Buying any car, new or used, is a time when you need to be in charge of your judgment
You’re going into an environment where there’s lots of lights and shiny metal, all fighting for your attention
In the midst of all this, you’ve got to make a reasoned decision which involves a pretty big pile of money, and will hopefully result in a long, happy and fulfilling relationship with the car of your choice. No pressure then!
That’s why your test drive, and what you learn from it, is absolutely crucial.
But then, you’re driving a strange car, with someone you’ve never met before sat beside you. Keeping your concentration while there are all sorts of questions running through your head might be a bit difficult.
So take your time, do a bit of preparation and let Swansway Group talk you through the process.
What Type Of Test Drive?
Once you’ve decided which cars to put on your shortlist, you’ll have to take a look at the type of test drives on offer. It could be that you get the chance to drive on some local roads for 15 or 20 minutes, with a sales person sat alongside you. This is great because it allows you to get a feel for the car and familiarise yourself with a few of the controls.
If you’re lucky, you might be offered the chance to take a car out unaccompanied so you can get to know its features better and at your own pace. You’ll be able to take it along a wider variety of roads to test more of its capabilities. In conjunction with their dealers, many manufacturers offer extended test drives, which might last 24 or even 48 hours. Find out from your local dealership which kind of test drive they are able to offer.
The question of insurance isn’t a problem when you take a test drive and someone from the garage sits with you – you’ll be covered under the dealer’s own trade policy. But if you’re test driving a car solo, you’ll have to check that your own insurance lets you do so. Check whether your policy has what’s called ‘DOC’, or ‘driving other cars’ cover, which will usually include wording such as: ‘The policyholder may drive another car with the owner’s permission’.
If you know you’re going to be test-driving a few cars, the AA also says you might be able to get your insurer to extend your existing cover – it’s always worth checking with them to be on the safe side.
Preparing For Your Test Drive
If you have children, then you’ll know the big part they’ll play in deciding your choice of car, so you need to make sure it’s comfortable and has enough room for them – and all of their gadgets! Bringing them to see the car is the best way to do this. While they won’t be able to sit in the car with you while you’re driving (so you’ll need to bring someone to keep an eye on them while you are out on the road), it’s important that they get to check the car over and see how it copes with everything that your kids can throw at it.
Equally, if you’re buying a car in which you expect your dog to regularly travel, check that they’ll fit in the space where they’ll be taking their trips. Probably wise to leave your four-legged friend at home though!
You’ll also need to make sure that you’ve set aside enough time for the test drive – a rush job just won’t do it! You won’t be in the right frame of mind to ask the right questions or learn what you need to know about the car if you keep looking at the clock.
Ahead of the drive, also try to read a few reviews of the car you’re looking at. There’s a tonne of information available online and you can use this to get to know what standard gear is fitted to the car, as well as getting some idea of whether it will tick all of your boxes.
The Drive Itself
- Car dealerships will always have a handful of set routes which they’ll use for test drives. You’ll need to find out how the car will fit into your life so you should take it along some of the roads you’ll be using regularly, if at all possible, and on a good mix of roads will give you the best idea of how the car handles and behaves in different traffic situations.
- This isn’t the time to test out the in-car radio or sound system. You need to fully concentrate on the sounds the car is making as you drive, so you know what to expect, and get attuned to them. You can check all the audio and technology features out when you get back to the dealership!
- Spend some time exploring the controls before you set off. You shouldn’t think of the test drive as being like your driving test, but you still need to be able to focus on the car’s features. So at least familiarise yourself with the layout of the controls – using pictures from a brochure or the internet perhaps – so you have a fair idea of what they do. With cars now coming loaded with gadgets such as reversing cameras and Bluetooth phone capability, you’ll need to know how these work – especially if you haven’t got them on your current car. Don’t be afraid to ask the sales advisor, too!
- Are you sitting comfortably? The above also applies to the driver’s seat. Make sure you know how to adjust it, and that it’s set just how you want it before you move off.
- If possible, take a tour of the car park. This gives you the chance to get comfortable with the car before venturing out onto the open road.
Don’t restrict yourself to test driving just one car. No matter how convinced you are that a car’s just right for you – and your test drive seems to reinforce your opinion – you’ll feel far more confident about your choice if you’ve got something else, apart from your current car, to compare it to. Then, when you’re certain, go back and test drive your top choice again!
When you’re spending your hard-earned money, and probably committing to doing so over several years, it’s much better if you can be as critical as possible during your first time with the car.
Time invested in learning about the features of both new cars and used cars, how they work and what they do will be well spent when it comes to putting them to the test. And once you’ve test driven a few cars, you’ll soon know the score, and what you need to find out so that you can choose wisely.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the test drive. You’ll be more open to any useful information the sales advisor tells you, and be relaxed enough to find out everything you want to know.
If you’re looking for your next car, take a closer look at the wide choice of cars available at your local Swansway Group dealership, and book a test drive today. Three-quarters of our customers give us a maximum five-star rating on review site TrustPilot, so you can be sure that we’ll put your needs first, and take the time to make buying your next car an enjoyable experience.