraid to say something. Any good dealership or person wanting to make a sale should work something out to make sure you’re both comfortable.

How Many Trucks Should You Test Drive?

Purchasing a truck is a big decision that you should take time to research. You should test drive any trucks on your list of potential options. This allows you to compare more than just the manufacturer’s stats or what the salesperson tells you.

If you have a handful of vehicles you’re considering, test drive them all and eliminate them. You’re making a large purchase and have the power, so find a new dealership if they don’t like you test driving multiple vehicles.

Pro Tip: Is a used RV a good or bad decision? We uncovered Should You Avoid (or not) a Used RV?

Is It OK to Test Drive a Truck Without Buying It?

Dealerships know that the odds of them making a sale increase if they can get you to take a test drive. However, just because you test drive a truck doesn’t mean you are committing to buy it. The sales team may pressure you to take the next step toward completing the transaction, but you’re in control. 

Don’t forget that you have the power to say no and walk away from the sale. The dealer or person selling their vehicle may try to guilt you into staying, but you should walk away from any deal that makes you uncomfortable.

This is especially true if the test drive reveals something you don’t like about the vehicle.

What things do you specifically look for when test driving a new or used vehicle? Tell us in the comments below!

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