How to test drive a car: Test drive tips

With test drives, you need to know that this is the car you will happily drive for potentially years and years. Our top tips will help you get the most from your test drive.

The test drive is probably the most important thing when looking at your next car – it is the car you could end up driving after all. When discussing with dealers your options, you can feel under pressure to make a decision you may end up regretting.   

Some dealers will let you have a car for longer - even overnight or for a weekend, so it’s definitely worth asking.

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Let’s begin with the basics  

Many dealers, for insurance purposes, have a minimum driver age on cars. This is often 21, but can be higher on more expensive cars. Always check that you have your license with you, as otherwise the dealer may not let you drive the car. 

Also check you’re insured, too. Most dealers have trade plates to cover you in a car - so it shouldn’t be an issue, but it’s always worth asking for that added peace of mind.

Here are our top tips:

1. Check you can get comfortable

It might sound obvious, but if you can’t get comfortable,  the car is probably not for you. Check the driving position, as well as the adjustability of the seats and steering wheel so that you can get comfy. 

2. Make sure you drive the car in the spec you want

Many dealers often have limited model choices. This might mean that the car you test drive may not be the one you end up buying. Automatic and manual transmissions can hugely alter the way a car drives, so ensure you’ve driven a car in the exact spec that you want to buy it. You may be disappointed otherwise.

3. Take your own path

Dealers can often have pre-planned routes that they like you to take – these can often be smooth roads. If you know the area and want to challenge the car, don’t be frightened to create your own route. 

4. Try a route that mimics the driving you do

If you spend most of your time driving in a town or city, it makes sense to test drive the car there. While this might not always be possible, it’s best to try and simulate the driving you will do in the real world when out testing it.

5. Check the car is practical enough for children, and luggage

If you regularly carry children in your car, make sure you bring them with you  on the test drive.  Check the car seats properly, too, and that it is easy to get the children in and out of the car.

If you also use the car for shopping, bring your bags with you to check that the car will be big enough. People have also been known to take things as odd as cricket bags into dealerships to ensure they will fit in the car. It certainly makes a lot of sense, as there is no point buying a car that is just not big enough for your needs.

6. Plan ahead 

While it’s not always possible to, it’s always worth thinking ahead a few years - if that’s how long you intend to keep the car. If you have children now, think about whether it will still be big enough for them in the next two years, or perhaps if you plan to use the car for teaching your children to drive in the future.  

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7. Check the infotainment

It is always worth checking the car‘s infotainment system, to see if it is easy to use. Some screens are difficult to use, and you don’t want to buy a car that you can’t use to its full extent. Also check the vehicle’s connectivity and satellite navigation to see that you can find them easy to use.

8. Is it easy to park? 

There’s no point buying a car that you find difficult to park, so it’s worth checking you’re happy with the size of it and that you find it easy to manoeuvre - even if it does come with a reversing camera and parking sensors. 

9. Don’t be frightened to ask for more time, or a second test drive

A select few dealers can allow you to have a car overnight, or even for a weekend, which allows you to see how well it fits into your actual routine. It’s always worth asking if the dealer offers this, and if they don’t, come back for a second test drive.

10. Don’t rush into decisions 

While you might think that the car you’ve just driven is perfect, there’s no point rushing into a choice you might regret. It’s always worth sleeping on a decision, and test driving your other choices - even if you feel that the car you’ve just driven is perfect for you.

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