Taking a new car for a test drive is the fun part of buying a car! You’ve done all the research and possibly even picked the car you want. Now it’s time to get behind the wheel and put your foot on the pedal.
The test drive is your chance to put the car to the test and make sure it is comfortable, enjoyable to drive and the right choice for you.
SHOULD I TEST DRIVE A CAR?
Test driving several cars should be part of your research into buying your new car. It will give you exposure to the feel of the car from behind the wheel, experience operating it and compare it to alternative models.
You will be able to guage how easy the car is to steer, how it handles rough and smooth roads, as well as the general comfort and visibility when driving. It’s a useful way to make sure any model of car is suitable for your needs and driving preferences.
HOW LONG DOES A TEST DRIVE LAST?
This can vary depending on the dealership and their usual practice, so be sure to check what you should expect to be included in a test drive experience, in terms of time or range.
Ultimately, you should drive on roads similar to your usual journeys. Mimicking a like for like experience will give you the best idea of handling the car on your normal route and gauge the general comfort when driving.
THE TEST DRIVE CHECKLIST
FEEL AND DRIVE
- Make sure the car is smooth and comfortable to drive
- Test drive the car on a range of different roads, from city tarmac to rural routes
- Drive the car up hills and take different corners to check the handling
- You should also try higher speeds as the feel of cars can change dramatically on motorways
- Try safely overtaking to test the acceleration, as well as any blind spots
- Check that the engine is quiet enough at high speed
BRAKING AND REVERSING
- Braking should feel smooth and in control
- You may also want to try braking hard if appropriate to see how the car will behave in an emergency
- Check the gear changes are smooth
- Don’t forget to try reversing and parking to check the visibility and blind spots
- For city cars, check the turning circle and manoeuvrability in tight spaces
GADGETS AND CONTROLS
- Adjust the steering, seating and mirrors as you need to be comfortable
- Make sure you can reach all the controls and that they make sense
- Check you can get in and out of the car easily, that the doors open wide enough and the seats fold down if needed
- Look at the boot space for the bags and luggage you usually carry
- If the car is a convertible, get the roof down and see how long this process takes. And test how much space you lose in the boot when the roof is down
- Find out if the model you are testing have all the gadgets you need and what features and add-ons are available
ASK YOUR DEALER QUESTIONS
The dealer who takes you on the test drive is trained and will understand the car. They will be happy to answer your questions and give demonstrations on using features and programming the SatNav.
Remember you can’t ask too many questions – the dealer wants to make sure you are happy with your new car.
DO YOU NEED A TEST DRIVE?
With the wealth of car information now online, do you really need to take a test drive? It seems car buyers are happy to skip the traditional test drive experience – widening their search to locations beyond their nearby dealerships and forgoing a pre-sale spin.
In fact 69% of people say that a 360 would convince them to buy a new car without a test drive. We recommend you do though, particularly if you haven’t driven the model or a like-for-like before.