The test drive is a crucial part of the car buying process, especially when looking at new cars for the first time. If you have always bought used cars, your test drives might have involved listening for unusual engine noises and checking that the steering didn't vibrate. The objective was to check whether the car worked properly.
When purchasing a new car, whose unspoilt components are in perfect working order, the goal of the test drive is to determine whether the car works for you. Key to achieving this is making sure the test drive conditions reflect real life.
Think about who will use the vehicle
If you're purchasing a family car, take your partner and children on the test drive in order to check whether everyone can be accommodated. If you have young children who use child seats, make sure you can fit and remove the seats easily, and that they don't affect your driving position.
Are you part of a rideshare scheme? It's probably unrealistic to take three or four other commuters along on your test drive, but you need to check whether the car can comfortably accommodate several adults. Why not ask your salesperson and some of their colleagues to sit in the car before you embark on the test drive, so you can gauge comfort and check visibility?
Consider the load you're carrying
If you use your boot for nothing more than your weekly grocery shop, you can probably assess the suitability of the load space by eye. But what if you need to carry a baby stroller or a walking frame?
Take essential items such as these when you go on your test drive, so you can check whether they fit into the boot.
Drive like you own the car
It's understandable that you will drive a car that you don't yet own with the utmost care, but conducting a test drive only on quiet roads at 40 km/h isn't helpful.
When you own the car, you will experience a range of driving conditions, which may involve busy highways, so you need to know how the car holds up under such conditions. Including a major road in your test drive enables you to accelerate, cruise, and overtake.
Embrace the new technology
Manufacturers are constantly developing their vehicles, so it's possible that you will be confronted with some unfamiliar features. For example, your current car may have parking sensors, but your intended purchase may have a reversing camera fitted as standard.
Instead of waiting until you have bought the car and fumbling through the instruction manual, use the test drive to familiarise yourself with such features. Try parking the car with the aid of the camera – and make sure you do it in a crowded multi-storey car park, if that's what you would normally use. Remember: keep the test drive conditions as close to real life as you can.