Time to start thinking about a new car? Whether it is brand new, or new to you, buying a car can be very exciting. The best part? Test drives!
Does the thought of test driving cars bring out your inner racecar driver? Imagine it: the hairpin turns, open road and the wind in your hair. Just don’t forget how your fantasy car commercial ends: “professional driver on closed course, do not attempt.” But, just because you can’t be reckless doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and gather all the info you need to bring home the car that’s right for you.
Gentlemen – and women – start your engines! Follow these tips for making the most of your test drive.
Most everyone has pet peeves about car performance, as well as a list of must-haves for a new car. Give yourself permission to be choosy. Make a list of the things you like and dislike about your current car before going to the dealership. Maybe you’re tired of feeling every bump in the road, or your acceleration is sluggish. Knowing these things before the test drive will help you decide whether the car you’re testing is delivering what really matters to you.
If you’re not sure exactly what you want, test drive different types of vehicles to feel the differences in the handling, ride and acceleration. Even if you’re set on a certain type, it’s a good idea to test drive different makes and models.
Phone a Friend
Invite a friend to help you – but make sure to let them know you get to have all the fun driving! Having a second set of eyes to carefully look the car over is helpful, especially if you’re considering a used car that may have some blemishes. If someone else will be driving the car regularly, it’s important to take him or her along to determine whether both of you feel comfortable behind the wheel, there’s enough headroom, etc.
Truly “Test” the Car
Hot-rodding it is a no-no, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give the car a true sniff test. Let the salesperson first explain the features and get a feel for the vehicle before you get behind the wheel. Sitting in the passenger seat gives you a chance to learn more about the sound system, controls and other features.
Once you’re driving, focus on how the car performs. Take a varied route that includes hills, curves, city traffic and highways so you can truly see how it does. Keep in mind your pet peeves and wish list. Consider all aspects, including:
Does the car have the acceleration you need to merge safely onto the highway?
Is handling and braking firm and responsive?
Is road noise acceptable?
Is visibility good at all angles?
Can you find a comfortable driving position where the controls are within easy reach?
Mix it Up
If we could arrange perfect weather every day, that would be great. But, that is not possible. If you are serious about buying, test the car out in different weather and road conditions, and be sure to drive it at night to test its headlights and your visibility.
Buying a car is a big decision. You want to make a choice you will be happy with for a long time. Be smart and thorough with your test drives and plan to spend 15-30 minutes driving your top picks. The payback for such a small investment of your time is years of driving a car that you really like.