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Test Drive Tips & Tricks

Looking at buying a new car, but don't know where to start? Here are our test drive essentials.

Posted on: August 03, 2017

car lot

Some of us tend to think it’s as simple as turning up to a dealership, picking a car to test drive, and going on your merry way for 20 minutes. But low and behold, there is more to it. Do you really trust your judgement after 20 minutes in the driver’s seat for a car that you are expected to spend a huge chunk of time in for the duration of your purchase? In fact, GPS navigation unit TomTom found that Brisbane users spend an average of 71 hours in traffic every year (2015). That’s a long time to be uncomfortable in your seat or realise that your sun visors hit you in the head when adjusting. Other than the typical test drive techniques and safety checks, here are our must-do’s when it comes to test driving a car:

Seat comfort

Would you sit in an uncomfortable seat when you’re at work? No? Well then why would you inflict your body on an uncomfortable seat in your car! You may think that it is bearable when driving five minutes down the road to the grocery store, but in reality, you will be doing a whole lot more driving than just that. Whether it be travelling down the coast on a road trip or doing your 30-minute commute to work, you want to be in a seat that doesn’t feel like a plank of wood. Move the seat around, forwards, backwards, incline, height, and make sure you can get your perfect position for those long-haul drives and that it doesn’t interfere with other car features, which brings me to my next point…

Get familiar

There are many internal aspects to consider, especially electronics, but you need to look past all the glittery lights of special features and decide what will work for you. What functions do you like driving with? Are you big on Bluetooth so you can limit the cords jumbled in your centre compartment? Maybe your last car didn’t have cruise control and it was the only thing holding you back from road trips. Had a reversing camera last time and can’t live without it? Make sure these features are all a priority on your list. Test whether dropping keys or coins into the sides of seats leads to a black hole of no return. Once you’ve devised a list, trial them on your test drive. Fiddle with the radio, test the Bluetooth, get a handle on the cruise control, and make sure you are happy with the odometer position. You’ll thank me when you don’t have to plug your phone into the AUX next time you hop in the car.

External features

Now, if you live in the outback and travel along dirt roads, you probably aren’t going to buy a Mazda 3. But, on the other hand, if you are going to need to be parking in an inner-city car park on workdays, you probably don’t want a bulky Volkswagen Amarok. You need to consider headlights, height (those carparks can be a pest with height allowances), car body, window tinting, and colour. If you are parking on the street, birds may be inclined to peck on certain colours or paint types and you don’t want light window tinting if you’re going to be travelling long distances in the middle of the day – sunburn inside your car is still a real thing. You also need to factor in your activities. Do you go surfing on the weekends? You may need a roof rack on that. Like to trek through the great unknown? Your vehicle will need to be up to the test.

Size matters

You may think you look a little pedantic, but it could be really helpful to bring props with you. The things you would usually be stacking in your car. A car seat, coffee travel mug, golf clubs, the kids sporting equipment, an esky etc etc you get the picture. If you’re likely to have a full back seat, make sure you have the kids test out if there is enough wiggle room for when they get restless. If you’re a fan of a regular coffee drive thru, make sure you have easy access to a cup holder, which is going to fit your cup. Consider your profession as well. If you’re a florist, make sure you have enough space to fit your deliveries without them being damaged. The same goes for caterers/bakers. A personal trainer will need enough boot space to fit all their equipment and if you’re just a regular fitness junky, you’ll need room for your yoga mat, flippers, and other sporting equipment. You may not take many of these things into consideration as you’re only ever in the driver’s seat, but you certainly want it to be a comfortable ride for all passengers involved – they probably don’t want a shovel hitting them in the back of the head because it doesn’t fit in your boot properly.

Sleep on it

Once you’ve tested out all the bits and bobs, had a poke around to find all the secret compartments, taken it for a whirl on your familiar roads to see how it handles, and familiarise yourself with any mechanical aspects, it’s probably time to leave the poor car dealer alone. Suss out vehicle financing options and review maintenance and petrol costs in addition to insurances and registrations. If you aren’t sure on the vehicle, sleep on it. Don’t make any rash decisions as it is a big purchase and for many one that you are in for the long haul.

It’s an exciting experience to go car shopping, so make sure you are prepared in advance and don’t get caught up in the moment. You may be completely sold just from the colour and price, but you may come to find that you only have one measly cup holder and a CD player that doesn’t work. Weigh up your pros and cons and you should be good to go – trust your own instincts and don’t let a good sales pitch cloud your judgement.

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