Car Buying

Don't Skip These Steps on Your Next Test Drive

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author photo by Brian Moody March 2017

The test drive is one of the most important parts of the car-buying process. It's your opportunity to make sure the car you're considering truly fits you and your lifestyle. Here are the steps you'll want to take when you get behind the wheel of your potential new ride:

1. Come prepared with people and stuff.

Your test drive should closely mimic the way you use your car in day-to-day driving, so you need to bring the people and items that typically ride with you. If you have a family, take them along. Try a child safety seat to see how it fits. Throw your golf bag in the trunk. See if your lanky teenager can sit comfortably in the back seat. If you're single and typically drive alone, bring a friend. You'll benefit from the help of a sidekick anyway.

2. Request a longer test drive.

When you take a test drive with a dealership salesperson, it's likely that the usual route won't be very long. Nearly any salesperson will allow a longer test drive if a shopper requests it, especially if they're serious about making a sale. Make sure you test the road in your typical driving conditions: through neighborhoods, on the highway -- and in rush hour traffic if your daily commute has you in tenuous stop-and-go traffic. And if possible, don't forget to drive it home and park it in your garage to see if it fits.

3. Drive on rough roads.

One of the most important places to go on a test drive is on rough roads to find out how a car drives on harsh surfaces. It would be no fun to drive home in a new car and discover later that the ride is too jarring for you to handle.

4. Drive on curvy roads.

After you've driven on a rough road and on the highway, your next stop should be a road with some curves. You'll want to do this in order to feel the physics of the car. Is it too top-heavy? Do its motions make you carsick? And of course, do you feel like the steering and handling are adequate for your needs? A curvy road is the best place to answer each of those questions.

5. Try parking the car in various scenarios.

Many shoppers forget a crucial aspect of driving that can be very stressful: parking. That's why we strongly suggest you take any vehicle and try to park it in different parking places like a crowded parking lot and even a parallel parking space. If you do, you might discover potential flaws with the car, such as a large turning radius or poor visibility. Of course, you also might find out that the car is easy to park, which can only be a good thing.

6. Test the infotainment system and connect your phone.

The interface for making phone calls, answering texts and accessing the maps on your phone is probably the portion of the car you'll interact with many times per day -- second only to the steering wheel and seats. Make sure the pairing is easy and the graphics are large enough to read at a glance. If at all possible, look for a system that is very easy to use, like Chrysler's Uconnect or either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Don't Skip These Steps on Your Next Test Drive - Autotrader