The test drive. It is without doubt the most important step in the car-buying process—when done right, it can ensure you purchase the car that’s best for you. But wandering into a dealership and asking to drive a car can be intimidating, and knowing what exactly to ask the sales person about and what features of the car to pay attention to can be difficult to know. The following four tips will inform you on what to do during your trip to the dealership, as well as streamline your car-buying process.
Do your homework!
The Internet allows you to do much of your decision making from the comfort of your home. Rather than wandering onto the lot with no real idea about what you want, do your research online before going to the dealer. Figure out the model(s) and trim level(s) most up your alley and then call the dealer to make an appointment to test drive that exact vehicle. This will ensure you get the most relevant and accurate experience with your potential new car, and save you time to boot. That said, try and stay open minded to suggestions the sales person might have, as there are sometimes better options available which might be unknown to you. But overall, remember that an educated buyer will always make a better purchase decision than an uneducated buyer.
There’s more to a test drive than driving.
Once at the dealer for your test drive, don’t immediately jump behind the wheel and make like Mario Andretti. Walk around the car and absorb its details. Your research will have taught you much about the vehicle’s specifications and the sales person is there to fill in the gaps. How big is the trunk? How do the rear seats fold down? If putting a child in a car seat is relevant to you, how accessible are the rear seats? How does the driver’s door sound and feel when you close it? These are all important things to pay attention to. Next, get behind the wheel. Adjust the seat, steering wheel and mirrors to make sure you can find a comfortable driving position. Reach for the climate and radio control knobs to make sure they are comfortably within reach. Finally, ask the sales person to demonstrate how the various features of the vehicle work, from Bluetooth to satellite navigation to trip computer. These are the comfort features you may be living with on a daily basis for the next few years, so make sure they are intuitive to use.
Buckle up, turn the key, and put the “drive” in “test drive”.
Your daily commute probably involves hills, stop-and-go traffic, and less-than-perfect roads; ensure your test drive incorporates these conditions. Pay attention to the way the car feels through its steering wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal and gear lever. Make note of how the engine and transmission respond to inclines in the road. Ensure the car has enough lane-changing “oomph” and emergency-braking power, as this is the best time to figure those things out. Finally, if you’d like to keep conversation to a minimum while analyzing these features, ask the sales person to first demonstrate the vehicle’s driving attributes while you sit in the passenger seat. You can then switch seats and drive the vehicle in peace and quiet.
Familiarize yourself with the after-purchase aspects of the car and dealership.
Upon returning to the dealership, ask the sales person about the vehicle’s maintenance schedule and warranty. You can even ask them to show you around the dealer’s Service and Parts departments, as you may well be making use of these down the road. Finally, do not be shy to ask about payment plans and options, but do NOT feel pressured to make a deal if you are not ready to do so. We understand this. Clarkdale’s sales staff are specifically trained to put the customer in the driver’s seat and to avoid the typical “sales tactics” (you know what we mean), so they’ll understand completely when you say you’re going to “think about it”. Indeed, we like to “think about” such things too!
We hope these tips help inform and streamline your car-buying process. Following them won’t guarantee that you will love your new car forever and ever, but it will guarantee you maximize the chances of it. And those are odds worth getting behind.