Car Deal Canada

Test Driving a Car

Test Driving a Car

Before heading to the dealership, it’s important to do your research on the vehicles and trims you’re interested in. Narrow down the make and model by reading reviews online and checking out specs and features. Focus on the trim levels that have the options you need within your budget.

For example, if you need more cargo space, look at SUVs or crossover models that offer fold-flat rear seating. Check safety ratings if that’s a priority. Make a list of the must-have features like heated seats, adaptive cruise control, etc. This will help you zero in on one or two models to test drive.

It can also be helpful to watch video reviews to see the vehicle in action. Take note of rear seat room, ease of getting in and out, and overall comfort. Then call dealerships to see if they have those models available for a test drive. Some may require appointments so plan ahead.

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Check Requirements

Before test driving a vehicle, it’s important to confirm the age, license and insurance requirements at the dealership. This can vary by location, so always call ahead or check online to know the specifics for that dealer.

The minimum age to legally drive in Canada is 16 years old with a valid learner’s permit or license. Some dealers may set their own minimum age such as 18 or 21 years old to test drive. There also may be additional fees for younger drivers.

You’ll need a valid driver’s license, not a learner’s permit, to test drive. Make sure yours will not expire soon. The dealer will ask to see your license and likely photocopy it.

Most dealerships require proof of valid insurance coverage before allowing test drives, even though their insurance will cover the vehicle during the drive. This assures them you are an insured driver. Bring your insurance card or proof of coverage.

Knowing the requirements in advance will avoid any issues that could prevent you from test driving the car you want.


Make a List of Must-Have Features

Before test driving, make a list of the features that are essential for you in a new car. This will help you evaluate if a car meets your needs during the test drive. Consider both exterior and interior features that are necessities.

For the exterior, note things like:


  • Body style – sedan, SUV, truck etc.
  • Size/capacity – number of passengers and cargo space.
  • Safety features – collision avoidance, lane keeping assist.
  • Performance – engine power, AWD, towing capacity.
  • Efficiency – fuel economy, EV range, hybrid.


For the interior, jot down must-haves like:


  • Seating – leather, ventilated, heated.
  • Technology – touchscreen, voice commands, phone integration.
  • Comfort – legroom, headroom, adjustable seats.
  • Cargo – trunk space, storage compartments.
  • Convenience – automatic climate control, keyless entry.


Having your list handy means you can methodically evaluate if a car delivers on your most important requirements during the test drive.


Download a Test Drive Checklist

Printing out a test drive checklist to bring along is highly recommended. A checklist will ensure you remember to evaluate all aspects of the vehicle during your test drive. There are many free templates available online that you can customize to your specific needs.

Look for a comprehensive checklist that covers the vehicle’s interior, exterior, performance, features, and functionality. Make sure it includes prompts to assess important factors like:


  • Seating comfort and visibility
  • Ease of controls and technology
  • Ride quality and noise
  • Acceleration and braking
  • Steering and handling
  • Cargo space and accessibility


Add any must-have features that are critical for you. Bring a pen to take notes directly on the checklist as you drive. Having all the evaluation criteria handy ensures you make the most of the test drive experience.


Bring Your Valid Driver’s License

Having your valid driver’s license with you is essential when test driving a car at a dealership. Double check that your license is not expired and matches the address you provided when booking the test drive appointment. Most dealers will ask to see your license and make a photocopy of it for their records before handing over the keys and allowing a test drive. This is standard protocol for insurance and liability purposes. Ensure your license is in your wallet or purse when heading to the dealership so you don’t get turned away for a test drive. Some states may require you to have held your license for a certain number of years before you can test drive high performance vehicles. If you are under 18, you will likely need a parent or guardian to accompany you and provide their valid license as well. Bringing a proper valid form of government issued identification is an important first step to take when preparing for a thorough test drive.


Bring Insurance Proof

Before going to test drive, make sure you have proof of valid insurance coverage. Most dealers will ask to see your insurance card or other documentation as proof that you are insured to legally operate the vehicle. Having this ready in advance will make the process smoother.

Your insurance agent can provide you with proof of insurance you can take with you. This is usually an insurance card or a document that has your policy number and effective dates. Some insurance companies also have electronic versions you can access from your phone or print out.

If you’ve recently switched insurance providers, make sure the coverage is active before your test drive. There should be no lapse in coverage. Review the documentation to ensure it proves you have current, valid car insurance.

