Shopping for a vehicle can be quite involved. From looking for the right fit to securing the loan, vehicle shopping requires time and effort. However, many consumers may not be spending enough time considering a very important part of car shopping: the test drive. You might think the test drive is only to get a feel how the car handles. However, there are factors of the test drive that should influence whether or not a vehicle is worthy of purchase. Let’s take a closer look at those now.
1. A Test Drive Begins the Moment You See the Car
The term “test drive” really only encompasses the 15-30 minutes you spend actually driving the car to most consumers. However, you should approach your test drive with a different mindset. Your first visual response to the car is important. As a serious financial investment, you want to drive something you feel actually fits you. Be aware of how aesthetic elements such as paint color can actually affect you financially. For instance, brighter colored cars tend to have higher insurance costs.
Next, you want to inspect the exterior for damage. This mostly applies to used vehicles. If the car you’re looking at has noticeable physical damage in key areas such as the rear or front, it’s likely that it was repaired from an accident, and as such could have internal damage not visible to the naked eye. Bonus Tip: Whenever shopping for used vehicles, be sure to get the VIN number and check the car’s service and accident records through a website like CarFax.
2. What to Look For When Driving
So, you’ve inspected the exterior and now you’re behind the wheel. How do you know what performance cues signal that a car is in peak condition or that it may have hidden internal issues? The first, and easiest indicator, are dashboard lights. These signals triggered by a vehicle’s internal computer can warn you of a huge variety of issues, from low tire pressure, to serious engine or transmission issues affecting the vehicle. If these signals are all clear, focus next on the elements of performance. How does the vehicle accelerate? Does it fit your driving style? Is it too touchy or not touchy enough? And crucially, does the acceleration seem to lag, indicating transmission issues? Are the brakes tight and able to stop on short notice? Do they drag and squeak, creating an unsafe stopping distance? All of these elements are hugely important in ensuring the car you choose has not only a performance that matches your driving style, but that it doesn’t suffer from any serious internal mechanical issues.
3. How to Drive It On a Test Drive
A test drive is intended to be just that: a test of the situations in which you intend to find yourself driving in. It doesn’t just cut it to drive down clear one lane roads to test the capabilities of a vehicle. Instead, be sure you test the car in different settings, or at least when driving, experiment with situations that simulate diverse driving experiences. For instance, stop and go traffic is often the death note of many transmissions, so it’s crucial to ensure that your vehicle runs smoothly in difficult terrains and traffic situations.
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