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 at your side and a speed limit of 50km/h, can you really make a solid decision on whether or not this is the car for you? We think not, so before you take that demo car out for a cruise, take a look at our guide to the perfect test drive.
Yes, we have mentioned this before on one or two occasions but you really can’t prep yourself too much before buying a new or used car.
Do your homework
You should know as much as is 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 has a similar model available for a test drive. There’s no point in driving the diesel with auto transmission when you’re looking for a hybrid manual.
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 of it.
Having someone with you also means that they can keep the dealer 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
You need to familiarise yourself with everything about this car. After all, you’re planning to spend the next few years driving it every day.
- Open the boot and check how easy it is to get at the spare wheel.
- 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 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 day, then you can bet it will drive you nuts after a few months of driving the car.
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.
You might want to take what the kids say with a pinch of salt though and make your own judgements on their comfort levels. Kids love new cars, and if they think they’re going home in this shiny new one, then they’ll say nothing bad about it.
Talk to the dealer about your test drive
Ideally, you’ll want to take the car beyond the local neighbourhood and out onto the open road. Talk to the dealer about where you’d like to go or if they have a specific route they usually take test drivers on.
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 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? Although you’re in a demo car, bear in mind that this is how your new car will feel after a couple of thousand kms.
- 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 in the showroom, the dealer 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 the dealer 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. The dealership isn’t going anywhere and if it takes you a week to decide, then at least you’ll know you didn’t rush your decision.
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 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 less than a minute) and you could get instant finance approval. There’s no obligation so what are you waiting for? That demo car won’t test drive itself!