Testing a Car Before Buying: A Step-by-Step Guide
Sep 20, 2023
Testing a Car Before Buying: A Step-by-Step Guide
In the context of nearly any other purchase, cars stand out as significant investments, often lasting for many years. Therefore, it's crucial to test-drive a potential vehicle before making a commitment. While online resources such as our detailed car reviews and YouTube videos provide valuable insights into a model, nothing compares to experiencing a car in real life.
Test-driving a car entails more than just taking it for a spin. Evaluating how the car handles is essential, but you should also assess factors like seat comfort, interior materials, and overall quality. This guide is extensive because the considerations are endless, particularly when buying a used car, where meticulous scrutiny is necessary to ensure you make an informed decision.
1. Explore All Controls and Features
Since you'll likely spend a long time driving this car, become familiar with all its controls. Test everything from cruise control to infotainment systems to ensure they meet your expectations. Adjust the seats and steering wheel to find your ideal driving position, and if others will drive the car, bring them along to ensure it suits their needs as well.
2. Include Your Family in the Test Drive
Your family will also be using the car, so take your children along to check if they're comfortable in the back. Consider whether front seats are within a toddler's reach and if the interior can withstand potential messes. It's better to involve your family in the decision-making process rather than springing a surprise on them.
3. Assess Boot Space
Ensure the car's boot space accommodates your lifestyle, whether it's for golf clubs, strollers, pets, or bikes. Don't rely solely on load space figures; bring along items you regularly carry to see how well the boot fits your needs.
4. Practice Parking
Begin and end your test drive with some parking maneuvers. Assess how the car feels at low speeds, especially in terms of visibility. It's essential to determine if the car is easy to navigate in parking lots and whether any blind spots hinder your view. This assessment can impact your decision to include parking aids like sensors, cameras, or tinted privacy glass.
5. Plan a Varied Test Route
Salespeople often have predetermined routes for test drives, but consider planning your own route that closely mirrors your typical driving conditions. Include a mix of road types to assess the car's performance at various speeds and on different road surfaces, including rough roads.
6. Push the Car's Limits Safely
Don't hesitate to test the car's performance under different conditions. Practice hard braking to gauge how it handles emergency situations. While hard acceleration and vigorous cornering may be less critical, it's still important to understand how the car responds. If you're buying a sports car, inquire about manufacturer-sponsored experience days on a race track.
7. Request an Extended Test Drive
To truly get a feel for the car, ask for an extended test drive. Many dealerships are willing to lend you a vehicle for a weekend or a week, allowing you to experience ownership firsthand before making a decision.
8. Don't Settle for One Test Drive
Even if you like the car after the first test drive, consider trying out another one. Different cars of the same model can vary, and this is particularly important when buying used cars. Don't assume that all cars of a certain model perform identically.
9. Experiment with Different Engines
Test-drive cars with various engine options, even if you initially prefer one type. You might discover that a different engine suits your needs better or offers better fuel efficiency. Smaller engines aren't always more fuel-efficient in real-world driving.
10. Test Competing Models Together
Plan a day to test-drive multiple competing models from different dealerships. Comparing them back-to-back can help you make an objective decision. It's also an opportunity to involve your family and perhaps enjoy a fast-food meal together.
11. Transitioning to Electric? Educate Yourself
If you're considering switching to an electric vehicle (EV), familiarise yourself with how EVs drive compared to traditional gasoline or diesel cars. Understand concepts like regenerative braking, charging capabilities, battery size, and range. Read our dedicated guide for more insights on driving an EV.
12. Buying Used? Be Skeptical
When purchasing a used car, inspect it thoroughly. Look for obvious issues, but also pay attention to subtler signs, such as tire quality. Trust your instincts regarding the seller, whether it's a private individual or a dealer.
13. Seek Expert Guidance
If you're uncertain about the inspection process, bring along a knowledgeable friend to assist you. Kicking the tires won't yield useful information, but having an experienced companion can help you make a more informed decision during the test drive.
Remember that a comprehensive test drive is crucial to making an informed car purchase, ensuring that the vehicle meets your needs and expectations.