5 Useful Tips for Test Driving a Car

Most people have a pretty good idea of the home they want and the features that are important to them before they set out looking for one. But it generally requires viewing several properties and hours of research before someone can zero in on the home that best suits their needs. Purchasing a car, however, does not always get this same treatment even though it is a similarly major purchase for most families. A survey conducted by Cox Automotive reflects that only 32% of car buyers know what they want when they set out to buy and 55% test drives just one car: the one they take home. How do you know whether the seats adjust to the right height, the dashboard has the required features to enhance feeling safer on the road or the engine is a quiet one without taking it for a spin? In this article, we will be laying out some steps to help you approach test-driving; not just one but several cars, to help you make the best decision before signing on the dotted line.

1. Plan Ahead

Call the dealerships and make all the appointments for the same day, one after the other; this allows you to have them all fresh in your mind when comparing one to the other. Scheduling several test drives will give you an excuse to leave immediately after returning to the car lot: it's time to head on to the next test drive. To get the best attention from the seller, we suggest that you schedule your test drives on a weekday. Plan on this being be a test-driving day only, not a purchasing day; you'll have time for that later. Letting the seller know that you need to think more about the purchase can sometimes lead to a better offer. Not being married to one car will allow you to negotiate from a better position.

2. Schedule Appointments

It will save time and energy. You don't want to get to a dealership only to find out that the car you wanted to test drive is parked behind several other models or at a "satellite" lot: searching and getting it ready takes time. An appointment would assure you that the car you want will be available at the agreed time if you requested a basic fuel-efficient model that's what they should have for you, not a fully loaded one. Discussing numbers is not required when you call to schedule a test drive; state that you are researching, not ready to decide ahead of time. Call again before heading out to make sure that everything is in order.

3. Last Minute Details

Make a checklist with all the items that you need to check off then print one copy for every car you'll be testing. You can review and compare each later to determine which one is best suited for you.
Remember to take the following items with you to the dealership:
  • A copy of your driver's license, as a precaution against identity theft, always ask for this back before you leave.
  • A notepad to jot down how you feel about the different drives.
  • A friend, family member, or spouse to share your thoughts and impressions.
  • Your preferred media device (smartphone, tablet, iPod, etc.) to test the audio system and pairing capabilities.

4. The Actual Test Drive

Here are some aspects to consider before you head out:
  • Color: what you saw online, or a printed brochure might not appear the same when you are in front of the vehicle. If you first see the car at night, the color might not look the same under bright sunlight. Check for any bumps, rusty areas or scratches; even brand-new models may suffer during the shipping process.
  • Cargo space: if you care for a child, check how child seat fits and if it's easy to install it. If you have larger equipment (massage table, bike, large signage, musical instruments, etc.) that is part of your daily routine, bring it along to ensure there is adequate room in the vehicle for it. Remember, you can fit a violin and a trumpet in most cars but need ample cargo space for a tuba or double bass.
  • Engine: if you are looking for a 4-cylinder, make sure you are test-driving a vehicle with that engine out and not a V-6.
  • Daily Travel: Ask the salesperson for a drive that reflects where you would typically be driving your vehicle: a five-minute drive around the dealership will not fit your needs if you drive on the highway most days; also, test the vehicle on a couple of bumpy roads or across railroad tracks.
Be sure and pay close attention to:
  • Comfort: how the steering wheel feels; your body's interaction with the seat and your legs' ease while driving, pressing the accelerator and breaks; ask your companion to give you his/her thoughts from a passenger's perspective
  • Acceleration: you don't need to be a race-car driver to understand that your vehicle's engine needs to deliver when you're trying to get in and out of the freeway
  • Brakes: how do they feel? Hit them softly and abruptly to see how they respond.
  • Visibility: look through windows and mirrors, watch out for blind spots
  • Quietness: turn off the sound and listen; can you hear the engine, or is it silent?

5. What to do after test-driving

After reviewing all checklists and notes and discussing it with your spouse or partner comes time to negotiate for the right price. Now that you are more informed, you will be able to take home the best car for you. Before you call the salesperson, take time to read the Consumer Reports to-do list for more detailed information vis a vis their interaction with you. Take all these factors into consideration before choosing the right dealership and taking your new car home.
Once you have made up your mind on the car of your choice, you’ll also need to be insured. Call one of our friendly agents at 1-800-INFINITY to discuss your options for an auto insurance policy or visit our website for a free quote!

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