Most people are not out buying cars because their bank account is overflowing (but if you have that problem, let me know!) We buy cars because we need them to get to work, to school, and to cart our kids around from practice to games, and those field trips to the zoo. A car is one of the most expensive purchases you will make. Getting the right car for your wants and needs takes time and effort. After all the planning and reading to determine what car you think you want, you go to the dealership, and it is time for a test drive. Too many folks end up with buyer’s remorse because they did not think through what they really needed to know during their test drive. Here are a few steps you should reflect on while taking your dream ride for a spin.
Before You Even Get In
The first thing to consider is why you are buying the car. If you are buying a new car because you have new members of the family who are not going to fit in your sleek two-door coupe, then check how easy child seat installation is. If you cannot get the child seat to fit properly without contorting your body like a far eastern yoga master, you might not want to waste your time driving it around. Are you primarily using the vehicle as a work truck? Will it fit your largest tool? Will it provide room for the supplies you will be carrying? Are you planning to use this car for long trips to your cousin Thelma in North Dakota? Does it have plenty of leg room for you and your passengers, and is there enough space for everyone’s luggage? Not everyone considers this to be part of the test drive; it certainly should be. After all, if you are looking at a sweet low-rider with low profile tires, rear wheel drive, and a firm suspension, but you live on a dirt road located three miles east of unincorporated Shaqawommett, where dirt roads reign and it snows from October to April, you could be in for some disappointment. The 4-wheel drive might be a better option.
Now that you know that the vehicle suits your needs look around the car. Inspect for damage and leaks. Check that all the doors and hatches close and lock. Do all the outside lights work? Is there uneven wear on the tires? Visually check for rust at the edges of the body and doors, as well as under any carpet that is removable.
Sitting in the Driver Seat
Once you’ve cleared the initial pass it is time to put your body in the car. Can you get in without cracking your head? Do you have to low-stoop to get in? Once seated, is there enough headroom? Does the seat adjust to a level that makes it easy for you to see around the inside and outside of the car? One favorite pet peeve is; where does your arm go when you are at the wheel? If you are the kind of person who props your arm out the window while driving, is the window too high? Are the arm rests comfortable? Most importantly, can you reach the controls? Are the controls adjustable? Can you see all the gauges? Does everything feel like it is where it should be?
Does everything work? Do the lights in the instrument panel come on when the key is put in the ignition? Does the radio come on, and can you adjust the volume, as well as the channels? Are the 12V power supplies operational? Often we skip checking the AC in the winter months or the heater in the summer months. Be sure to crank both hot and cold. What kind of technology is equipped? Does the car have Bluetooth? Is it compatible with your current mobile technology? If you have gotten this far, now it is time to buckle up and crank over the engine.
Crank It Up and Go
Often your salesperson has a planned route for your test drive. The route may take you through a course that is similar to the routes you will regularly drive. If there are conditions that you drive in regularly that are not included in the regular test drive route, ask the salesperson to let you try it in those areas. If you have a long dirt driveway, ask to drive on a dirt road. Ensure that your course includes hills and a place to accelerate. Be sure to take tight turns to the left and right, brake, and steer. Does the vehicle have a smooth ride, or do you feel like you are riding in a shoebox? If you are offered an extended test drive, be sure to note how the car feels along your actual daily route. You should be comfortable both in work traffic and on the open road.
On a more technical level, think about how the car drives and handles. Does the steering wheel vibrate? Does the car pull to one side? When you accelerate, does the transmission seem to shift smoothly, or is there a clunking or grinding sound? Do all the gears work? Just putting a car in drive will show you that it goes forward, but having a car that does not move in 1st gear tells you that the transmission will need work very soon. Do the brakes feel spongy? Does the car pull when braking? Be sure to take the car on the highway at some point of your test drive. Front end problems often do not show themselves until a car is moving 55 mph or faster.
By the time you finish the test drive, you should have a good feeling as to whether the car will work for you. If you are not completely satisfied, are your complaints going to get worse over time, or are they things you will be able to live with? This is your one chance to really know what you are getting into, so be sure to really put the car under the microscope. Taking what you think will be your dream car for a joy ride because it is part of the car buying experience will do you no good when you drive off the showroom floor.
At Mike Duman Auto Superstore we serve all of the Hampton Roads area and are committed to you having an excellent test drive experience. When you're ready to take a spin, come on down to our Suffolk Virginia showroom. We look forward to serving you!