Buying a Car, the Easy way; Step 3

Step 3: The Test Drive

Just because you fall in love with the first car you test drive, does not mean you should buy it!  Make sure you test drive all the cars on your list, and take some time in between test drives (if you take more than one test drive in a day) to gather your thoughts.  Remember that you aren’t picking out a new cell phone – a new (or new-to-you) car is an expensive purchase, one which usually takes years to pay off, and you might own for many more after that.  Take the time to play with all the buttons, look for blind spots, park the car in a parking spot at a location you might visit, and especially put the car on the highway.  You might even close your eyes while parked and try and reach all the stalks on the steering wheel, audio and HVAC buttons, anything you may need to adjust while driving.  This information goes for the dealership as well.  You’ll likely be bringing your car in for routine maintenance or warranty work, so make sure the dealership has at least one person you can work with.  If you come across a high-pressure salesperson, tell them you’d rather deal with their manager or another salesperson.  They’ll switch people out until you’re happy, because after all, for each car they sell to a happy customer, an average of two more people will visit that dealership, through word of mouth on your part.

Continue reading after the break for a crib sheet of things to look for during a test drive:

Blind Spots (where, how many?)
Parking (will it fit in normal parking spots, or be tough to parallel park?)
Power (enough to pass if need be?)
Control placement (audio, HVAC, wipers, headlights)
Seating Position (will you be comfortable for road trips, as well as shorter drives?)

Beyond those, make sure you really like the car.  It might take an hour or more to get a good feel for the car.  Make sure that you don’t fatigue after driving the car more than a short trip (easy to test for if you have a lot of traffic in your area).  Finally, make sure that there isn’t something missing that you’d prefer to have.  If there is, try driving another of that model which has the extra option(s).  Other than portable GPS, it can be rather expensive to upgrade a car you’ve already bought, and you don’t generally get much in return for the money you spent on aftermarket upgrades.  Use these test drives to figure out which car is best for you.  Make lists beforehand of things which are non-negotiable for you, and take notes after the test drive, while it’s still fresh in your mind.  This will help you later when narrowing the cars down to the one you will buy.

By John Suit

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