How to Test Drive A Car
You’re ready to buy a new car, but you know that in order to find the right car for you, a test drive will be in order. After all, you wouldn’t buy clothing on final sale without trying it on, so why would you buy a car without driving it? It just makes sense.
Unfortunately, a new car test drive isn’t as clear and clean-cut of a process as trying on clothes–at least not for everyone. Don’t worry though; we has some simple tips to ensure that you learn everything you need to know about your prospective new car in your test drive.
What You Should Know Before You Test Drive a Car
You can’t just show up, get behind the wheel of a car for 15-30 minutes, and expect to know everything you need to know about a car before you buy it. I mean, you could…you probably shouldn’t. It’s important to do all of your research before you go.
Pick several cars that you are interested in, then take the time to get as much information as you think you’ll need. Know whether or not it comes in automatic or manual transmission, the available options, the fuel economy, and whether it fits in your budget or not before you get to the car lot. Once you’re armed with all the info you need, only then will you be ready for your test drive. Test driving a car before you’ve done your research can make things complicated and often times can lead to you purchasing a car that might be outside your budget.
Once you’ve got all your information and have narrowed down your choices you’ll be ready for a test drive. Here are some of our tips for getting the most out of test driving your new car.
Don’t go for a trip around the block.
One common mistake that test drivers often make is not driving the car thoroughly enough. Be sure to drive your potential new car in a variety of traffic settings. Stop and go traffic might be fine, but at highway speeds you might notice that the road noise becomes far too loud. You might not notice the car’s handling if you’re only driving on straight roads. To learn as much as you can about how the car drives, you need to drive it in a number of different environments.
Give the car’s computer a try
New cars almost all feature some kind of in-dash computer or display these days. Take a minute and go through the menus because this is something you’ll need to know if you buy it. How easy is it to navigate the computer’s menu? Can you find the settings you are looking for? This is a good test to see whether your car’s technology will be more than you can handle, or not.
Put it in park
We don’t often think about it until we have to do it, but parking in a new car can turn into an unexpected challenge. This is especially true if you’re switching types of vehicles (say, from a Toyota Prius to a Toyota 4Runner). Take a moment and try parking it a couple different ways; pull in, back in, and parallel just to make sure you can.
Test driving a new car is about more than how the car handles, it’s your chance to detect problems and test the quality of a vehicle. One of the best ways to do this is to listen to the sounds of the car. How much road noise do you hear in the cabin? Does the car make any weird sounds? Pay close attention to the sounds the car makes when you accelerate, decelerate, shift gears, and brake. Anything that sounds out of place is worth asking about. If the car idles irregularly, if the breaks squeal, or if there’s “clunking” sounds when you shift, you may want to have a mechanic take a look at it before you buy.
Don’t go it alone
Bring someone with you. A second set of eyes and ears can really help you out in a test drive. Having another person with you can help make sure that you don’t miss anything. It will also keep you grounded. With a friend by your side, you’ll be less likely to overlook a car’s faults because you happen to like certain things about it.
Test driving new cars can be a lot of fun, but just remember that test driving is your chance to find faults in a vehicle you think you like to make sure you can live with it for the next five years or so. Follow these steps to make sure you get a car that meets all of your needs.
We’ve taken these tips and went to test-drive everything from a Subaru Crosstrek to a Toyota Highlander. Check out our Car Comparison Guide for all of our test-drive tales. Or if you’ve test-driven your dream car, use our Car Buying Guide to successfully and smoothly complete your purchase.