Buying and owning taking a test drive

Autocar India
First Published: 19:59 IST(18/9/2012)
Last Updated: 12:48 IST(5/12/2012)
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Always test drive a car that you want to buy before putting your money down for it.

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Ever wonder why the sales guys at the dealership want to give you a test drive of the car? Because it’s the best sales pitch they can make. Experiencing the car first-hand will tell you more about  it than reading a brochure. No matter how much you read about it or hear from friends, there is really no substitute for driving a car and having a real-world feel for it.

Test driving a car, though, is not like a regular drive you undertake on an everyday basis. You will be basing your buying decision on the this drive and it’s essential that you take your time with it and pay close attention. Make sure you look at all the small things that are important to you. Here’s what you should do.

On your own terms

Make it a point to ask the dealer to send the car to the place of your choice, which can be your home or a friend’s. Most dealers don’t have a problem with this and it’s better to have things confirmed in advance rather than turning up at the dealership and being turned down on some silly pretense. Mention how long you want to drive the car for. This should ideally be for at least 45 minutes. Most dealers shouldn’t object to extended test drives, but if they do have a problem, tell them it’s important that you do or else you would rather buy the car from somewhere else. There will be a dealer representative who will accompany you on the drive. He is there to tell you about the car and its features. His goal is to make a sale and he will play up the car’s capabilities. Don’t be intimidated by him or cower under pressure. Do listen to him but make your own assessment and decisions.

No hurry

Don’t be in a rush to set off. A test drive doesn’t just mean driving only. It is an opportunity to evaluate the car in the real world, so make the most of it. Take a walk around the car and gauge the length and breadth of the car. Try the door handles, rearview mirrors, boot opening and assess if they are to your liking. Is operating them easy or does it take too much effort? See how wide the doors open and get in and out of the car to see if it’s easy to do so or not. Try and test drive the car with the family. They are also going to be with you in the car and it should meet their needs as well. Ask them to sit in the car and adjust the seats according to their comfort. Check if everyone is comfortable. Sit in the driver’s seat and adjust it according to your build. See if the view out the windshield is clear. Can you see clearly in the rearview mirrors? How is the visibility out the back? Are the controls placed within easy reach? Does your knee hit the centre console? What you should be looking at is how comfortable you are behind the wheel.

The drive

On a test drive, your aim should be to drive the car as much and for as long as possible. The more you drive it, the more you will learn about the car. Drive the car on the route you usually travel a lot on, like your office or business commute. This way, all your attention is on the car and not on where you are going. If you do a lot of highway driving, then take the car out on the highway. If you are going to be driving mainly in the city, then drive the car in urban traffic. Also drive the car on different surfaces. Is the car bouncing over bad roads? How much road noise is entering the cabin? Did the bumper scrape while going over the speedbreaker? Is the steering wheel light to turn? Is the clutch pedal heavy? Do the gears slot in neatly or do they require a lot of effort to engage? Gauge how the engine behaves in traffic. Does it pull easily and how much noise intrudes into the cabin? Do you need to shift gears too often to move in slow traffic? If yes, it will be a pain to drive the car on an everyday basis. On an empty stretch, test the brakes. Does the car stop quickly enough? Or did the brakes lock up too soon? How did the car behave under braking? Was it stable or did it scare you? Try parking it in the same parking spot you are likely to use every day and see if it fits without either the boot hanging out and with enough space to get out of the car easily. If there are things that you are likely to carry often like business materials or your own luggage, see if they fit in the
boot properly.

Features

Always ask the dealer for the specific variant that you are interested in buying. This way you can concentrate
on the features that you want and not those that you won’t be buying in the first place. Set the air-conditioner to
the coolest setting and see how fast it cools the cabin. If you want to buy the car with a music system, play some of
your own music and try out the various settings. If the car has a digital display/computer, try the different settings and see if they are really useful. Use the controls and test how easy they are to operate and whether they will last the test of time. Look for signs of possible trouble in the future and although it may seem like nit-picking, it is in your
best interest.

Post-drive

Keep the Test Drive Checklist handy (see box) and write notes for all the points to make the final judgement. The salesperson is likely to ask for your feedback at the end of the drive. Tell him what you liked and what you didn’t, but not everything, so he knows you are genuinely interested. He may pressure you into hurrying up with your decision to buy. Don’t give in and tell him you want time to think about the decision. You may have liked the car a lot, but you don’t have to tell him everything. This way you can have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating a good price for the car later.

Remember, a test drive is just a part of buying a new car but is as important as any other. Skip the test drive and you may be saddled with a car that is not suited to you. An actual drive gives a much better picture of things that you can expect in the future, so it’s best to keep your eyes and ears open and conduct a thorough check.

WhatCar Test Drive Tips

Try and take the family along. They will also be using the car and it’s better to buy a car that suits all the members of the family rather than just one.
All those family members who are expected to drive the car should also test drive it.
Always make it a point to test drive over a variety of surfaces.

While you are expected to put the car through its paces, make it a point not to go overboard with it. Driving a car beyond your or the car’s capability can be dangerous.

Don’t abuse the car by incessantly revving the engine.
If you have more than one car in mind, test drive them back-to-back to be able to draw a better comparison between them.
The salesperson is there to make a sale, so don’t just believe everything he says. If he’s talking too much while you drive, ask him to quieten down so you can concentrate.

Test drive checklist

Is it easy to get in and out of the car?

Are the seats comfortable?

Is there enough adjustment in the seat and steering wheel? Do you find it easy to see out and judge the size of the car?

Is there enough space and storage in the cabin for you and your belongings?

Will it be easy for your passengers to get in and out, or for you to get your children in and out? Will they be comfortable, and is there enough space for all of their things?

Is the boot big enough? Is it wide enough for items you transport often (for example, a pram or a bicycle)?
Do you like the way the car drives? Depending on what you want it for, is it smooth enough, sporty enough or quiet enough, for example?
What’s the car like in town, on faster roads, on the highway?

WHATCAR? SAYS

A test drive reveals the true character of the car. If you don’t like it the first time you drive it, how will you live with it later?


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