How to Make the Most Out of Your Test Drive

Some drivers get intimidated by a test drive. What are you supposed to be looking for? Do you have to do everything just as the salesperson suggests? How can you know if this vehicle is right for you and your driving habits? Relax! Here is your simple guide to making your test drive a true evaluation of how happy you and your next vehicle are going to be together.

Do Your Research before Hitting the Dealerships

If you try to test drive more than about three vehicles, facts about each one are going to start running together. You won't remember which one handled those curves so beautifully or which one was so comfortable to sit in. Begin your vehicle search with a good research session to narrow your options.[1]

Fortunately, the Internet makes this easier than ever. Read reviews and blogs, and take a look at the manufacturer's website to see detailed specs on each vehicle. Make notes of the features and qualities you like, and narrow your choices down to two or three. There is nothing at all wrong with creating yourself a checklist to go through when you get to the dealership. List the qualities and features you most want (or don't want), so that you can check off your criteria during your visit.

Check Out the Exterior

Walk around the car for a few minutes. Check the trunk or cargo area. Is it roomy enough for any gear you like to carry -- such as groceries, camping gear, or musical equipment? Is the compartment easy to get stuff into and out of? How easy is it to access the spare tire? Is a jack and lug wrench included? This is a good time to ask about extras like airbags, window defrosters, rear backup cameras, and other features for convenience and safety, because you might get distracted and forget these things when you get in the vehicle and start playing with the gadgets.

Get in the Vehicle and Make an Initial Assessment

Take your time. Don't allow the salesperson to rush you. Buying a vehicle is a big decision, so make sure your test drive is taken at a leisurely pace so you can touch and feel and experience what you need to in order to make the right decision. First, sit in the driver's seat. Are you comfortable in the seat? Can you easily reach all of the controls? Are the gauges easy to see and read? Is the seat easy to adjust to a comfortable position? If you need to, ask the salesperson to be quiet for a moment so you can think.

Start the Vehicle and Mimic Your Normal Driving Conditions

Now, crank up the vehicle. Does it start easily and quickly?[2] How does it sound? Adjust your mirrors and determine how good the visibility is -- can you see out of the entire rear windshield? Is it easy to see out of the side view mirrors? Do you have a clear, unobstructed view out the front windshield? Sometimes side view mirrors are positioned so that it's hard to see a vehicle turning in front of you, and occasionally driver's seats are too low to offer good visibility in the near front of the vehicle.

Your test drive should mimic all of the driving conditions you experience during normal operations. Go up steep hills and see if the power is adequate. Take sharp curves to see how well the vehicle steers. Try back roads versus the highway. Check how well it accelerates when you need to merge into oncoming traffic, how smoothly the transmission shifts, the amount of road noise you hear, and how well it brakes. Finally, check to see how easy it is to park on the street, as well as back at the dealership.[3]

If the Vehicle is Used, Take a Peek under the Hood

Unless you're a gear head, it probably won't do you much good to peek under the hood of a brand new vehicle. The exception is when you're buying pre-owned or used. You don't have to be an automotive expert to tell if the hoses and belts look worn out, or if there are fluids leaking around the parts. Look closely, because less reputable dealers can clean the engine compartment up and hide obvious signs of damage, like leaks.[4] Be sure the vehicle is running so you can hear any noises or notice any odd vibrations that could indicate a problem.

At the end of the test drive, you should have enough information to make an informed decision on the vehicle. Remember, if you aren't comfortable, there are plenty of other vehicles out there! Don't rush into something you'll regret later.


Company Bio 

For over 27 years, Jack Key Auto Group has been the trusted dealership for residents of Southern New Mexico and Western Texas. Come see why people trust our salespeople with their vehicle needs. With hundreds of new and used vehicles at six different lots, you are sure to find the vehicle you want at a price that makes you happy.