Page 1: Before You Drive
Test drives aren't just about kicking the tires, or even taking a car for a spin around the block. The right choice includes a thorough inspection--the car you buy must fit your needs, lifestyle and demands. Make sure you're prepared when you get behind the wheel with this comprehensive guide to vehicle test drives.
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN):______________
Equipment (Standard and Optional): If possible, get a copy of the sticker.
Before You Drive
The Walkaround is a very important part of the test drive, and you're not even inside the car. Let's face it: except for the gearheads and racers, we pretty much buy a car on looks and comfort. Does it say what I want to say to the world, within my budget and credit rating? Making sure it's a look you'll love for at least three years is all part of the test drive, baby, so buckle up and let's take a walk:
Looks can Kill
What does the styling say? Middle-aged guy in a crisis, little ol' granny, or Mommy just bought me a car? Hey…is it you?
- Is the color appealing?
- What other cars does it remind you of?
- Are there any blemishes, fades or other defects?
- Are the doors, trunk, and hood easy to operate?
- Are they heavy? Do they sound tight?
- Tires and wheels: standard or optional?
- Are the windows UV-protected?
- Dealer-installed options?
- Special features?
Page 2: Pop the Hood
Will your father-in-law be impressed?
Page 3: Luggage in the Trunk
If you had to get out of town in a jiffy, could you do it easily?
Page 4: What's on the Inside Counts Most
Does the interior make you feel like a chump…or a champ?
Page 5: Pedal to the Metal
Okay, now for the fun part. Grab the keys, get in and tell the salesman to buckle up. But don't test how much air you can get out of the dealership parking lot. Instead, focus on real world situations. Drive in traffic? Get it in a jam. Freeway driver? Get out there and test it on lane changes, sudden braking and acceleration. Most dealerships will have a test drive route that includes main types of driving situations, so it's not too hard to give the car a decent test. If the salesperson gives you lip and tries to whip around the block with a smile and a chuckle, tell him to stuff it-politely. You may not be able to go on a road trip, but 15-20 minutes is a reasonable request.
Whoooeee! Power, Performance and Acceleration
Does it have the power you need to feel like a real Speed Racer?
Page 6: Safety Systems & Braking
Only the most important part of a car. Fortunately, more and more safety features are coming standard these days. Be sure to check what's standard (side air bags?) or optional.
Page 7: Steering and Handling
When you turn left, how long does it take the vehicle to actually move? The correct answer should be immediately, but ya never know...
Page 8: Ride Comfort
Is driving down the road like a dream, or a water buffalo? Unless you're in the luxury market, it's probably somewhere inbetween.
Page 9: Noise Levels
Do you have to yell at the passengers in the back? If you've got small children, aren't you always yelling anyway? At least make sure they hear you loud and clear.
Page 10: Overall Driveability and Comfort
Does the vehicle seem too BIG, too SMALL, or JUST RIGHT when you're driving?
Okay, put it all together and answer these questions:
What will people say when they see you in this car? (Nerd, Dope, Cool Daddy-o who knows his stuff, Money bags, Naïve little lamb, Cheapskate, Loser)
Trade offs? What do you hate the most about this car?
Must-haves? What do you love most?
Future problems? Often, a car's weaknesses don't come out until around 30,000 miles. What do you think it'll be?