After weeks of searching countless car websites, reading tons of articles, reviewing expert’s opinions and crunching the numbers, you’ve finally found your dream car. There’s just one problem – you actually have never driven, let alone touched the vehicle you want to buy.
Thankfully, you can test drive the vehicle before you buy. Here are some items you want to be conscious of when you take the car for a spin (Insight provided by the author and Consumer Reports):
Size of the vehicle
Most vehicles are built for people of average height. If you’re tall, like me, you want to make sure you have enough head room and leg room in the driver’s seat. If you have to push the driver’s seat all the way back to feel comfortable, would a passenger fit comfortably behind you?
If you’re on the shorter side, check whether or not the chair can be raised and how far it can be moved forward. Keep in mind, you should always sit at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel so that the airbag can deploy properly.
Unless you’re forever alone, you want to test the rest of the seats as well. Will your friends or family be comfortable sitting in the back? If you have baby seats, bring them to the car and make sure they fit and you’re still comfortable in the driver’s seat. Don’t forget to see how much junk you can put in your trunk.
Here’s a quick comparison of new car specs from headroom to legroom and everything in-between.
Acceleration and Deceleration
Here comes the fun part, the actual test drive. Most stores will have a test course they will want you to drive. Even though the drive is short, make sure to put some of the car’s features to use.
Push the pedal to the metal (while keeping within the speed limit) to see how quickly the car accelerates. You want the car to speed up smoothly and not feel lumbering. The car’s acceleration lets you pass other cars with ease, drive up steep inclines and safely merge into busy traffic.
Now that you’re going fast, you’ll have to slow down. Tap on the brakes. Are they responsive? Some drivers like a quick response when they tap their brakes, other like a gradual response. That’s up to you. However, just like the acceleration, the brakes should be smooth.
You’ll want to see how the vehicle responds to drastic steering maneuvers. We’re not giving you permission to see if the car drifts. Rather, you want to feel how well the vehicle reacts when you move the steering wheel. Again, there is no right or wrong. You should be comfortable with the level of responsiveness.
When you finish your test drive, try out the turning ratio when you park the vehicle. Can the vehicle fit in a tight space or will you have to make a 12-point turn whenever you have to park?
Looking for something more?
Want more information on test drives? Edmunds has a list of other things to look for. But before you go, please take the time to answer our survey.