How to Make the Most of Your Test Drive?

How to Make the Most of Your Test Drive? Image courtesy of Lonestarcars

Buying a car is a big investment so, naturally, you want it to be a sound one. All too often car buyers make an emotional decision as they get distracted with the 'new car fever' and the vehicle's 'coolness' or shiny look. However, making rash decisions about a new car purchase can easily lead not only to buyer's remorse, but a financial nightmare in the future. To avoid these common mistakes and their costly consequences you should always take your potential future vehicle out on the road for a test drive.

A thorough test drive is a crucial step in the car buying process as it's the best opportunity to evaluate and experience the car firsthand, making you much more confident in your final decision. Read on to learn how to evaluate the car, what to look for and how to optimize your test drive experience.

Before hitting the road

You're at the dealership and you can't wait to get behind the wheel of the car you like, to get the feel of it on the road. Don't succumb to the excitement and the new car fever, though - take your time and get acquainted with the vehicle inside and out before hitting the road. This preliminary thorough evaluation is as important as the one you make while driving the car.

Inspect the car, keeping in mind your daily use of the car and your lifestyle. Is it big enough for your family? If you have kids, let them try the back seat and see whether they like it or not. What about the doors? Will your family members be able to enter and exit the car easily? This is especially important if you drive elderly passengers on a daily basis. Check the back and passenger seat to see whether they are too low to the floor or difficult to adjust (up and down, as well as back and forth). Think about the level of comfort: are the seats too stiff and firm; is there a lack of headroom and foot room that will make the ride uncomfortable?

After you've checked everything else, take the driver seat and inspect all the details closely. Do you feel comfortable? Can you work the pedals and various controls easily, without lifting your back form the seatback? Do you find the controls easy to read and use, can you operate them while keeping your eyes on the road?

Going for a spin

Going for a spin. Image courtesy of

After you've done a thorough preliminary evaluation, you're ready to get behind the wheel and hit the road.  This second part of test drive is important, as it helps you get the feel of how the car drives and responds in various circumstances. Allow at least half an hour (take your time and don't let the salesperson rush you through the drive), and test the car on different types of roads.

Think about your day-to-day use of the car and try different road surfaces and driving situations, as well as both city and highway driving. In general, make sure you feel comfortable behind the wheel. Is the car smooth and easy to maneuver? How does it respond when you turn the wheel? What about visibility and feel of the car when you're parking?

Check how the car performs at higher speeds and accelerates into traffic. Also, don't forget to check the braking; see how the car reacts when you break softly and what happens when you break suddenly. Does it come to a smooth stop? While at it, look for any strange noises or vibrations. Also, don't forget to check the effectiveness of the climate control system (try it on for both hot and cold air), as well as other car systems (navigation, entertainment etc.).


Finally, reflect on the overall driving experience. Think to which level the car matches your driving requirements and take into consideration all the factors, especially the ease of ride and level of comfort, the noises or lack of some qualities that may bother you in day-to-day use. As with the test drive, take your time and think everything through before you're ready to make the final decision. After all, you're not only choosing a new car but a daily companion for the next several years.

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