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Carmarket Test Drive Tips

A guide to getting the most out of your test drive

Taking a test drive can be quite a nerve-racking experience for the unprepared consumer. Annoying salesmen and a hesitancy to really push the vehicle limits are both contributing factors to what many consumers’ view as the worst part of car shopping. These helpful hints will make your test drive a pleasant experience and ensure that you get a comprehensive evaluation of your new automobile before you make the all-important decision. This decision, of course, is whether or not to purchase this car.


1) If anyone other than yourself will be driving or riding in the car regularly, make sure that they test drive the car with you.

Having other drivers test drive the car with you is a necessity for several reasons. Most importantly, all drivers must be able to see out of the vehicle and have a clear view of the instrument panel in order to drive safely. Make sure that the steering wheel and seats adjust to accommodate all drivers safely.

Next, make sure that everybody is comfortable in all of the seats. Nobody enjoys sitting in a cramped back seat, for example. Test the seats to make sure that anybody who will be riding in the back is comfortable. It may be a good idea to see if your kids are comfortable before you buy the family vacation vehicle as well.

Finally, make sure that the car will accommodate any special family needs. Can it tow the boat? How about a wheelchair, bicycles, or skis? These questions may be especially relevant if the vehicle will be handed down to a teenager. The more people who will come into regular contact with the vehicle that actually assist in the test-drive, the better the chances of choosing the best automobile.


2) Do not allow a pushy salesperson to get you out of your test driving routine.

Try to develop a routine that you follow each time you test drive a car. We will discuss some of the vital facets of this routine later, but remember to always be consistent so that you never forget an important step. If the salesperson seems too pushy, or is in a hurry to get you out of there, request that another associate assist you instead. Do not forget that they are there to serve you and aid you in your purchase. You are under no obligation to purchase after test-driving, and do not let a savvy salesperson make you think otherwise. You should let them give their sales pitch while you are sitting in the car before you begin driving. While you are getting comfortable and familiarizing yourself with the cars controls is the perfect opportunity for the salesperson to summarize the cars features and strengths. After you begin to drive, you should ask them to leave you alone with your thoughts so that you can truly absorb the driving experience. This quiet time with the car will allow you to accurately evaluate the automobile. After the drive, ask the salesperson for their honest assessment of the car. A reputable salesperson will tell you of any recurring problems or common complaints about the car and help you to decide if these factors impact your decision.


3) Acquaint yourself with the vehicle before starting the engine.

Some of the most important evaluation of a new automobile should take place before the engine is ever turned on. Resist the urge to jump right in the car and see what it can do on the road. A careful inspection of the interior and exterior of the vehicle while still parked can give you a good sense of whether or not this is the right car for you.

Your first step should be to take a good long look at the cars exterior. You may have already done this on your own time, but if you are seriously considering leaving with the car, do it again. After examining the car from several angles, decide if you really like its style and design. Is it the perfect color? If it is a new car, everything should be flawless. Make sure that the paint job is perfect, as well as the panel alignment. Ask the salesman about any irregularities. Any flaws or imperfections are either completely unacceptable or make the price more negotiable.

After you are satisfied with the exterior, it is time for a thorough inspection of the vehicle interior. Try getting in and out of the car several times, including the back seats. Is it comfortable to get in and out of? Do not underestimate the importance of this, as you will get in and out of the car more frequently than anything else. Next, sit in the driver’s seat and adjust the seat and controls. Can you see clearly, and is everything (especially the drivers seat) comfortable? Is there still enough legroom in the back seats? See yourself performing routine activities such as loading groceries, buckling children’s car seats, or carrying your pets. Does the cars interior style lend itself to easing these tasks?

Try the trunk. Open and close it several times, making sure that there is no hesitation in the lock and that the trunk fits precisely. Think of items such as groceries, athletic bags, or tools that you will put in the trunk and make sure that they will fit. Then think of other, irregularly shaped items that the trunk will need to accommodate such as golf clubs, lawn equipment, bicycles, or a baby stroller. Will they fit? The design of the trunk can be especially important for the elderly, handicapped, or injured. These groups will want to make sure that the trunk has a low lift-over height, which makes loading and unloading of any object, especially heavy ones, much easier.

