cars, utes

Chris Reid Jul 10, 2023

So you’re in the market for a new car, done heaps of research and narrowed it down to two or three options. Great stuff! Now it’s time to actually get behind the wheel and take each of them for a spin.

But before you head out to the local dealerships, there are a few things you need to do to ensure you get the most out of the experience. It’s not just a ‘sit in car and go vroom vroom’ absentmindedly - you need to be aware of what to look out for, both when you’re on the road and even doing a walk-around beforehand.

Here are our five top tips to make your next test drive worth your time.


Tip 1. Be prepared


Scar from The Lion King was onto something with this advice...

Before making your way out the door, it’s vital that you know as much as possible about the vehicle(s) you’re planning to test drive, especially if it’s a used vehicle. Google things like ‘vehicle x year issues’ (e.g. holden commodore VL 1987 issues) to read about any common problems there might be so you can check for them while inspecting/feel for them while driving.

It’s also a good idea to rope a mate or family member in to come along. Your excitement might get into the way of proper judgment, so having someone who can offer an objective opinion is important. Bonus points if they’re a bit of a petrolhead and might be able to spot an issue you might’ve missed.

Finally, instead of just rocking up unannounced, call ahead and book a time to take the car out. This way, you can actually arrange to take out each of the cars you’ve got on your prospective purchase list and better compare them to one another as it’s all still fresh in your mind.


Tip 2. The pre-drive inspection


Yes, you love the way it looks and that’s great. We’re not so much talking about the overall appearance of the car - it’s more about the intricacies of everyday use you otherwise might not have considered such as:

  • Popping the boot and checking the practical space. Sure, it may boast XXX-litre boot space, but how much of that can you actually utilise specific to what you want to put in there?
  • Locating the spare wheel - is it a pain to access? Is it a space saver or full-size?
  • Does it have enough anchor points in the boot to secure child seats? Can child seats fit in the back seat?
  • Hop in the back seat - how much legroom is there? Head room? Pouches? Storage space? Does it fold down to give the boot more space? If so, how far?
  • What about the front passenger seat - is there a fair amount of space in the footwell? Much space in the glove box?
  • Now the driver’s seat - is it comfy? If you need to, would it be comfortable enough for long distances? Are your knees pushing against anything? How’s the visibility - are the blind spots big? How does the steering wheel feel? How practical are the sound/aircon dials and knobs?
  • Switch on the entertainment system and have a good play around with it. How does it sound? Are the speakers good? Does it have satnav - if so, is it laggy or smooth? Is the reversing camera a good quality picture?

As you can see, it’s quite a bit more in-depth than just giving it a quick once-over and jumping behind the wheel for a drive!


Tip 3. Getting down to business behind the wheel


First and foremost, it’s important to note that it’s basically impossible to get the proper feel of a car by just taking it around the block. Get it out and drive it for at least half an hour. Better still, see if you can swing a couple of days with it.

Ok, so you’re finally on the road. Don’t just take it around side streets with little traffic - get out and get a feel of how it handles the stop-start of traffic, then find a freeway/highway/somewhere you can take it up to 80+kms. And if you can, find some steep hills to take it up and down. The key here is to experience how it handles various conditions you’ll inevitably find yourself in.

While driving, think about the following:

  • How’s the steering? Really responsive or a bit soft?
  • If it’s a manual, how easy is it to shift? Do the gears engage easily and smoothly? If it’s an auto, is the gearbox nice and responsive to the pressure you put on the accelerator and when you’re braking?
  • What’s the acceleration like off the line? What about when you’re already going 70-80km?
  • Is the braking responsive? Is it too delicate?
  • Are all the controls conveniently-placed and easy for you to find?
  • How’s visibility while you’re driving? What about road noise?
  • Is it easy to park? Reverse-park? Parallel park?

Once you’ve parked up back at the dealership, think about how driving it made you feel. If it was a bit ‘meh’, is it really the right car?


Tip 4. Avoid the post-test drive dealer BS


Salespeople know that test-driving a car can have an affect on people’s emotions and make it easier to finalise a sale as a result. Don’t fall for it.

This is another reason why it’s a great idea to have a few test drives teed up for the same day - you can let them know you’re on your way to test drive another car and you don’t have time to chat (you can say this even if it’s the last one for the day if you want).

Bottom line: just get out of there so you can reflect on the pre-drive check, the drive itself and get objective feedback from the person you brought along for the ride. Using all of this information as well as the research you’d already done, you can make a justified, reasonable decision as to which car you want to buy.

And with carconnect, you don’t even have to go back to the dealership to engage in the negotiation process. They’ll reach out to several dealers and negotiate on your behalf to find you the lowest price out there, and once they’ve confirmed you’re happy with it will sort out the purchase and even deliver to your door!


Tip 5. Have your finance pre-approved for peace of mind


The last thing you want to happen is to go through all the above steps only to discover you’re unable to find a lender to facilitate your borrowing request.

Put your mind completely at ease by talking with us about your needs - we’ll then do all the legwork and find the best car finance deal that works for you. Use our free car finance tool right now and learn just how low your monthly repayments could be!


Find out more about car financing


Would you like to know more? Call our team now on 1300 787 288 with any questions you might have. Alternatively use our online enquiry form and we’ll be in touch soon.

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