The test drive is a great way to get a sense of whether a car is right for you. But there should be more to the drive than just taking a car for a spin. Here’s what to look for when you’re doing a test drive.
Start by walking around the car and getting a sense of it. Open the trunk and see if there’s enough space; if, for example, you have a stroller, ask the salesperson if you can try to put it into the back and see if it fits. Alternately, you can measure your current trunk and check it against the car you’re considering; the dealership won’t mind if you bring a tape measure. Similarly, ask about the spare tire, the jack and other tools that come with the car. Are they easily accessible?
Once that’s complete, get into the car, adjust the seat, and get a sense of how it feels. Is it comfortable to sit in? Can you get into it and out of it easily? Can you see all the gauges and meters? Can you easily access all the controls? If you can’t drive the car in the first place, it’ll be a short test drive.
Start the car and turn off any outside distractions, like the radio. Listen to the engine; is everything operating smoothly? Run through all the controls before driving; test the turn signals, the transmission, the parking brake, the headlights, and other functions before driving. Make sure they’re accessible, smooth, and feel good to use.
Now would also be a good time to test out optional features you might be considering. If the car syncs to your phone, for example, ask to test out that feature and see how it works. Run through a few of the features
When driving, pick a route that reflects your usual driving. The salesperson may have a preselected route, usually a series of right turns, but ask to take it on a more detailed drive. Try to go up and down hill, take left and right turns, and drive it in reverse. Also be sure to park normally and to test out parallel parking as well.
While on the drive, ask questions. What do other customers tell them about the car? Have they run into anything owners should know? What’s standard equipment and what’s an extra in the car you’re driving?
During the drive, you’ll likely be getting a sales pitch. Be polite, of course, but defer the salesperson; even if you don’t have other test drives, you shouldn’t buy a car on the same day you test drive it. When you finish, collect information about the car, like the sales price and the costs of extras.
Finally, the most important step: Don’t test drive just one car. You’ll need to get a sense of at least a few cars, and they’re much like clothing; you should try on more than one to see how each feels. Once you’ve taken all your test drives and gotten all the information in place, then you can make the call.