The first impression people receive of new vehicles is based on their external appearance, but that does not help motorists to determine whether a car will drive well or be a good buy. Whether looking at new or used cars, one of the most important ways to get a sense of the vehicle is usually the test drive. The financial commitment of buying a car, the importance of vehicle safety and the amount of time many drivers spend in their vehicles make careful evaluation a wise course.
Before a Test Drive
Automotive experts with AAA recommend drivers begin evaluation before the test drive stage, researching a vehicle to find out about its safety features, performance and resale value. Between this initial search and the actual test drive, motorists should carefully examine the size of a vehicle, trunk space, and condition of doors and other parts that can be easily inspected.
If these factors reveal problems, it may mean drivers should skip to the next vehicle. Another tactic is to take a ride as a passenger, which allows the potential buyer to focus on the smoothness of the ride, comfort and other considerations. When the time comes to sit behind the wheel, drivers can check the legroom, mirrors and visibility.
During the Test Drive
An ideal test drive, according to AAA, tries out different road surfaces. This might include city roads, freeways, and more winding routes as well. Depending on where a driver generally travels, it might be appropriate to briefly drive on a gravel road if possible.
Moving over different types of roads also affords an opportunity to evaluate the car’s performance in their respective driving styles. City driving may incorporate more frequent halts, for example, and drivers can develop an understanding of how the car performs during merging or passing maneuvers.
Other things to observe include the handling during different turns and lane changes, braking effectiveness, noise made by the vehicle and the smoothness of the transmission.
After a Test Drive
At the end, if not before, drivers can see how easy it is to park the vehicle. If it has blind spots or other problematic traits, it’s better to find out in advance when there is time to judge whether they are an inconvenience or a danger. The test drive may be the main factor in decision-making, but there is still time for additional research afterward. Drivers will likely want to get an estimate on the car insurance costs associated with a given model before making a final decision. J.D. Power and Associates notes drivers should be prepared to take some time after the test drive to consider their decision, rather than rushing to make a purchase right away.