Providing this insurance proof is an important step for the dealer and for your own protection. It verifies that you can legally take the car on a test drive and that any accidents will be covered. With the documentation ready ahead of time, the test drive process will go more smoothly.


Bring Financing Pre-Approval If Needed

If you plan on financing your vehicle purchase, it’s a good idea to get pre-approved for financing before visiting the dealership. This shows the dealer that you are a serious buyer and gives you more leverage when it comes to negotiating the final price and loan terms.

To get pre-approved, you’ll need to apply for an auto loan from your bank, credit union or an online lender. The lender will assess your credit, income and expenses to determine the loan amount and interest rate they are willing to offer you.

Once pre-approved, you will get a loan offer letter that is valid for a set period of time, usually 30-60 days. This letter states the maximum loan amount, interest rate and repayment terms that the lender has conditionally approved you for.

Bring this pre-approval letter with you when you go to test drive and negotiate the purchase. It will give you added confidence knowing there is already financing lined up. Just keep in mind the final purchase price may change the loan amount or terms, but at least you have a solid starting point.


Adjust the Seat, Mirrors, and Steering Wheel

Once you get into the driver’s seat, take the time to properly adjust it to your liking. Move the seat forward or backward until you find the ideal position where you can comfortably reach the pedals and steering wheel. Make sure you have good visibility out the front and side windows.

Next, adjust the rear view and side mirrors so you minimize blind spots. The centre mirror should be angled to see directly behind you, while the side mirrors are tilted outward to expand your peripheral vision. You may need to tweak the mirrors once you start driving to optimize visibility.

Finally, tilt and telescope the steering wheel so it feels natural in your hands at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Avoid an overly low or high wheel angle. The steering wheel should not block your view of the instrument panel when centered.

Taking a few minutes to dial in the optimal driving position makes your test drive safer and more comfortable.


Check Blindspots

When test driving a car, it’s crucial to thoroughly check for blindspots. Blindspots are areas around the vehicle that are not visible in your rearview or side mirrors. The size and location of blindspots can vary greatly depending on the make and model of the car.

Here are some tips for checking blindspots during a test drive:


  • Adjust your side and rearview mirrors to your seating position before driving. The mirrors should be angled out just enough so your car is barely visible in the edge of the mirror.
  • Turn your head and visually check over your shoulder when changing lanes. Don’t rely only on your mirrors.
  • Take note of any large blindspots on either side of the car that still exist even after adjusting mirrors.
  • Check for visibility issues looking out the rear windshield.
  • Drive on highways and change lanes multiple times to get a feel for blindspots at higher speeds.
  • Have a passenger watch for blindspots from the outside while you drive.
  • Be wary of large B-pillars between front and rear side windows that can obscure vision.
  • Consider how blindspots may impact parallel parking or backing up.


Paying close attention to blindspots during a test drive can help you determine if a particular car model provides adequate visibility for safe driving. Take your time checking blindspots thoroughly before moving forward with a purchase.


Assessing Performance

When test driving a car, it’s crucial to thoroughly assess its performance capabilities. Pay attention to how the car accelerates, brakes and handles at different speeds and in different conditions. Here are some key things to focus on:



Test the car’s acceleration from a full stop as well as while merging onto highways or passing other vehicles. Does the car have enough power? Is there lag time when you hit the gas? Make sure acceleration feels smooth across the RPM range.



Evaluate the brakes at low and high speeds, and on both dry and wet road surfaces if possible. Do the brakes feel responsive? Is the braking force smooth and progressive? Do the brakes exhibit any squeaking, grinding or vibrating sensations?



Shift through all the gears, both upshifting and downshifting. Listen for any loud noises or grinding coming from the transmission. Make sure gear changes feel smooth and prompt. The transmission should operate quietly and efficiently at all speeds.

Testing acceleration, braking and transmission operation will help you gauge the car’s overall performance. Focus on how it feels to drive the car normally, not just when pushing it to its limits. Assess if the power and handling meet your needs for everyday driving.


Try Out the Latest Tech Features

New cars today come loaded with the latest technology features to enhance your driving experience. When test driving, take the time to fully explore and test out these tech offerings. Here are some key things to try:


  • Use the navigation system – Enter an address and have it map out a route. Verify the voice guidance works clearly. Check that the screen is easy to see and use while driving.
  • Test the stereo – Play music from different sources like the radio, CD, bluetooth streaming, or USB. See how it sounds at different volume levels. Make sure controls are conveniently placed.
  • Pair your phone – Connect your smartphone via bluetooth and test call quality. Verify contacts sync properly. See if apps integrate as advertised.
  • Experiment with advanced safety tech – If the car has lane departure warning or other driver assist features, evaluate when and how they activate.
  • Try charging your devices – Use USB ports and wireless charging pads to make sure your electronics can charge up easily.


