A quick drive around the block does not constitute a test drive. Not by a long shot. You can undertake a dozen test drives like that, and still come back knowing nothing more about the car than you did when it was standing in the parking lot.
Test driving is an art. And it is important that you do it right, so you’re not saddled with a car you merely tolerate for several years to come.
When choosing a vehicle, you will always find features you like, and features you don’t like. Test driving is the time when you don’t just admire the great qualities of a model, but evaluate the less attractive attributes, to see if you can deal with them on a daily basis – and still be happy with your purchase decision.
This primer will help you get the most out of any test drive you ever undertake, so you can make an educated decision on which car off your shortlist you will finally buy:
# 1: Don’t Fall In Love
• First rule of thumb is not to get emotionally attached to a model you `think’ you want to buy. If you do that, you will start making excuses for its shortcomings, and regret your haste later, when the honeymoon phase is over. Separate yourself from the mental image of you driving the car when you’re on a test drive. This is a fact-finding mission. Not a romantic, honeymoon trip into the sunset.
# 2: A Test Drive Should Last 30 Minutes
• At the very least. All cars feel different and have subtly different controls that, when engaged, offer different feedback. You have to give yourself enough time to adapt to these variations.
# 3: Don’t Test Drive Anything Different
• Only test drive the car you want to buy. Trying out an upscale variant, for example, will obviously feel better and you might get a false impression that the economy version will give you the same, sublime experience.
# 4: Don’t Compare The New Car To Your Old Car
• Any new car will seem like a smoother ride when compared to the old car you are used to. So don’t make this mistake. Compare a new car to the other 2-3 new cars on your shortlist only.
KEEP EMOTIONS IN CHECK: It is easy to lose your head when driving a glamorous new car for the very first time
# 5: Drive On Roads You Know
• An unfamiliar car on an unfamiliar road will feel… unfamiliar. You won’t know how much of that strangeness is due to the road or the car itself. The real point of a test drive is to control as many variables as possible (like road condition) – except the ones you want to test. So even if you are not familiar with the roads around the dealership, drive on them first in your existing car before you set out to test drive anything.
# 6: Test For Everything!
• Test the car in all sorts of conditions you expect to drive it in – in stop-and-go traffic, up and down the hill, on expressways etc. Turn off the music and listen for noise seepage and ambient sounds. Are the gauges, readouts, and display screens easy to view and operate? How efficient is the climate-control system? Does the suspension absorb minor humps and bumps on the road surface? Does it need a lot of runway to merge with expressway traffic? How’s visibility? And ease of steering? Does the vehicle feel stable while cornering, and how well does it negotiate tight spaces?
# 7: Play With All The Features
• Try the cruise control. Turn on the seat heater. Use the Bluetooth and make a few calls to confirm voice quality. Check out the Sat Nav. See if the voice recognition system actually recognizes your voice.
# 8: Be A Passenger
• Don’t forget to try out the other seats, so you know how passengers will feel riding in your car. In fact, the back seat is a good place to evaluate the ride quality as your attention will not be focused on driving.
# 9: Feel Free To Walk Away
• Just because you took the car out on a 30-minute test drive, you’re not obligated to buy it. Take your time. Test drive the other cars on your shortlist. Sleep over the decision and then make a final choice.