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How to Test Drive a Vehicle

Shopping for a new car or used car, you might not realize how much goes into making the final decision. After all the research, makes, models, trim levels, features, and prices, and shopping around for the best deal, the test drive, maybe more than once, is one of the most important steps you can take. In fact, you should be able to answer several questions after your test drive, all so you can make the final decision, putting your signature and money on an expensive line.

How Does It Perform?

A good test drive will help you determine how well the car performs, including far more than starting the engine and driving around the lot. Many dealers will show you around a popular test drive route, sometimes with you as the passenger. To get a basic feel for the vehicle, you need to be in the driver’s seat, and take the car for a good 10 or 15 miles. Try to work in a good mix of road and traffic conditions on your test drive, if possible, including stop-and-go traffic, bumpy roads, highway merging, and cruising.

To get a real feel for your prospective vehicle, especially if it’s passed your initial test drives, see about taking the car home for a couple of days. This kind of test drive might require a deposit or insurance, but it also gives you a chance to see how the car acts just starting out in the morning and on your daily commute.

Does It Fit My Needs?

Some drivers’ needs are basic – four wheels and an engine – while others are more demanding of their vehicles. As a driver, taking a test drive is not all that complicated, and can give you a good idea how well the vehicle is laid out, how well the seats and controls adjust to you as an individual, and how well you can see out of the vehicle.

On the other hand, if you have other needs, such as partner, kids, or pets, take them along on your test drive. How easy is it for your kids or grandmother to get in and out? Is there room for a child seat or two? Can you fit the dog kennel in the back? Will it fit in your garage?

Do I Like It?

Chances are, the more you like your car, the more you’ll drive it, clean it, and take care of it. Ask yourself, after considering year, make, model, trim, color, engine, transmission, fit, options, comfort, and the test drive, “Do I really like this car?” If there’s something you don’t like about it, maybe your salesperson can suggest a different model or trim level. If not a different vehicle, can you live with it?

The test drive can make or break the deal on a new car, or give you a bargaining chip on a used car. Done properly, the test drive gives you much more information than how well the car is running. The more familiar you become with the car before purchase, the fewer surprises there will be down the road.

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