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How Important Is the Test Drive to Car Buyers?

Each year, Autotrader reviews hundreds of new vehicles across all major segments and then narrows them down to a list of the top offerings recommended for test drives. You can check out our most-recent selections on our list of 12 Must Test Drive Cars of 2018. But this year, while putting together the annual list, we stopped to take an independent poll and study just how important test drives are to those shopping for a new car, as well as their opinions about the entire process. The findings were eye-opening.

As we suspected, the poll confirms that test drives are a high priority for the purchase decision, with as many as 67 percent of respondents considering it a “very important” part of the buying process. Absent a test drive, the majority of adults say they would feel comfortable buying a vehicle if they had either test driven the same model previously (66 percent) or if they had done sufficient research in advance of the purchase (57 percent).

Demographically, women (74 percent) and middle-income adults (70 percent) — those making between $50K and $100K — are most likely to say test drives are important prior to purchase. And among adults who have taken test drives, nearly three in four say they ended up buying the vehicle, with those immediately in the market for a new car being the most likely to have purchased a car the same day they test drove it.

In terms of preparing for the shopping experience, 48 percent of adults say scheduling a test drive during their next car purchase would be “very appealing.” This opinion was even shared by those who have never taken one.

When it comes to the actual test drive, highway driving is the most appealing type of experience for prospective buyers (49 percent). Shoppers also prefer to take their test drives without the salesperson riding along (41 percent).

On the grander scale, respondents were asked what else they would want to test drive in life, aside from vehicles. The largest share of adults said a new job (45 percent), followed by a new house (38 percent) and a new city (36 percent). A new relationship came in at 30 percent.

The methodology for the poll was based on a national sample of 2,200 adults.

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