Testing technology thoroughly on a test drive will prevent surprises later on. You’ll confirm the tech integrates smoothly and works as expected before finalizing your purchase.


Test on Different Road Types

When test driving, it’s important to assess the vehicle’s performance on different types of roads. Try taking the car on the highway first. Get up to highway speeds and evaluate how smoothly the car accelerates and maintains speed. Pay attention to engine, transmission and road noise at highway speeds. Make sure there’s enough power for safe merging and passing maneuvers.

Next, exit and drive on some local roads. Drive on straight roads and around turns to test steering and handling. Go over bumps and uneven pavement to check the suspension and ride comfort. Make sure the brakes feel solid when coming to stops. Try out some hills if possible to see how the transmission shifts gears under strain.

Driving on both highways and local roads will give you a balanced feel for how the car performs in different real-world conditions. You don’t want any surprises after purchasing the vehicle, so test driving thoroughly allows you to identify any issues or determine if the car meets your needs.


Listen for Noises

When test driving a car, it’s important to be attentive to any concerning noises coming from the engine or drivetrain. As you accelerate, decelerate, turn, and drive over bumps, listen closely for the following:


  • Rattling – This could signal a loose component or problem in the engine.
  • Knocking or pinging – Indicates the engine is low on oil or there is an issue with ignition timing.
  • Whining – Can point to issues with the power steering pump, alternator, or transmission.
  • Grinding – Suggests problems with the brakes, wheel bearings, or differential.
  • Clunking – Could mean worn out suspension components or loose interior trim pieces.


Make sure to test drive at both low and high speeds and take the car through tight turns to fully assess any abnormal sounds. Also be alert for any smells coming from the engine like burning oil. Reporting these observations to the dealer can help uncover mechanical problems before making your purchase.


Assessing the Handling and Steering

One of the most important parts of the test drive is assessing how the vehicle handles turns and how the steering feels. Take the car through some winding roads or sections with plenty of turns. Does the steering feel tight and responsive as you turn the wheel? Or does it feel loose and vague? See how much effort it takes to turn and if the steering wheel is weighted properly for the vehicle type.

Make both sharp and wide turns at various speeds to test stability. Does the vehicle understeer or oversteer? Understeer is when the front wheels lose traction first causing the car to want to go straight instead of turning. Oversteer is when the rear wheels lose traction first and the back end slides out. The ideal is neutral steering where the front and rear grip evenly. Evaluate how easy it is to control and correct the vehicle if the back or front starts to slide out. An unstable car will feel more squirrelly on turns.

Make turns from a stop and while moving to assess the steering radius and maneuverability. How tightly can you turn the wheel before reaching the stops? Try parking lot maneuvers like U-turns to see how nimble it feels. The steering and handling should instill confidence in the driver and make you feel in control.


Examining Functionality

When test driving a car, it’s important to thoroughly examine the functionality and ease of use of the vehicle’s features and controls. Here are some key things to check:


Test the climate control system – Turn the AC and heat on high and make sure they work effectively. Try different fan speeds and see how responsive the temperature controls are.


Evaluate storage space – Open the glovebox, center console, and any other storage areas. Check that they are easily accessible and can fit items you’ll need to store.


Try charging phones and using apps/infotainment – Plug in your phone and see how quickly it charges. Pair it to Bluetooth and test call quality. Use the infotainment system and make sure apps and navigation are intuitive to use while driving.


Fold down rear seats – If the vehicle has fold-down rear seats, test how easily they operate and if they expand cargo space as expected.


Taking the time to thoroughly test these everyday functions will give you a good idea of how convenient and usable the vehicle will be for your needs.

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Questions About Test Driving a Car

To schedule a test drive at a car dealership in Canada, call the dealership or visit their website to inquire about test drives. Most dealerships have an online form you can fill out to request a test drive. When scheduling, let them know the specific vehicle you want to test drive and when you would like to come in. They may ask for your driver’s license number to hold a vehicle for you. Try to test drive during the week and arrive as early as possible, as weekends tend to be very busy.

