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5 Red Flags to Watch Out For During a Used Car Test Drive in Melbourne

Recognising red flags during this buying process is a proactive approach to avoid buying a lemon. Today, we’ll cover five major warning signs to be aware of when you take that potential new car out for a spin. These include unnatural noises, steering or handling issues, soft brakes, transmission glitches, and ominous warning lights. For those in Melbourne, understanding these red flags can enhance the effectiveness of your pre purchase inspection in Melbourne.

Read also: Things to Do after Buying a Used Car

Red Flag #1: Unnatural Noises

During a test drive, it’s important to listen for any unusual noises with the windows down. These sounds can come from the engine, suspension, or brakes and often indicate underlying problems. For instance, a grinding noise might suggest worn brake components, while a knocking sound could be symptomatic of engine issues. Additionally, noises during turning could point to worn CV joints, and sounds while accelerating or braking could indicate transmission or brake wear respectively. If you encounter any concerning noises, it might be wise to decline the purchase and suggest a comprehensive car inspection in Melbourne to determine the vehicle’s condition.

Red Flag #2: Difficulty Steering or Handling

A car that doesn’t drive straight or responds unpredictably to steering inputs can be a major red flag. This could be due to a loose steering wheel or worn components affecting the power steering system. Poor handling might come as excessive swaying, pulling to one side, or a disconnected feel from the road, often due to worn shocks, struts, or misalignment. These issues not only make driving unpleasant but can also be dangerous. If you feel such symptoms are present in the car, a detailed check by a pre purchase vehicle inspection service in Melbourne focusing on the car’s suspension and steering systems is needed.

Red Flag #3: Soft or Spongy Brakes

Brakes are your primary safety feature, so their condition is essential. A healthy brake system will have a firm pedal feel and consistent stopping power. On the other hand, a soft or spongy brake pedal could indicate air in the hydraulic lines, low brake fluid, or worn pads, which could compromise the braking efficiency. It’s also important to understand the normal operation of the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), which might feel different under hard braking. Detecting any abnormalities in the braking system should prompt a visit to a mechanic for a pre purchase inspection vehicle check, emphasising the vehicle’s safety.

Red Flag #4: Transmission Issues

Whether automatic or manual, a vehicle’s transmission should operate smoothly. Signs of a problematic transmission include slipping gears or hesitation in automatics and grinding or shuddering in manuals—each pointing to potential costly repairs. Specifically, slipping might indicate worn gears, while grinding could suggest clutch issues. It’s advisable to test drive the car on various terrains and inclines to check for smooth gear changes and responsiveness. If you notice any irregularities, consider them serious red flags, warranting a pre purchase inspection in Melbourne.

Red Flag #5: Warning Lights

Dashboard warning lights are built-in alarms indicating issues within your vehicle’s various systems. Ignoring these lights can lead to severe problems and high repair costs. Before finalising any purchase, understand what each illuminated warning light means—whether it’s the check engine light, ABS light, or oil pressure warning. Consulting the car’s manual or a pre purchase inspector can provide clarity on these indicators.


Recognising and understanding these red flags during a test drive can save you future headaches and unexpected expenses. Always trust your gut feeling about the car’s condition, and consider a thorough pre-purchase car inspection in Melbourne to validate your observations or reveal hidden defects. If multiple red flags arise, it might be best to walk away from the deal. Remember, a small investment in a comprehensive inspection now can prevent costly repairs later. For further insights into smart used car buying, consider additional resources such as online guides or consumer reports.

Pre Purchase Car Inspector Melbourne

Klaus Sturm

Klaus is a highly experienced automotive professional with 35+ years in the industry, offering Pre-purchase Car Inspection and Vehicle Check services in Melbourne, Victoria. His expertise ranges from technician to service manager, earning him a reputation for exceptional customer service.