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Pre-purchase car inspection & test drive tips

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Pre-purchase car inspection & test drive tips

Buying a car can be a significant investment, and you want to make sure that you are making the right choice. Pre-purchase car inspections and test drives are essential steps to ensure that you are buying a vehicle that is safe and meets your needs.


Why pre-purchase car inspection & test drive is essential

A pre-purchase car inspection is a thorough examination of the vehicle’s condition and components by a certified mechanic. It might uncover any underlying flaws with the car that are not evident to the untrained eye, saving you money on future repairs.

A test drive can also provide you with some valuable information about the car’s performance. It is an opportunity to check the car’s acceleration, driving characteristics, and other underlying issues.

Ultimately, a pre-purchase car inspection and test drive can help you make an informed decision about the car you are considering buying, and can ultimately save you money in the long run.

This is a list of things to check and test for when inspecting and driving a vehicle.


Checklist – Vehicle inspection


●      Condition of upholstery and carpets in good order compared to kilometers traveled

●      Dashboard in good condition, no cracks

●      Seats and steering wheel adjust easily

●      All door handles and dash/steering wheel buttons are in working order

●      Front/rear seat belts are in good condition

●      Child restraint anchorage points in good condition

●      Car jack, tool kit, and spare tire available and in good condition


Electrics & Misc

●      Check all lights inside/outside are working

●      Windscreen wipers work well

●      Air conditioning and heater in working order

●      Check all miscellaneous electrics, e.g., electric windows, sound system, satellite navigation, power mirrors, alarm system, etc.


Vehicle Body

●      Panels don’t have rust

●      No hail damage or other visible damage

●      Paint in good condition and the same color

●      All panels align as do door seams

●      Bonnet and boot line up and are straight

●      All doors and boots close firmly


Under Body

●      Front and rear wheels aligned when looking down the length of the car

●      No sign of oil leaks

●      No sign of rust

●      Car sits level



●      Legal tread on tires

●      Even tread wear across tires

●      Same size tires – check sidewalls for a size

●      Consistent tire brand

●      Spare tire inflated with legal tread


Engine Bay

●      VIN visible, no signs of damage

●      No signs of oil or fluid leaks anywhere

●      Engine and fluid levels topped up

●      No corrosion on bolts, clamps, or mounts

●      No parts lose, disconnected, or hanging


Checklist – test drive

Be sure to check.

●      Driving – low speed (< 15km/h)

●      Driving – avg speed (50-70km/h)

●      Driving – high speed (100-110km/h)

●      Left-hand turn

●      Right-hand turn

●      Reverse

●      U-turn

●      Quick but smooth braking

●      Uneven surfaces

●      Speed bumps


Things to look for:

●      Temperature gauge stays in a safe range

●      Excessive exhaust smoke

●      Idles smoothly in an acceptable rev range

●      Revs at an appropriate level for speed and gear

●      No smoke from under the bonnet while driving

●      Speedometer working accurately.

●      Smooth steering, no vibrations

●      Steers straight, doesn’t pull to one side

●      Brakes in a straight line, doesn’t wander

●      Smooth gear change


Things to listen for:

●      Easy engine start

●      Smooth engine sound

●      Smooth gear changes No rattles or knocks

●      No squealing or noise while braking

●      Exhaust doesn’t rattle and isn’t too loud

●      No rattles or knocks when turning at high or low speeds


In conclusion, pre-purchase car inspections and test drives are critical steps to take before buying a car, which can help you get the right one! If you wish to get more information about buying a car in NZ, you can view Complete Guide to Buying a Car In NZ here.

If you are planning to finance your car purchase,  it’s essential to work with a trusted car loan expert who can help you find the best financing options for your needs. Come to Kiwi Car Loans, we are experts in car finance and have many years of experience. Contact us today to learn more about our car financing options and how we can help you achieve your dream of owning a car. Call us at 0800 448 734 today!


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* Interest rate is indicative range only.