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What to Look for When Test Driving a Truck

When you buy a truck, you’ll have it for a while. To avoid buyer’s remorse and squeeze the best value from your transportation budget, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate a vehicle before making a financial commitment.

A test drive furnishes an opportunity to evaluate a truck firsthand and ask the seller specific questions about it. The more you prepare for a test drive, the better chance you have of coming away with an honest impression. Here’s what you should when test driving a truck.

Use Your Senses

As you assess trucks for purchase, bring all your senses to the table. Sights, sounds, and other clues give vital feedback that helps head off an unwise vehicle purchase.

Get a First Impression Through Visual Inspection

Before embarking on a test drive, conduct an interior and exterior inspection of the vehicle. Is the paint glossy and free of scratches and pitting? A new truck’s finish should be pristine. If a used car’s paint is dull, it may indicate the vehicle has been stored outdoors rather than garaged. Constant exposure to the elements causes premature wear, so the price should reflect the car’s overall outward appearance.

A used truck’s interior can tell you a lot about its history. Is the upholstery or leather in good condition, free of stains and tears? Are all its knobs, controls, and trim features present and in working order? If not, ask the seller if the items can be replaced or repaired prior to closing the sale.

If the truck is new, note its features. Does it have the storage areas, electronic connectivity, cup holders, and creature comforts you’d expect? Before wrapping up the test drive, ask the seller to demonstrate the vehicle’s features.

Follow Your Nose

Peculiar odors should raise red flags. You may not experience that “new car smell” in a used truck, but the passenger compartment shouldn’t have off-putting odors. Remember, dealers clean cars before offering them for sale. If they were unable to eliminate an unpleasant odor, you may not be able to either.

During the test drive, sniff for gasoline, exhaust, and other odd odors. If the dealer can’t explain them and offer a pre-sale fix, move on; the truck may pose more trouble than it’s worth.

Did You Hear That?

Squeals and squeaks can be symptoms of worn belts or bad brakes. A rumbling exhaust can indicate ill-fitting components or holes in the system. Sustained whining sounds during a test drive might come from kids in the back seat, but they can also indicate worn wheel bearings or tires. Get to the bottom of these used car issues before moving forward with a purchase.

When test driving a new truck, listen for tinny, hollow noises, which can be clues that a car is poorly made. Always test drive multiple new cars in the same class for comparison.

Don't Forget Common Sense

Bring common sense to every test drive, and don’t be afraid to press for the answers you need. Before taking a used truck for a spin, always request a vehicle history report that details its ownership and service records.

A test drive provides your best opportunity to evaluate a vehicle firsthand. Make the most of it, and you’ll be more likely to end up with the truck of your dreams.