Test Drives

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Now its time to:

  1. Go in and take a look at the vehicles you’re interested in up close and personal
  2. and

  3. See how they feel on the road

Your goals when going to the dealership are as follows:

  • Determine if the car will comfortably fit you and anyone who will drive or be passengers in the car regularly
  • See if you are comfortable driving the car
  • Make sure you like the way it feels and sounds in the kind of driving you will normally be doing
  • Check to see if the way the controls are laid out is comfortable or confusing for you
  • Drive a car of the specific model with as close to the options you plan to get as you can so that you don’t go away with an impression that won’t match what you plan to buy
  • Avoid getting into negotiations around price with the salesman and/or buying that day

When you’re test driving: leave your checkbook at home. If you don’t go to the dealership with a clear goal of only doing research at this point its far too easy to end up making an impulse buy.   This will end up costing you far more than if you did your pricing research 1st. Remember, before you buy you need to get quotes from Edmunds.com and Autos.com. That way you can avoid leaving serious money on the table.

Before you walk on to the lot

Going to the car dealership doesn’t have to be a major event but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. You are stepping into the territory of a group of people who would like to separate you from a portion of your money and aren’t afraid to be a little pushy or manipulative in doing it.

Try not to go when you’re tired from a long say of work or are distracted by what you’ll need to be doing right afterward. You want to have a clear head so that you get accurate information to help you in decision process. If you’re considering several different makes and models its a good idea to try and drive them in the same day so that you have the impression of the last car fresh in your mind to compare with the next one.

That being said, don’t try to drive more than 3-4 different cars in one day, you’re likely to get overloaded with information and not remember much aside from “There were a lot of cars and they all had wheels.” It’s not a bad idea to bring someone with you; if there’s someone else who will be driving the car, they would be a prime candidate.

If you’re going to be the only driver you can ask a friend to come along, even if they aren’t going to offer much of an opinion it can help you to have an ally so that you don’t feel outnumbered. In addition you can ask them to remind you of your intention not to buy today if you appear to be falling under the spell of the new car smell.

Comfort and Fit Test

It is vital that the car is a comfortable fit for you, for anyone else driving the car and for passangers (especially if you plan on having a number of people in the car with you on a regular basis. Get acquainted with the car before you take it out, you may be distracted when you return from the test drive and trying to fend off the salesman (who at that point will be trying to get you to come in to the dealership and buy the car. If someone else will be driving the car too, have them take note of the same things you are. When you are checking out the car make sure you:

  1. Get in and out of the car several times so that you can be sure you won’t easily hit your head getting in and don’t have to bend too low or climb up more than you’ll be ok with on a daily basis
  2. Check that once inside the car you have enough headroom, leg room and hip room to be comfortable
  3. Test that you can reach the pedals, steering wheel and controls easily and determine if they can be adjusted if necessary
  4. Try out the back seat to see how comfortable it is for passengers and if they’ll have enough room
  5. Make sure you’ll have enough room in the trunk or hatch for anything you’ll regularly carry with you in the car: groceries, gym bags etc as well as odd-sized items like golf clubs, strollers etc.
  6. Can see easily over the hood and that you feel comfortable with the visibility in all the mirrors as well as out the back and side windows (if driving this car makes you feel uncomfortable every time you have to back up, turn or change lanes you’re not going to be very happy with it in the long run).
  7. Aren’t made violently ill by the styling of the car when you see it in person. While the car’s appearance isnt the most important factor, it still does have an effect on how happy you’ll be with it in the long run.

Its a good idea to jot down the information you gather here. Especially if you’re considering a few different cars it can be hard to remember all the details later.

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