Used and New Vehicles Too many times buyers bypass this critical step. In order to determine if the vehicle is best suited for you and your lifestyle, you need to drive it to make that determination.

If you are going through a dealership, the sales person will need to photocopy your driver’s license, which is standard procedure protecting them.

For all vehicles being test driven, you should check the following:

  • Blind Spots – Are there any portions of the vehicle blocking your vision, causing potential safety issues?
  • Steering Wheel – Are you able to adjust the steering wheel so you are comfortable behind the wheel?
  • Getting in and out of the vehicle – When entering or exiting the vehicle do you have difficulty in any way?
  • Gauges – Are the gauges such as speedometer and fuel easy to see?
  • Engine – Does the engine have the appropriate amount of power or does it seem sluggish when in climbing or passing mode?
  • Transmission – Is the vehicle shifting gears smoothly? If the vehicle is not an automatic, do the gears shift with ease? Are there any issues with the clutch?
  • Comfort – How does the vehicle ride overall? Is it smooth or bumpy?

Used Vehicles

If you are considering buying a used vehicle from a private party and they do not provide you with an opportunity to take a test drive, do not buy the vehicle. No matter whom you purchase a used vehicle from, you are entitled to test drive it.

Without doubt, you should have a trained mechanic inspect any used vehicle that you are thinking of buying. Inform your mechanic of any problems with the clutch or brakes, smoke spilling out of the exhaust or if the vehicle pulled to one side during your test drive.

New Vehicles

Do not allow yourself to be suckered into taking a quick 10-minute cruise around the dealership’s area. If the sales person tries to convince you that this is sufficient, go to another dealership. Often times, especially for new vehicles, the dealer will allow the potential buyer to take the vehicle home overnight so an appropriate test drive can be done. Avoid the urge to jump in the vehicle and quickly drive it around the block a few times only to return and sign on the dotted line. Instead, you need to take control over the situation. Let the sales person know that you are not a “quick sale.”

Walk around and look at the vehicle – really look at it. Do you see anything that appears to be out of alignment such as the paint, or striping, or bumpers and grills?

Sit in the driver’s seat. How does it feel? Are the controls for the seats, mirrors, air, radio, and hazard lights easy to work? Are you able to make adjustments without having to change your focus from the road to the controls? Then move around to the passenger side and do the same thing. If you plan to have other people in your vehicle on a regular basis, sit in the back seat as well. Is there enough room? How does the vehicle feel from every angle?

Open and close the trunk and envision anything such as luggage, groceries, or sport’s equipment that would need to be loaded into the trunk. Is it easily accessible? Does the trunk offer enough room? Is there a regular size spare tire or a temporary donut?

Now imagine yourself driving this vehicle four years down the road. Do you think you would still be content with it? Do you envision that it will serve your purpose or do you need to shop around some more?

During this entire process, do not allow the sales person to talk you into anything. If they want to hurry you along to the test drive, do not fall into that trap. Politely explain that you want to first check things out and once satisfied, you will test-drive the vehicle. Be polite but firm.

Once you have determined that you would like to move to the next step and actually take a test drive, request that you drive the actual vehicle you would be purchasing and not a model off the showroom floor. It is common to purchase a vehicle other than the one you test-drove only to find noises or that it handles very differently.

When you start your test-drive, more than likely the sales person will have a pre-planned route for you to take. Insist that you drive where you want to drive and be sure to include highway testing. Try to take the vehicle on various surfaces to see how it handles. When test-driving on the highway, note the vehicle’s power when merging, or overtaking with acceleration. Does the vehicle offer what you need?

If you are test-driving a SUV or any other four-wheel drive vehicle, always engage the four-wheel drive in addition to standard driving.

In a safe area with no other vehicles around, try the brakes. Make sure that when they stop that they do so forcefully. A gentle stop will not do. Apply the brakes as though you had to avoid hitting something. How does the vehicle respond? Does the seat belt pull tight, as it should? This will probably make the sales person nervous so you should probably only stop like that once. However, it is important, especially if the vehicle offers anti-lock brakes.

As you drive, carefully listen for any strange noises such as air seeping into a window, rattles, or squeaks. If the vehicle comes equipped with a sun or moon roof, open and close it to see if the seal is tight.

Even if the sales person is coaxing you back to the dealership, remind yourself that you are the customer and this is your purchase. You need to ensure that the vehicle you are putting your money into is the right one.

After finishing your test drive, continue to be very non-committal. If you are interested in the vehicle you just drove, take down all the pertinent information so when you are finished test-driving vehicles from other dealerships, you will be able to quickly find that particular vehicle again.

The next move on the sales person’s part will be to try to lure you inside to begin the negotiation process. Politely decline stating that you have another appointment and ask for a business card. This allows you to look at other vehicles and dealerships and not make any quick decisions based on pressure.

The sales person will more than likely try to engage you in continued conversation but stick to your plan.