Let’s be frank: you’re reading an article about test drive tips because you’re worried about your next vehicle purchase. Well, you should be. More than 69% of car buyers experience some kind of buyer’s remorse. Many of those buyers cited how it was “an impulse purchase” and that their new vehicle “didn’t have the features they wanted.”
But here’s the good news: these feelings are entirely preventable.
Not only should a test drive be stress-free, it should be fun! You’re under no obligation to buy, so just sit back, relax, and (quite literally) enjoy the ride. Remember that you’re on a fact-finding mission. You’re (quite literally) in the driver’s seat.
With our 10 Test Drive Tips you’ll find your decision to buy a car, or not buy a car, pretty cut and dry. You’ll even have fun doing it. If you ask yourself (and the salesperson) the right questions, then your decision will be obvious.
1. Do Your Research Beforehand
If you enjoy wandering dealership lots to see what’s available firsthand, then be our guest. But we suggest you plan ahead and research the model(s) you would like to test drive before you get there.
Decide on a short list of three cars or so and plan on driving them back-to-back-to-back, if possible. This will allow you to compare and contrast them much easier.
But here’s the big advantage you have test driving vehicles with Go Auto: If you find a few vehicles you would like to test drive on GoAuto.ca, from different manufacturers, we can deliver them all to one location for you in order to avoid traveling all over the city. So, if you want to test drive vehicles from Go Mazda, Go Nissan North, and Kentwood Ford, we can have them delivered to the Go Auto dealership of your choice, all at the same time.
The Bottom Line: This will save hours of your time. If not days (depending on how many cars you want to test out).
2. Schedule an Appointment
Scheduling test drives makes the experience a lot easier for both you and the dealership. It will simplify your day, and it allows the dealership time to present you with pricing options.
Let’s say you found a vehicle online you’d like to test drive. There is a decent chance that the car is actually blocked in by other cars. Because dealership lot space is limited, cars are often double- and triple-parked to squeeze everything in. Calling or emailing ahead allows the salesmen to prepare the car for you and have it ready to go by the time you show up.
The Bottom Line: This will save you an extra 15 minutes of waiting, and you’ll receive better information from the dealership about the vehicle(s) you’re interested in.
3. Book an Overnight Test Drive
Always ask to take the vehicle home for the night. Many dealerships (Go Auto included) are open to this.
Being able to take the car home for a few hours allows you to get a true feel for it, and you no longer feel pressured by salesmen to make a decision on the spot. This also gives you the added benefit of driving the vehicle at night.
The Bottom Line: You don’t have to rush your test drive experience. Take your time and drive it by yourself, without anyone pressuring you.
4. Test Drive the Trim You Plan to Buy
Often, dealerships will give you the best available version of a vehicle to test drive. This makes sense: they want to show off the vehicle at its best, with leather seating, a heated steering wheel, chrome accents, a top-notch sound system, etc. But if you know this model is out of your price range insist on a lower trim that will fit your budget.
Once you test drive the nicer version, you’re going to get hooked. Trust me. It happens all the time. This can lead to a rash decision and a purchase that’s above your pay grade. Don’t allow yourself to be tempted. Test drive the vehicle trim you know you can afford.
The Bottom Line: Test drive a vehicle you’re comfortable paying for.
5. Evaluate the Day-to-Day Features
Test drivers usually look at five things: how the seats feel, how the vehicle accelerates and brakes, how it handles, how the gadgets work, and what the sight lines are like. But the success or failure of a vehicle often comes down to the smaller details.
How are the storage cubbies? Are the cup holders accessible? How’s the leg room? Do your pants get dirty when you exit the vehicle? Is the back seat large and comfortable enough? How hard or easy is it to get a child seat in there? Are the rear seats adjustable? Do they fold down? Is the trunk big enough?
The Bottom Line: The more particular you are, the fewer surprises there will be. If you want to be confident in your purchase, take your time to evaluate it for everyday use.
6. Check the Tech
This is often the most fun one, but be careful not to get distracted by the bells and whistles.
Are the gauges easy to read? Is the display screen clear and easy to operate? How effective is the climate control? Bring your phone with you and hook it up to the Bluetooth. How does the stereo sound, for both music AND podcasts? Is there wi-fi connectivity? Do you require voice activation? Is there a convenient place to put your phone while you’re driving? What about the navigation system? Is it simple and reliable?
The Bottom Line: If technology and convenience are important to you, put them to the test. Especially if there are features you’re not familiar with. It also allows you the time to figure out everything the vehicle can do that you weren’t aware of.
7. Drive in Different Conditions
Don’t just take your test drive vehicle on the highway. Take it on quiet streets, busy streets, highways and dirt roads. If it’s in the winter, find a slushy road and see how it handles. Find a bumpy road to see how it handles uneven surfaces.
Is it noisy? Uncomfortable? Or does it handle it all like a dream?
The Bottom Line: Try to simulate as many driving conditions as you can. Again, you’ll feel more comfortable about your purchase if you know you feel safe on rougher roads.
8. Drive it in a Parking Lot
Do your due diligence and see how it feels to park the vehicle.
Is it too long? Are the sight lines okay out the back? Does the backup camera help you? Check to see if you can comfortably exit the vehicle when parked between two vehicles. Check to see if the turning radius is good enough. Is the front end so low it scrapes parking curbs? Are you comfortable parallel parking?
The Bottom Line: This is especially important of you’re testing out a vehicle with a different size/shape than your current vehicle. Make sure it feels comfortable.
9. Listen for Road Noise
Keep both your eyes AND ears open during a test drive.
Check to see how much noise is coming into the cabin during your ride. Especially on the highway. Do the tires have a particular drone at high speeds? Roll down the windows and check to see how the wind rushes into the cabin at higher speeds.
The Bottom Line: Sound is often overlooked during a test drive. But it’s one of the biggest complaints drivers have when switching to a new ride. Don’t neglect it!
10. Explore the Rest of the Dealership
When you’re finished your test drive, your work isn’t quite done. Your salesperson will likely want to sit you down right away to talk sale, but take a few minutes to get your bearings and investigate the rest of the dealership.
You will eventually return here for service and parts. How well are these departments run? How is the pricing for basic services?
The Bottom Line: Realize that, when you buy a new car, you’re building a relationship that will last a few years. Make sure you’re making the right choice.
Bonus Test Drive Tips: Take Your Test Drive with Your Children
This one doesn’t apply to everyone, but when it does it’s a big one.
If you’re going to be driving your children around with you, make them a part of the test drive experience. Are they comfortable in the back seats? Is there enough space? Evaluate the separate controls for technology features and air conditioning. If they’re old enough to drive themselves, put them behind the wheel to see how comfortable they are with the new vehicle.
Now that you know what to look for with our test drive tips, it’s time to find you some vehicles. There are 10,000 vehicles online at GoAuto.ca every day, and you can book a test drive online in seconds.
Good luck with your test drive, and try to enjoy yourself!