• Test Driving Tips: Five Things to Look for When Test Driving a Vehicle

    The test drive, the part of the car buying experience where you are allowed to drive the car you might possibly buy, is often the make-or-break point where you decide whether you really like the car or not. It is important, therefore, to make a good inspection of the car during the test drive so that there are no unpleasant surprises popping up a week later. A test drive is an opportunity to scope the car out without the salesman trying to sway you, and here are some test driving tips to remember amidst all of the excitement of the car-buying process.

    Before even setting foot in the dealership, make a list at home of the things that you want to look at on the car. Some of those things may be listed below. It is important to write them all down because you are not likely to recall them all from memory on the test drive. Write a list down, stick it in your pocket, and consult it once you are on your test drive. The following are some of the things that should be on that list.

    1. Drivability, or how the car handles, is very important. If you’re too preoccupied with the stereo system, you might miss the car pulling slightly left or shifting hesitantly. Expose the car to extreme conditions. How does it brake? How is the turning radius? Is acceleration adequate? If your car has a TipTronic or GearTronic transmission and/or paddle shifters, do they shift smoothly?
    2. Once you know the car drives as it should, make sure that everything works – radio/CD/iPod hook-up, AC, heat, power seats, blinkers, hazards, all the other lights, the navigation system, sunroof/moon roof, wipers, washer fluid squirter, cruise control, etc. This check might not be as important for new cars, but it is for used ones!
    3. While doing this, make sure to check for even basic features. Is the interior clean? How many cup-holders does the car have? Does it have an adjustable steering wheel? ABS? A good spare tire and jack? Where are they mounted? Do all four tires have adequate tread? Is the owner’s manual included? If you’re looking at a convertible, do you know how to work the top? Some cars, the Pontiac Solstice for example, require you to get out of the car to put the top down!
    4. Some of these checks will require you to stop the car, and that is a good time to pop the hood. Is the engine bay clean? Locate the battery, oil cap, radiator, or any other engine part of particular interest to you. Check the gas cap – does the car take regular or premium gasoline?
    5. As you are wrapping your inspection up, take a close look at the body work. Do the bumpers look repainted? Are there chips or dings in the hood? Some car brands (Toyota, for example) guarantee their paint and, if it is defective, your salesman might be able to do something about it for you.

    Test drives should take long time. After all, a car is a big, complicated purchase and nobody wants to be stuck with a car that they might not have bought had they spent an extra ten minutes inspecting it. Remember to make a list beforehand, one that probably includes a lot of the checks mentioned above, and refer to it often on your test drive for maximum success in selecting a new car.