When test driving a vehicle in Canada, you will need to bring:


– Valid driver’s license

– Proof of insurance

– Additional ID like a health card


Some dealers may run a credit check before allowing a test drive, so be prepared to provide your SIN. You may also need to leave a small deposit like $100 or leave your ID while test driving.

Most Canadian dealerships will allow test drives for 20-30 minutes only. However, some dealers may allow extended test drives or “overnighters” where you can take the car home overnight. This usually requires leaving a hefty deposit on the vehicle. You may also need to show proof of insurance to take a car for an extended period. Some luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes and Lexus are more likely to offer overnight test drives.

The best route for test driving a car in Canada includes a mix of conditions to assess the vehicle performance:


– City streets – Test handling, acceleration, braking, parking

– Highway – Assess comfort and noise at higher speeds

– Hills – Test transmission shifting and engine power

– Rough roads – Check shock absorption and ride comfort

– Curvy roads – Evaluate handling and cornering

– Parking lots – Test tight turning radius and visibility


A 10-15 km mixed loop is ideal. You may also want to simulate your regular commute.

When test driving a car in Canada, make sure to thoroughly test these key features:


– Acceleration – Floor the gas pedal from a stop to assess power

– Braking – Test brakes at low and high speeds

– Steering – Check ease of turning and precision at high speeds

– Transmission – Shift through all gears, test downshifting power

– Suspension – Check comfort over bumps, potholes and turns

– Visibility – Check blind spots, test rearview camera

– Technology – Test entertainment, phone pairing, navigation

– Seating – Adjust seats, check room and comfort

– Storage – Check size of trunk, back seats folded down

– Safety – Confirm lane departure warnings, forward collision alerts etc. work

When test driving a vehicle in Canada, make sure to ask the dealer:


– Has this vehicle ever been in an accident?

– Is this vehicle from a trade-in or off lease? What was the previous usage?

– Does this vehicle have any open recalls or required maintenance coming up?

– Can you explain all the technology and safety features in this car?

– What warranty is included with this vehicle?

– What maintenance costs or common repairs should I expect with this model?

– Does this car have winter tires included or all seasons?

– Have there been any issues reported with this particular model?

When test driving a used car, you’ll want at least 20-30 minutes to thoroughly assess the vehicle. Focus first on any potential issues – listen for odd engine noises, test braking smoothness, check handling precision etc. Then examine the interior features and take it on the highway to test acceleration and transmission shifting. Don’t feel rushed – it’s a major purchase, so take all the time you need to feel confident about your decision. Consider an extended test drive or asking to borrow the car overnight if really uncertain.

When test driving a used car in Canada during winter, take these precautions:


– Warm up the engine before driving

– Clear all snow/ice buildup off windows, lights, wheels

– Check winter tires have adequate tread depth

– Leave extra stopping distance for braking

– Take turns slowly and avoid sudden acceleration

– Disable traction control initially to check wheel slippage

– Drive below speed limit as conditions dictate

– Evaluate vehicle stability in wind gusts

– Turn off music/noise; listen for odd sounds indicating issues


Dress warmly in case the vehicle has heating issues. Make sure to test all wheel drive systems thoroughly under slippery conditions.

When test driving vehicles in Canada’s winter conditions, make sure to ask:


– How does this vehicle perform in snow and ice?

– Does it have traction control and stability control? Were these ever activated?

– What kind of tires are on it currently? All seasons or winter tires?

– How often do the tires need replacement?

– Have there been any issues with the AWD / 4WD system?

– How quickly does the interior heating work? Any issues with heat distribution?

– How powerful is the defroster system for ice/snow on windshields?

– Has this model had any common issues reported with cold weather usage?

– Is there a block heater installed?

Yes, it’s highly recommended to get an independent mechanic inspection before finalizing a used car purchase in Canada. They will thoroughly inspect all the vehicle systems and can spot issues not detectable on a standard test drive. The $100-$150 cost is well worth it for the peace of mind. Make sure it’s a mechanic you trust – get referrals from friends and check online reviews. Always test drive first before paying for an inspection so you don’t waste money on a car you end up not liking.

Before finalizing a used car purchase in Canada, thoroughly review this paperwork:


– Used Vehicle Information Package – Details accident history and ownership

– Service records – Confirm regular maintenance done

– Financing contract – Review interest rates, fees, loan terms

– Insurance quote – Get quotes to compare rates

– Warranty contract – Check coverage inclusions/exclusions

– Bill of sale – Outlines final agreed sale price

– Safety standards certificate – Confirms vehicle passed safety inspection


Cross reference VINs on all paperwork to ensure they match the vehicle.

