10 things to do when test driving a car

July 2015

Test-driving a car is a daunting task. How do you decide which car is right for you after just a short drive and a few minutes behind the wheel? These tips will ensure that you get the most out of your test drive and take the right vehicle home.

1. Do your homework
The more you know about the car in question, the better. Read up about its features and engine, and draw up a list of questions to ask the sales executive. If youíre unsure of something, ask. Thereís no such thing as a stupid question. 

Remember to phone in advance so you can be sure to drive the exact vehicle you are interested in buying.

2. Take your time and enjoy the experience 
Thereís no rush. Make sure youíve allowed a sufficient amount of time in your day for the test drive. Try and avoid peak times, as sitting in traffic will increase stress levels and detract from the joy of driving. Arrive relaxed, have your licence at hand and enjoy the experience.

Try and plan a route before you do the demo. Sales executives tend to have their default test drive routes, but should be more than willing to let you drive on roads that you are familiar with.

3. Be in control
You must run the show. Yes, the sales executive is the one with the keys, but this is your buying decision. Donít let them pressure you into buying a car you donít want. Remember however, that a test drive is a privilege and shouldnít be taken lightly. Sales people can spot time-wasters, so donít take a car for a test drive unless you are a serious buyer.

4. Let the sales person drive first 
If you donít know much about the car, let the sales executive take you through the features before you drive, and then let them drive first. This way, you acclimatise yourself to the vehicle and the layout of the controls Ė and youíll notice a lot more than when youíre concentrating on driving.

5. Get comfortable in the driverís seat
Perhaps the most important thing once you get behind the wheel is to make yourself comfortable. Adjust the mirrors, the seat and the steering wheel, to ensure everything is to your liking. Seemingly insignificant aspects like sitting too high or too far from the wheel can make or break the whole experience.

6. Drive the car in different environments 
Try and include speedbumps, winding roads and even a parking lot on your route so you really get a feel for the car in different driving environments.

7. Drive it like itís already yours
Drive the car as if youíve already bought it. Get a feel for the performance and handling (within limits and the law). Push all the buttons, turn the radio up. Imagine it in your driveway and on the road to your favourite holiday destination. Once itís yours, thereís no turning back.

8. Donít be scared
Itís not always easy driving someone elseís car Ė especially if itís significantly more powerful or larger than your current set of wheels. However, demo vehicles are insured and the sales executive is used to playing passenger with clients. 

9. Get rid of distractions
You canít make a proper buying decision if youíre distracted. Put your phone on silent and leave the kids at home Ė or bring someone with who can look after them while you concentrate on the car and the drive. Over-excited friends wonít help either.

10. Aim for a fair distance
You cannot possibly experience a vehicle properly in a short, around-the-block drive, but you also canít drive it to a friend in another province. A fair test drive distance Ė around 15 km in total Ė should be sufficient. Chat to the sales executive Ė their time is your money and they should be happy to comply.

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