One of the most commonly-given advice to car buyers is to test drive the vehicle of their choice before putting money down on it. But there is only so much one can learn in a 15-minute drive around the showroom block – there isn’t the time to thoroughly inspect the car’s various intricacies and different facets of its character when driven in differing conditions.
Ideally, we’d all like to take our prospective cars back home and live with it for a week or two before making our purchase decision, but no dealership will have enough test cars to go around for such a practice. A short test drive is therefore what most of us will have to make do with, and here are some tips on how you can maximize your time behind the wheel to learn what you can about the car:
1. Read Up Before You Turn Up: With information as widely available on the World Wide Web as it is today, there is no excuse for you to turn up at the showroom armed not even with passing knowledge of the vehicle of your interest. Granted that we are still some way from buying and selling cars online eBay or Lazada style, but the bulk of your research can now be readily completed after visiting the manufacturer’s official website and also reading reviews online. Every car reviewer has a different opinion, so be sure to read from a few sources to get a better picture of what to expect. Take note of points that are highlighted by more than one reviewer.
2. Bring the Family: Single? Married? With Kids? Even if you are buying the car for your own personal use, your family members will be spending a lot of time in it as well – it makes sense to include them in the selection process too. Can the boot swallow a pram? Is there space for all inside? Can everybody get in and out of the car comfortably?
3. Bring all your ‘barang’: What objects do you always carry when you leave the house? Be sure to bring all these items along and see where you can put them in the car. Are the cubby holes big enough to keep your keys and wallet? Where would you stow away your Smart Tag or pouch? For the ladies, where would your handbag go? Just remember to take all your things back after the test drive.
4. Light Up: Showroom test drives happen during day time, but owning a car also includes many hours spent in the night. Examine the car's interior lighting layout and imagine if it will be good enough for those situations where you may need some light to search for things in the dark. For cars that still start the old-fashioned way, check that the ignition keyhole has surrounding illumination. If possible during the test drive later, drive under a flyover or through a tunnel with the lights switched on and see if important buttons are adequately illuminated.
5. All the Small Things: The smallest things can often lead to the biggest annoyance. Before going for the test drive, take note of all the key features in your current car that you've been accustomed to living with, and check whether they are present in the new one. A good example will be steering audio controls, some cars allow you to flip through your favourite channels by flicking a rocker switch, but not every car has this feature - if your new car omits this, can you live with it? Boot release is another example, some cars provide a handle at the boot, others require you to pull a release in the cabin, which is to your fancy?
6. Find a Good Seating Position: Most of us would be keen to hit the road running as soon as the engine is fired up, but it pays to check the range of positional adjustment offered by the steering and seats. Can you find an optimal seating position that will give you the best all-round visibility? Get the salesman to take you through the infotainment and climate control setup as well – are the controls friendly and intuitive enough for use?
7. Follow your normal driving pattern: Yes, we understand the excitement of test driving a new car and the urge to give it the beans at every opportunity; but if you are test driving with the intention to buy, it makes sense to cool off the enthusiasm a little and drive the car as if it is already yours. The idea here is to see how the car fits your normal pattern of driving. Do you like the steering’s weight? Throttle response? Brake response? Gear shifts? How easy is the car to maneuver in tight spaces? That being said, do indulge yourself a little when the road is clear.
8. Go for a second round: There is nothing to say that you cannot test drive a car again. If you are uncertain of the car after one test drive, ask the salesperson if he or she is game for another round, or repeat the process at another showroom. If you are considering between more than one car, do try to test your prospective cars as close to each other as you can, within the same day if possible. The upcoming Carlist.my MAA Drive, Test & Buy event happening on 13 to 14 May is where you will have the opportunity to test drive the latest new cars alongside its competitors back-to-back in one place. No less than 15 automotive brands will be present bringing a wide range of cars for you to test drive on the spot.
9. No rush to buy: Do not be pressured to sign the order form after your test drive. You have no obligation to buy a car after test driving it. After giving the salesperson the appropriate courtesies for his/her service, take some time to reflect on your experience on the day. Once you have given the matter due consideration and certain about your decision, you can commit to your purchase without hesitation.