Trillium Automobile Dealers Association

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Test drive a vital input in new car purchase

Created on Friday, 28 May 2010

Here are some pointers to consider when taking new car out when visiting dealership.

One of the most exciting aspects of buying a car is taking it for a test drive. At this point, a purchaser has probably narrowed his or her choices to a few vehicles and is one step closer to making a "buying" decision.

The test drive will help to evaluate the features that can't be fully appreciated by surfing the Internet, reading a brochure or watching a video. It will provide key indicators that will either persuade (or dissuade) you from buying.

Consumers often think that a test drive should be hurried, or that it's not important. In fact, I've known cases where people who have purchased cars using a broker, or sight unseen, without ever having actually test-driven the vehicle. How many people would buy a pair of shoes this way?

The product adviser at a new-car dealership will always suggest a test drive, so that you get the on-road feel of the vehicle that you are considering. There are technologies and websites that offer virtual test drives. This may provide some amusement, but it cannot truly replicate the actual experience.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind before taking that all-important test drive:

  • Don't be offended when a salesperson asks for a copy of your driver's licence and proof of insurance. This is a standard policy of franchised new-car retailers. It serves to protect you, as well as your dealer, in that you are properly licensed and insured. Test drives are always at the discretion of the sales manager, and insurance regulations usually require a representative of the dealership to be in the car with you.
  • Take your time and enjoy the experience. Plan on being on the road for at least 20 to 30 minutes. This will give you ample time to evaluate how the vehicle handles at various speeds and on different road conditions.

Your product adviser will usually suggest a route that will allow you to experience the vehicle under most road and traffic conditions.

If you want to bring along a friend or relative, that's okay. Their input may point to a feature or something that you may have otherwise overlooked.

  • Try and experience the vehicle with the sound system off and on. Do the same with the heating and air conditioning.
  • Test the vehicle at low and higher speeds on a variety of paved surfaces.
  • Are the controls easy to see and use? Is the seating comfortable? How is your view of the road? What about visibility to the rear?
  • Is the vehicle easily accessible for all occupants?
  • Do you feel confident slowing and stopping the vehicle? The brakes should feel firm and responsive?
  • There should be no excessive play in the steering. Does it feel comfortable turning at all speeds? What about parking?
  • Check visibility. All mirrors should be easily adjustable and offer excellent visibility rear-ward.
  • Change seats with the salesperson to gain a passenger's perspective on handling and comfort level.
  • Don't overlook trunk space. Is there enough room to accommodate suitcases, hockey bags and other items that you transport on a regular basis?

Not all cars are all things to all people. The likes and dislikes of any model should be weighed by all of the drivers in the household who will be operating the vehicle — a good example being ride comfort. Some drivers enjoy a firm suspension, others want a softer ride. A test drive by all of the individual drivers, often will lead to consensus toward a sound decision on what to purchase.

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