Buying a new vehicle is a big decision. Not only does it require a sizable down payment, years of consistent financial commitment, and ongoing maintenance – but it’s a place you’ll spend a considerable amount of time in, whether it’s commuting to work or gallivanting around in your spare time. So when you head to the dealership, copies of your [car insurance](https://coverhound.com/) and driver’s license in tow, you should also be armed with some knowledge of how to get the most out of your test-drive experience without letting the salesperson dictate things too much.
Read on for more.
You should already have an idea of the type of vehicles you want to drive, down to the specific model. Otherwise you’ll probably get a salesperson having you test drive the best version of that vehicle, regardless of which one you are interested in. It helps to know the specifications of the vehicle models you’re looking at, especially things you might not want, so you can inspect them yourself in person. To ensure the specific vehicle model or models you’re interested in are available to test drive - call the dealership ahead of time to find out if they’re in stock and ready to drive.
**At the Lot**
Once you’re on the lot, stay mindful that the salesperson, however nice they are, is a salesperson as the end of the day. They’re trying to make a living like the rest of us. Any special treatment you’re getting is probably a ploy to get you to buy, and probably not so specialized. That doesn’t mean they’re not being truthful with you, but always take everything with a grain of salt, and question everything you’re even remotely unsure about.
**Keep your keys**
Whether the salesperson is pushing for a trade-in or simply asking for your keys while your vehicle stays on their lot – don’t do it. Chances are things could become a bit pushier after your test drive when you have to ask for your keys back, only to have to deflect the same sales pitch again and again.
**Adjust and inspect everything**
The goal of a test drive is to test out the vehicle you’re looking to purchase, so make sure you’re thorough in doing so. Adjust the seat and mirrors, fiddle with the non-driving vehicle specs such as keyless entry, Bluetooth/hands-free voice settings, USB ports, built-in aux, etc. Basically become a curious child for five minutes and see if you like all that the vehicle has to offer.
**During Your Test Drive**
**Take Familiar Roads/Routes**
Depending on the location of the dealership you go to, test drive the car on familiar roadways and routes. Doing so lets you compare how the car handles on identical roads compared to your current whip. The salesperson (if you can’t shed them at the lot) will probably insist you take a pre-planned (read: driving-friendly) route. Don’t listen to them. Say that if you’re going to buy a car today, you need to know how it feels driving a route you regularly take.
How does the car handle? How does it feel when you go over bumps? Is the turn radius sufficient? And perhaps most importantly, how are the brakes? Is the car noisy while driving higher speeds, how does it sound while it accelerates (if it’s a manual – how’s the clutch?) Aside from actual driving and maneuverability, test out the air vents and any driving features it has, such as automatic parallel parking, rear-camera support, blind-spot monitoring, and anything else.
After thoroughly inspecting the vehicle before and while driving it, you should have a gut feeling of whether you can see yourself driving it on a regular basis. Once you get back to the lot, don’t let the salesperson push you into a purchase unless you’re ready. You might be able to get additional money off the sticker price simply by saying “no” a bunch of times. If you’re interested but not sold yet, tell them you want to come back and test drive the vehicle at night. This will give you more time to think about the purchase and also to test things like headlights, dashboard lighting, and if there are glares in the windshield.
Now that you’re armed with the above tips, head out to the dealership and have an awesome test drive. Once you find one you like, we’ll be waiting to help you find a [car insurance policy](https://coverhound.com) that’ll protect your new set of wheels.