By Jerry Reynolds
May 12, 2014
A May 2014 study stated that 16% of people shopping for a car did not take a test drive. Also interesting, 33% only test drove one car, so a third did not compare vehicles. Female buyers did not test drive at all 19% of the time. I cannot imagine spending money on shoes without trying them on, and I sure cannot imagine making your second-largest purchase without driving what you are buying. Here are some tips for doing it properly.
Before you drive a prospective car, know your priorities. For some, it is power when accelerating, for others it is comfort, and the list goes on by individual. I have seen people for whom cup holders were a top priority. Look for what is important to you from the start of your test drive.
Before you put the car in gear, get to know the controls for a safe trip. Set the mirrors and your seat adjustment for safety. Tilt the steering wheel to the position that feels best to you, and head out on your journey. Of course keep your eyes on the road at all times. If you have someone with you, let them drive at some point so you can look at the features of the car safely.
Don’t rush the test drive, even if the salesperson makes you feel rushed. You are spending a lot of money, so you are literally in the driver’s seat. Drive in different kinds of traffic if at all possible. Most dealerships are near a highway, so experience the acceleration of the freeway entrance and see how the car feels to you at freeway speeds.
During higher speed driving, turn the air conditioner and radio down to check for interior quietness and road noise. Excessive road noise or wind noise is a real problem for many people, so pay close attention to this.
In the course of your test drive, check the visibility limitations when you go to make a lane change to the left and to the right. Make sure you can see behind you through the back glass without any problems. Depending on your size, you may not be able to see well out of certain cars and this can be a real safety hazard to you and others.
Either on the test drive, or back at the dealership, check to see how comfortable you are parking the car. Pull it in, back it in, and find a place to parallel park the car. Make sure this is not something you think you’ll have trouble with. This is a classic mistake people make, especially those who are not great at parking.
Once you are finished with your test drive, feel free to ask your salesperson to give you a few minutes to reflect on the experience of the test drive. How did the car REALLY feel to you? What did you not like? Did it meet the requirements in a car you set out to purchase? Can you see yourself driving this car for the next five years? Be sure you are honest with yourself and not just in love with the thought of a new car.
A couple of final thoughts: If you are going to compare more than one car for your potential purchase, try to do them on the same day while everything is fresh on your mind. Also, don’t let a bad salesperson ruin a car choice for you. If the salesperson isn’t helpful on the test drive, don’t get down on the car, just don’t buy from that person.
The test drive is not just fun, it is important! Make sure you do it right and take your time. Don’t be fooled into thinking the Internet and what others write can take the place of the test drive, the car you choose is a personal decision.