When you want to buy a new car, there’s one thing you’ll have to do – or, rather, one thing you should do. That one thing is taking a test drive. The test drive is your opportunity to get up close and personal with the car you might be taking home with you and driving perhaps every day for many years to come; that means the test drive is your chance to really see if it’s the right one for you. You can assess its performance, how comfortable it is, and just generally whether you like driving it – that gut feeling is more important than you might think.
If you’re going to have a good test drive (which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re driving a good car or the one you’re going to buy – it means you get to know the car so you can make that choice), there are some things you’ll need to know first to ensure you don’t miss anything and can make the right choice in the end. With that in mind, keep reading to find out more.
Know What You’re Looking For
One of the most important elements of a successful test drive is knowing what it is you’re looking for in a car before you get behind the steering wheel. Are you looking for a family car or a sporty number? Do you want to tow things? Is the interior important to you, or do you want a certain colour? Maybe it’s the safety rating that you’re interested in. Perhaps you want a car that is high up off the ground for a better view, or a smaller vehicle so you can park it more easily.
Although not all of these things can be determined in a test drive, a lot of them can, and the more you can tick off your list, the more you’ll know the car is right for you. If you start driving and realise that nothing is right, then you’ll know to avoid that kind of car in the future. In that way, sometimes even a negative test drive is a helpful one.
Once you know what it is you want, you can narrow down your list of potential vehicles, and then start contacting reputable dealerships to book your appointment. Ideally, you’ll want to make all your appointments for around the same time of day because the road and traffic conditions will be the same, giving you an easier comparison. If you have a lot of vehicles to test drive, try not to spread the appointments out over too long a timeframe, as you might forget how the first one felt to drive by the time you get to the last one. Ideally, two or three cars is the most you’ll want to test drive, so try to narrow your list down before you make your appointments.
Have A Notepad And Pen
Bring a notepad and pen with you – or use the notes app on your phone if you prefer – so you can jot down any ideas and feelings you might have about the car before and after the test drive (obviously making notes when you’re driving is a really unsafe idea, although it might be that you find a good dealer who would be happy to make notes for you when you come up with something).
These notes can be really useful if you have a lot of cars to drive or if you’re unable to make your appointments close to one another, as we mentioned above. Plus, if you drive the cars and then look at your notes a few days later, you’ll be able to remember things a lot more clearly.
Wear The Right Clothes
Does it sound strange to hear that if you want a good test drive, you need to wear the right clothes? Perhaps, but it does make sense – you need to wear the clothes and shoes you’ll usually drive in, whatever they might be. If you usually dress casually when you’re driving, that won’t be a problem, but if you dress in a suit and smart shoes, don’t be shy about wearing those clothes to the dealership. It might feel odd, especially if it’s the weekend, but it will definitely help you.
The fact is that driving in jeans and a t-shirt and wearing trainers on your feet can be a completely different thing to driving in a smart suit with dress shoes, for example. Test driving while wearing something you wouldn’t normally drive in could be a mistake as you’ll get the wrong idea about how the car feels.
Inspect The Vehicle
Before you start driving, it’s crucial to inspect the vehicle inside and out, so make sure the seller knows you need the time to do that, and leave yourself enough time to carry out the inspection – you don’t want to run out of time because someone else wants to take the car for a spin; that could lead to rushed decisions and buyer’s remorse.
Things to look for in the exterior of the car include any visible damage (which could include scratches, dents, and crucially rust), as well as the condition of the tyres – look for how thick the tread is and see if they’re inflated enough. You’ll also need to look at all the lights, including indicators, to see if they’re all in working order. Then open and close all the doors (including the boot); you’ll want to see if they have a smoother motion and if they actually latch and close all the way.
When it comes to the interior, sit in the driver’s seat and see how it feels – are the controls easy to reach (after adjusting the seat), and are you comfortable? You should also look at whether the interior is clean and well looked after; if it’s not, that might mean the engine hasn’t been cared for either (not to mention the fact that you probably don’t want to drive a dirty car with mucky seats). Finally, test all the things you feel you need in the car; the radio, air conditioning, airbag, seatbelts, and so on.
If, after you’ve checked everything, it all seems good, you’re ready to hit the road.
During The Test Drive
Now comes the actual test drive itself, and you’ll need to take the car out on the road to see how well it handles and what it feels like to drive. During the test drive, you’ll need to pay attention to a lot of things all at once, which is why making a checklist before you begin is so important; in that way, you’ll have a clearer idea of what to think about and why it’s vital to your driving experience.
Some of the most important elements to think about are the comfort of the car as you’re driving, how good the braking is (and how fast it accelerates), whether it’s good when it goes around corners and curves, how the suspension feels on bumpier roads, whether or not it’s a noisy car (and if any of those noises are particularly worrying), and what visibility is like from the driver’s seat. There will be plenty of other things to list as well, but these are some of the most crucial.
Although you’ll need to focus on driving when you’re having a test drive, you’ll also be in prime position to ask as many questions as you can about the car – you’ll have a salesperson right there with you.
Think of some questions in advance so you don’t have to worry about losing concentration, and ask away – you’ll get some useful answers that could help you make your decision if you’re finding it hard to decide. Ask about fuel efficiency, ownership, and service history, and about a warranty or any after-sales service, for example. The answers to these questions can help paint a picture of what the car is really like.