cars, utes

Tips for a Perfect Test Drive

Whether you’re buying a new or used car, one of the most important steps in the process is, of course, the test drive. But sometimes a quick spin around the block just doesn’t cut it. With the salesperson or seller at your side and a speed limit of 50km/h, can you really make a solid decision on whether this is the car for you? We think not, so take a look at our guide to the perfect test drive.

Getting prepped

Do your homework

You should know as much as humanly possible about the model you’re looking at and if you can’t remember it all, then write it down. Having a list of things you want to check out on the car might seem like a bit of overkill and possibly even a bit embarrassing but trust us, there’s no shame in being prepared.

You should also have a good idea of which model and trim level it is that you want to buy so you can make sure that the dealer / seller has a similar (especially if you are driving a dealer demo).

Ask a friend to come with you

Bring along a friend or family member (bonus points if they know a lot about cars), and you’ll have two sets of eyes on the car. They might notice something about the car that you missed or at the very least can give you’re their opinion.

Having someone with you also means that they can keep the dealer / seller busy while you give the car a thorough examination without someone standing at your shoulder the whole way through.

Arrange two test drives on the same day

If you’re still undecided and have more than one car that you’d like to test drive, then it’s a good idea to arrange your test drives on the same day if possible. Driving one so soon after the other means that you can make a better judgement on how they stack up against each other.

Before the test drive

Strangely enough, the driving part of the test drive is only a small part of the experience. So as tempting as it might be to jump right into the driver’s seat and get out on the road take your time and do these things first.

Give the car the once over

Familiarise yourself with everything about the car.

  • Open the boot and check how easy it is to get at the spare wheel (or if it has one)
  • Open all the doors and climb into the back
  • Fold down the rear seats (if possible)
  • Check all storage compartments (make sure there’s enough)
  • Try out the infotainment / audio system

While you’re doing all of this, you’ll notice how well each part functions. This will give you a general idea of the build quality of the car. It will also help you find any of those little things that might annoy you once the car is yours. If it annoys you on the test drive, then you can bet it will drive you nuts after a few months.

Sit in it for a little while

Now don’t get too excited, you’re not driving yet. You’ll want to make sure that you feel comfortable in the car and the best way to do this is to just sit there without the distraction of driving. Make sure the seat adjusts to fit your height and that you have pretty good visibility.

If you have kids, it might be a good idea to bring them along and have them sit in the back and tell you if it’s comfortable enough. They’ll want to be able to open and close the doors and get their seatbelts on easily.

Consider the test drive route

Ideally, you’ll want to take the car beyond the local neighbourhood and out onto the open road. Talk to the dealer / seller about where you’d like to go or if they know of a good route locally.

You simply can’t get a good feel for a car in a quick two-minute spin so taking it for a longer drive is absolutely essential. It’s also not a bad idea to ask if you can take the car out once more at night. Night driving is a completely different experience, and you may notice some things about the car that you couldn’t have during the day.

Do you have a garage? Then ask the dealer / seller if you can drop by your house to make sure the car fits.

During the drive

Okay so now it’s time for the big test; driving. Once you’re behind the wheel, you’ll need to pay close attention to these things.

  • The controls - Are they easy to find and use? Check the infotainment and phone controls on the steering wheel in particular.
  • The dials - Are they clear and easy to understand? Is all the information you need right there?
  • Visibility - Are there any areas where your visibility isn’t quite as good as it could be? Are there large blind spots? Are the mirrors easy to adjust?
  • Road noise - City driving should be quiet enough, but the real test is out on the open road. You want as quiet a drive as possible.
  • Gear shift - Is it a nice tight shift from gear to gear or does it feel loose and clunky?
  • Corners - How does the car feel going around corners? Does it feel comfortable and easy to handle?
  • Acceleration - Another reason to take it on the open road is to feel how the car accelerates. No need for burnouts but accelerating to join highway traffic will give you a good idea of the power under the bonnet.
  • Your comfort - Everything from the climate control right down to the angle of the headrest. Is this a car you feel comfortable in while driving?
  • Parking - Is it easy to park? Have a go at reversing it into a space in the dealership or try some parallel parking on the street.

After the Drive

Once you’re back and parked, the dealer / seller will do all that they can to get you sitting down and talking about finalising that deal. They understand that if you just had a pleasant test drive, then it’s going to be pretty easy to push you into a decision. Don’t do it. Take time to reflect on your experience and to talk with whoever came with you on the test drive.

This is a massive decision that you’re about to make so don’t allow someone to push you into making your choice on the spot. Go home, think about your experience, the extras available, and most importantly, the financial aspect. If it takes you a week to decide, then at least you’ll know you didn’t rush your decision.

Bonus tip

If you’re thinking about financing your new car, then it’s a great idea to get yourself pre-approved before you set foot in the dealership. This gives you more room to negotiate with the dealer / seller as you’re not relying on them to help secure your finance. And besides, dealer finance isn’t always the best option

And wouldn’t you know it? Pre-approved finance is something that we can help you with here at Stratton. Fill out our online car finance application form (it takes just a few minutes). There’s no obligation so what are you waiting for? That car won’t test drive itself!

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