According to this article from, the first step to test drive a used car is to have an open mind.

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Buyers know a useful test-drive is crucial in finding the best value in a used car. But few know how to perform an examination that will separate the good from the mediocre. Instead, most used-car shoppers just motor around a bit and listen to the sound system. However, if you employ the following test-driving techniques I've learned from years of being a professional driver, you'll have a better chance of separating clunkers from keepers, and find a safe, reliable used car.

  1. 1. Have an open mind.

    A professional test driver must be unprejudiced. The products made by the driver's company may be better than the competition's in some areas and worse in others. And sometimes, modifications don't always change the car for the better.

    Long ago, a friend did it the wrong way. He fell in lust with a sports car just by reading the classified ad. After the test-drive, he swooned like the father of a newborn: "Isn't she wonderful?" Then I got behind the wheel. This was before I'd started racing, but I didn't need a competition license to recognize toe steer: It's when worn suspension and steering components cause the wheels to point in random directions when the suspension moves. Also, after rapidly climbing toward the red zone, the water temperature gauge's needle dropped like a rock, which meant its probe was no longer touching coolant.

    My first test-drive report said: "Buy it and your only hope is that the engine blows before the suspension kills you." The moral of this story is that as you evaluate each used car, leave your bias (whether positive or negative) at the door, and keep your analysis as objective as possible.