How to prepare yourself to test drive a new car

For most people test driving your dream car or potential new car is an exciting but stressful time.

The following check-list will help you prepare.

Before leaving home

  • Be prepared - make a list of exactly that you are looking for and what your trade-offs are likely to be. Be sure of the options or special features that are non-negotiable. Also be sure that you have informed yourself prior to the test drive about the specifications of your potential buys.
  • Familiarise yourself with the respective dealerships that you will be visiting and who are their top salespeople.
  • Make an appointment and ensure that the vehicle/s you are looking at will be available for a test drive.
  • Make copies of your driver's license and insurance and take them with you should the need arise.

  • At the dealership

  • You are the boss - view the salesperson as somebody that works for you and you are in control. Don't let them bully you into anything. If you are not happy with the service that you are getting from the person, "fire" them and walk away.
  • Don't bring a trade-in into the conversation - maintain control by informing them you haven't yet made a decision, should it come up from their side. Don't pass over your keys - this way, once the test drive is over, you can leave.
  • Getting ready to drive

  • Test drive the version closest to what you want - You will not get any benefit from test driving a V-6 if you want a 1400cc etc.
  • Get a demo of all the features - get the salesperson to give you a full demonstration of all the car's features before you even get behind the wheel.
  • Take a seat in every seating position - Will your passengers be comfortable? This is especially important if you are going to be transporting others, like a car-pool.
  • Test getting in and out of the car - you need to make sure that you can easily get in and out of the car without bumping your head or knocking your shin against anything.
  • The test drive

  • Pre-plan your test course - if you have some special requirements to make sure you test the vehicle fully - explain to the salesperson your requirement and their suggestion as to take the best route. Allow yourself a minimum of 30 minutes for the test drive.
  • How clear is your view - Do you have a clear view of the traffic? Are there any blind spots? This is critically important to know before you actually purchase the vehicle.
  • Stepping on it - how responsive is the car in stop-and-go traffic? Does it keep up with the other cars on the road? Does the car respond well when trying to pass other cars or merging with other traffic?
  • Parking - take the time to park the car in various positions - how does it handle?
  • Braking - Find an empty space where you can attempt a hard brake to see how the car responds in that situation and get a feel for how much space the car requires when braking in normal traffic. This alone could be the deciding factor to whether you purchase the car or not.
  • Finally, once the test drive is over, do not feel that you are obligated to buy the vehicle. A test drive is exactly that - you wanting to see if this would be the vehicle for you.....

    Remember, you are the boss - thank the sales person for the drive and leave.