Fiddle with the accessories while you are still sitting still. Far too many people spend their test drive playing with the stereo, air condition, and other comfort features instead of concentrating on the cars performance. Make sure that accessories such as the radio, windshield wipers, turn signals, headlights, and hazard lights are all easily accessible without having to take your eyes off of the road. As mentioned earlier, this is a good time to prompt your salesperson to make their sales pitch about any special features that may be a good selling point. It is important to test out the accessories before the drive begins not only so that you can fully appreciate the driving experience, but also so that you can concentrate on stop signs and pedestrians!

Finally, before you turn the key to the ignition, ask yourself a few final questions. The most important is whether or not you would feel comfortable driving this car every day. If it is not quite right now, chances are that it will never be quite right. Is it the perfect color? Is it fast enough, or too racy? Do you look good? Will all other passengers be happy?


4) Do not be shy when test-driving the vehicle.

Certainly do no be afraid to really push the cars limits, when appropriate. You will regret it later if you realize that the car does not really have as much power as you had hoped for, or does not brake as well as advertised. The following are the specific things that you want to look for.

Driving the car on a number of different roads can assess the overall ride quality. Try to focus on the road types that you will encounter most frequently, as these are the ones on which the ride is most important. Do not, however, limit yourself to these roads on your test drive. Request to take the car on a route of your choosing, and make sure that this route includes winding roads, city streets, steep climbs, and dilapidated asphalt. After this ride you should have a good sense for the overall driving comfort in various environments.

When testing the engine power, do so in real life situations. Accelerate swiftly on to on-ramps, try passing at high speeds, and accelerate quickly during normal driving. Is the car fast enough to allow you to avoid potentially dangerous situations? Can you pass slower cars with confidence? Be sure and check whether or not the power is affected by using the air conditioner, especially in cars with small engines. Oftentimes air conditioners cause a significant loss of power, so be sure and run all the same tests that you did with the a/c without it.

If you are testing an automatic, make sure that the upshifts and downshifts are smooth and seem effortless. Make sure that it shifts at appropriate times, both accelerating and decelerating. Any sudden jerks or lurches during gear changes is a bad sign and must be addressed before purchase. If the car is a manual transmission, the clutch and shifter should be smooth and easy to engage. If the clutch sticks or the shifting is rough, you may want to consider a different type. If the vehicle is equipped with four-wheel drive capabilities, test its engagement and disengagement for ease and intuitiveness as well as functionality.

To test the cars handling, try out a variety of situations. Take the car around long curves, short curves, and sharp turns. Try suddenly swerving on the open road and then bringing the car back in line. The steering should feel precise and stable, as well as comfortable. The bottom line is that the steering should feel like you could avoid an accident if you needed to. Also try parallel parking the car in order to identify any blind spots or hitches in the steering.

Testing the brakes on the car is one of the most important parts of the test drive, as well as the part that makes most people feel uncomfortable. But do not be shy – really test the brakes. Remember to warn any other passengers of your intentions, though, and always check for cars around you before aggressively applying the brakes. When you do use them, the brakes should slow you to a straight, controlled stop. If the car is equipped with anti-lock brakes, try forcing the pedal down suddenly in an empty lot. The brake pedal should pulse, but allow you to steer simultaneously. Try this several times to get comfortable with the braking system and make sure that it is operating correctly.


5) Drive the exact model you are interested in.

If at all possible, make sure that it is the exact car that you will buy that you take on the test-drive. A different engine or transmission can drastically affect the derivability of a car. Different trim or interior features can also greatly affect the personality of the automobile. If you can drive the actual car that you would like to purchase, these types of surprises are eliminated.

When test driving an automobile, remembering to do three things will ensure that you find the perfect vehicle for you. First off, be tough. Do not be rushed or easily persuaded by a savvy dealer. If the car is not everything that you had expected, be prepared to walk away. Secondly, be smart. Know what you are looking for in a test-drive and be able to recognize when something is amiss. Do not be afraid to ask questions. When making a substantial purchase such as this, the only dumb question is the one left unasked. Finally, be honest with yourself and the salesperson. Do not make the mistake of overlooking comfort for the sake of looks or vice-versa. If something does not feel right, ask about it, and definitely step back and ask yourself and others if this is the perfect car for you. If you can honestly say yes, then your mission is accomplished.

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