Depending on your disposition, it can be exciting to test drive a new vehicle or it can be overwhelming! Unfavorable conditions and distracting sales people can interfere with you getting a good assessment of the vehicle. Maintain your focus with this checklist and you’ll be able to test drive your next ride like a pro!
- Get comfortable. First things first. You’ll be the main driver for this vehicle, so set up the car the way you would normally drive. Does your driver’s seat adjust easily to accommodate your height? If you would like your steering wheel to adjust easily, or want something like added lumbar support, check for that before you begin your ride. It’s also a great idea to check your passengers seats to see if they have ample leg room and space if you plan to haul others with you, or you need a sizable family vehicle. If you have kids who need a car seat, bring one to make sure it easily fits and it’s not difficult to get them in and out of the car.
- Check for amenities. Test the radio and the controls before you begin driving. How easy is it to adjust your controls from the driver's seat? Do the air conditioner and heat both run well? Do the mirrors adjust easily, and are there any noticeable blind spots? After you’ve checked for these things, turn off the radio and any other distractions so that you can concentrate during your drive.
- Check the brakes. When you pull out, start slow and test the brakes by first tapping lightly on them to make sure your car does not jerk and your brakes aren't overly sensitive. Then you should plan to test them a little harder once the drive gets going to make sure they are secure enough to stop on a dime.
- Test all road conditions. An optimum test drive would allow you to loan the car for a day or two to test drive it on your actual routes. However, most of the time insurance purposes forbid that kind of good faith test and you have to test drive the vehicle for a short amount of time with a salesperson in tow. Don’t fret. You can still have a thorough test drive. Make sure you drive on various types of terrain so you can see how the vehicle handles. Start with a normal road, try a twisty and winding road, and be sure to take it on the highway!
- Park it. You’ve tested all the controls and how it handles on different terrain, now you need to park it. Just like driving, you will want to park under various conditions. Try parking in a busy parking lot, parallel park on a crowded street and park in garage. If all of these are not available to you, measure the car to make sure it will fit in spots you normally have to fit in. A great example would be a parking garage at work where a much larger vehicle would have a difficult time maneuvering. Does the car have parking assistance and is it easy to use?
- Check the stowing. Once you’ve parked the vehicle and you’ve checked everything else, check the stowing. If you are routinely wanting to haul large items like bikes or equipment, bring them along or measure to make sure they’ll fit easily. After doing so, convert all your seats down or remove them to check the ease and capacity. Stowing capacity is an important thing that most people leave out in their test drive, but it is essential when considering things like daily use!
Come into the dealership with confidence and make sure you are able to concentrate on your drive. If it’s distracting, ask your salesperson to remain quiet while driving. Don’t be afraid to take it on an alternate route from the one suggested if it’s necessary. Drive the car like it is yours to see if it is a good fit for your daily needs!