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What to Pay Attention to on a Test Drive


The test drive cannot be overlooked. It is one of the most important — and also probably the most fun — parts of the car-buying process. It's your chance to "try before you buy," so you are going to want to take your time, cover all of the bases, and ask a lot of questions.

But before you head to the dealership for a test drive, you are going to want to do some research. Decide what features and options are necessary and identify a few choices that fit your needs and budget. Once you narrow down your options, you can use the test drive to see if everything you've researched translates to what you experience behind the wheel.

You can make the most of your test drives by paying attention to several things and asking yourself and the salesperson a lot of questions. Some people also like to bring a family member or friend along. This way, they can try to pick up on stuff that you may overlook.

Here are some key areas that you will want to focus on.

Interior Comfort and Convenience

Car Test Drive

You will want to get in and sit down to check everything out before starting the actual drive. This way you can get a feel for head-, hip- and legroom in the front and back seats, if the seats are comfortable, all-around visibility, and the positioning of all of the car's controls.

Here are some of the questions you need to be asking yourself:

  • Can the mirrors, seat, steering wheel, and/or pedals be adjusting to a comfortable level for you?
  • How is the visibility from the driver's seat? How are the blind spots?
  • Are the buttons, gauges and controls easy to reach and operate?
  • Safety Systems

    Another thing that you can do before you begin the driving portion of the test drive is inquire about the safety features. Also note that it is a good idea to check out crash test ratings before heading to the dealership.

    The salesperson should be able to explain the vehicle's safety systems. If you are looking at a newer model, there's a possibility that the vehicle houses many advanced safety features.

    If you have the salesperson point them out and explain how they work, you can get a feel for how these systems perform in action on your drive.

    Ride, Handling, and Performance

    Now it's time to quite literally get the show on the road. In order to make the most of your test drive, you will want to drive the car for a long enough period of time at various speeds over different types of road surfaces.

    Also, you should aim to simulate the type of driving you do on a daily basis. This way you can see if it can meet your driving requirements. For example, if you commute on highways, you need to take it on one to see how it performs getting up to and at highway speeds.

    A good tip is to turn the radio off to put all of your focus and attention on the drive. It's important to have all hands, eyes and ears on deck. These are the types of questions you should be seeking answers to:

  • Is the ride smooth or can you feel every bump in the road?
  • Are the brakes too grabby?
  • Does the engine provide enough power to seamlessly accelerate to highway speeds? How about in passing situations?
  • How does it handle around a corner?
  • Is the ride quiet? Is the car making any squeaking or rattling noises while in motion? Can you hear the wind through gaps in the vehicle when traveling at higher speeds?
  • If the salesperson insists on you following a pre-determined route, politely let them know how important it is that you simulate your everyday driving needs. Some people also find that they prefer to leave the salesperson behind while on the test drive so they can focus better.

    The Bottom Line

    The goal of the test drive is to figure out if you can see yourself driving/owning that particular car for years to come. That can be difficult to do in such a short amount of time, but following these tips can help you make the most out of your test drives.

    Many Canadians dealing with credit issues aren't very concerned about test driving vehicles. Instead, they are simply wondering if they can get approved for an auto loan in the first place.

    If you have poor credit and seek car financing, Canada Auto Loan is here to help. We can connect you with a local dealership that specializes in assisting people with imperfect credit. Get the process started right now by completing our free and easy online auto loan request.