Time for a Test Drive

Get behind a different wheel this month

Here’s a stat that might surprise you. Only one out of every three people who go out to test drive a car know what they want ahead of time, and more than half of all test drivers buy the first car they take for a spin. People are actually more likely to try on two or three pairs of shoes than test drive two or three cars before bringing one home.

But the truth is that there is more difference between pretty much any two cars than there is between a couple of average pairs of shoes. And if the wear and tear of winter has you feeling like it’s time for an upgrade, don’t be discouraged. With a little preparation, you might find a few test drives to be quite enjoyable—and be ready to pull the trigger when you really fall in love with a new ride.

Do some reading. Check out information on the product lines of a few manufacturers you’re interested in. Familiarize yourself with the differences in model year and trim level (and what features are added as you move up). You should be able to make a list of three or four specific vehicles that meet your needs that you’d like to check out in person.

Plan ahead. Schedule appointments with specific dealerships for exact cars. Make a day of it, instead of spacing all your drives out over several days. This way each vehicle will remain fresh in your mind and you’ll be able to more accurately compare them to one another.

Open it up. Don’t just putter around the lot or around the block. Hop on the Interstate and see how the car feels when accelerating, at speed, when changing lanes, and when coming to a stop. You want to see how it will perform in normal usage.

Take notes. After each drive, take a minute to sit in your own car and jot down your quick impressions. Did you like the way your hands rested on the wheel and the positioning of any arm support? Was the car quick to speed up or did it feel laggy? Did it seem to be the right size for you, your stuff, your garage, your passengers?

Sleep on it. Good dealerships will give you some time to consider your decision. You’ll feel better about your purchase after you’ve thought it over—meaning it’ll be all smiles once you drive it home, instead of a sinking feeling that you’re stuck with something you don’t really want. 

By Brandon Daiker

Author: Emilie Quisenberry

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