When buying a used car in Canada, expect to pay:


– Taxes – 5-15% provincial sales tax, federal GST, PST

– Dealer documentation fee – Can be $300-$800

– Licensing fee – $15-$90 to register the vehicle

– Safety certification – $100-$150 for the safety check

– Financing fees – 1-5% loan financing fee


There may also be added charges for winter tires, administrative fees, or prep fees around $500-$1000. Make sure to check all fine print!

Follow these tips to avoid buying a lemon used car in Canada:


– Get a vehicle history report to check for accidents or damage

– Take it to an independent mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection

– Test drive extensively and pay attention to any issues

– Ask the dealer direct questions about problems or repairs needed

– Review all vehicle maintenance records carefully

– Consider certified pre-owned vehicles that undergo inspections

– Check online forums about model reputation and common issues

– Consider an extended warranty for peace of mind


If anything seems suspicious, keep looking until you find the right car for you.

When inspecting a used car before a test drive in Canada, check:


– Exterior condition – Dents, scratches, mismatched paint

– Tire tread depth and wear consistency

– Fluid levels – Engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid

– Leaks – Check under car and engine bay

– Lights – Test headlights, brake lights, turn signals

– Glass and mirrors – Chips, cracks, proper adjustments

– Doors and latches – Ensure proper open/close action

– Interior wear – Check seats, carpets, buttons for damage


Identify any issues upfront to ask the dealer about during the test drive.

When test driving a used car in Canada during winter, make sure to check:


– Vehicle starts readily in cold – No cranking issues

– Engine temperature gauge – Ensure it warms up

– Heater and defroster strength – Test on full blast on icy windows

– Tire traction and slippage – Includes winter vs all season tires

– Windshield wipers and fluid – Ensure good pressure and coverage

– Braking distance on ice/snow – Check anti-lock brakes activate

– Electronic stability control – Verify it works by turning off/on during test

– Exhaust smoke color – Should not be blue or black


Bundle up and allow extra drive time to account for slower winter driving conditions.

When viewing a used car for sale by owner in Canada, ask the previous owner:


– How long did you own this vehicle? Why are you selling it?

– What is the usage history – highway vs city km, any accidents?

– Have there been any major repairs needed?

– Is regular maintenance done on schedule? Any issues arising?

– Are there any problems you’ve noticed I should know about?

– Has this vehicle been used to tow or haul heavy loads frequently?

– Are winter or all-season tires included with purchase?

– May I take this vehicle for an extended test drive or assessed by my mechanic?


Gauge their willingness to answer all questions openly and honestly before proceeding further.

When test driving an older, high mileage used vehicle in Canada, be alert for:


– Engine noises – Knocking, pinging could indicate issues

– Blue/grey exhaust smoke – Sign of oil burning

– Gear shifts – Delayed or jerking shifts signal transmission problems

– Fluid leaks – Check for puddles underneath the vehicle

– Steering vibrations – Indicates potential alignment or wheel balance problems

– Brake feel – Spongy or pulling brakes need servicing

– Suspension sounds – Clunking over bumps signals worn components

– Electronics functionality – Test lights, radio, wipers thoroughly


Focus your mechanic inspection on the engine, transmission and suspension when evaluating older cars.

If you notice any problems when test driving a used car in Canada, remain calm and:


– Note the exact issue and when it happens (acceleration, turning etc)

– Check indicator lights for related warning signs

– Ask the dealer questions about potential causes

– Compare test drives of similar vehicles to help diagnose

– Request seller permission for expert diagnosis by your mechanic

– Obtain the estimate for fixes in writing from the seller/dealer

– Negotiate the sale price lower accordingly

– Walk away if repair costs exceed vehicle value or seller is evasive


Pay attention as even minor issues could turn into expensive repairs down the road.

Used car buyers in Canada are protected legally by:


– Provincial sales legislation – Sets rules for refunds if misrepresented

– Competition Bureau – Prosecutes false advertising claims

– MVSABC regulations (BC) – Outlines dealer obligations on history disclosure

– AMVIC regulations (Alberta) – Sets standards for reconditioning, repairs etc

– OMVIC regulations (Ontario) – Requires fair dealing by registered dealers

– Consumer protection laws – Allow damages claims for breach of contract


Review your rights and key regulations before purchasing from a dealer or private seller. Having proof like mechanical inspections is key.

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