Tips for Taking a Proper Test-Drive

People are starting to get their tax refunds back and many intend to use some or all of that refund money to make a down payment or purchase a vehicle outright. If you’re planning to make some test drives soon, Michael Zak from AOL Autos offers these tips for taking a thorough test drive to make sure you love a vehicle before you buy it.

Take your time
Remember, buying a new car is a major decision that involves a lot of money. And seeing as you’ll most likely keep the car you buy for the next several years, make sure to give the car a good, thorough test before pulling the trigger.

Drive along different roads at different speeds — city streets, highways, residential roads, etc. Basically, you should try to replicate your daily driving to get as accurate an idea as possible of how the car is going to perform under your normal driving conditions.

Too often, drivers rush through the test drive, due to schedule crunches, not wanting to be around the salesman or just plain apathy about cars in general. Trust us — take a good, long time when you’re on the road. It will pay off in the long run.

Park it
In addition to driving, it’s important to try parking the car you’re testing out.

Is it easy or difficult to parallel park? Are there big blind spots that interfere with backing out of a space? Is it maneuverable enough to meet your daily parking needs? Can you get in and out with ease? These are aspects of car ownership that a lot of people don’t think about, which can turn into issues after it’s already too late.

Play with the tech and other features
Familiarize yourself with the information system if the vehicle is equipped with one. Is it easy to use or does it seem clunky and distracting? Play with the radio and see how the speakers sound. If the vehicle is equipped with a Bluetooth system, take a minute and connect your phone to make sure the Bluetooth connection works.

Additionally, it’s important to ask about and test out other features that you think are going to be important to your ownership experience. Find out how the luggage rack works and see how easy the seats fold down, for instance. 

So much goes into driving a car in addition to working the gas, brakes and steering that you should absolutely devote some time to testing these things out.

Test the handling as the driver and the passenger
Get a feel for how the car drives from the perspective of the driver and the passenger. A vehicle’s handling can be a very important aspect of your ownership experience. Although you may love the way a certain car looks, the way it drives can make or break how much you actually enjoy having the car.

Make sure that the car you’re thinking about buying has the suspension that you want (too tight, too soft or just right), has good braking performance, steers the way you want it to and has the right amount of power for you.

If you’re going to have passengers regularly, ride in the front and back seats to ensure that others are in for a comfortable experience.

Listen for anything and everything
At some point during your test drive turn the radio off and, since many car salesman will talk throughout the drive, ask them to kindly zip it for a few minutes so you can listen for any issues with the car.

Wind noise is a major complaint for many drivers, so make sure that the cabin is well insulated from it. Additionally, listen hard for any clunks or rattles. Anything that sounds out of place should be investigated, as it could point to safety issue or expensive repair down the line. Odd sounds should be looked at by an independent mechanic before purchasing a new vehicle.

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