How to Make the Most of Your Test Drive

Test driving a shiny new car that could soon be yours can be fun and exciting – just you, the car and the open road (ok, maybe a more restricted route around the car dealership and a little less solitude thanks to a chatty salesperson, but you get the gist). To really develop a feel for the car and how it drives, as well as determine if it’s the right fit for you and your lifestyle, you need to find out everything you can on that minutes-long joyride. Here are a few things to consider during the test drive to help you properly evaluate your possible new baby before signing on the dotted line

Be specific about the car you’ll be driving

If possible, request a test drive in the actual vehicle you’d like to purchase as this eliminates any surprises. Opt for the exact model and trim of the car you’re interested in as different engines, tyres and trims can affect the way a car feels when it drives.

Bring along commonly-used goodies

If you use your phone, other devices or specific cords while driving, be sure to arrive with them to test how well they work with the new car’s system. Also, take note of the car’s storage capacity – will your on-the-go mug fit in the cupholders? Will your child’s car seat and pram store easily inside? Your lifestyle should determine your vehicle choice, not the other way around.

Experiment with the controls

You won’t be pleased if you’re stuck with a car that has an aircon that only flips between Antarctic and Volcanic, or sounds like it’s trying to connect with the mothership every time you switch on the radio. Take some time to try out the air-conditioning, infotainment and audio systems. These should all be user-friendly and adjustable, according to your preferences.

Observe everything from your ideal position

Before you turn the key, set the driver’s seat to your ideal sitting position. Check mirror visibility, rear visibility and how easy it is to monitor the car’s four corners. Are you comfortable with the overall view provided by the car, and would you feel safe driving the car at night? Simple factors like this can mean the difference between a car you’ll enjoy and one that will only bring you grief.

Mix it up and listen carefully

Ideally, you should take the car for a spin on different road surfaces to really evaluate how it handles on multiple terrains. Listen and feel how the car behaves on smooth roads, highway on-ramps and even potholes or bumps. Are there any abnormal noises, such as rattles or squeaks, coming from the engine or suspension? How loud is the wind noise at higher speeds? Does the car vibrate violently or is it more cushioned? Strange noises can be an indicator of serious problems a few months down the line, so this extra bit of investigating is well worth it.

Practice braking and parking

The brakes of a car can literally save you in life-threatening situations, so it’s imperative to test out their effectiveness. Find an empty parking lot and press down on the pedal, gently at first and then aggressively, to see if the brakes slow the car down in a straight, controlled manner. Parking is another area where a car and its driver should be perfectly in tune, so it’s time to practice those alley-docking and parallel parking skills to make sure you’re picking a vehicle that’s easy to manage in tight spots.

Looking cool in the driver’s seat of a snazzy new car is great, but that won’t necessarily get you from A to B safely and comfortably. A test drive is the ideal opportunity for you to weigh up a car’s drivability, functionality and user-friendliness before you fork out your hard-earned cash.