Buying a new car is an exciting (but overwhelming!) process. Even if you’re choosing to purchase second-hand, those ‘new car’ feels are fantastically fabulous. Like with any big-ticket purchase though, it’s vital you do your homework first. And that includes taking the possible contenders for a test drive before handing over the funds.
Test driving a car is one of the most important and fun parts of the shopping experience. And one that shouldn’t be skimped on if you want to buy a car that’s reliable, practical and suitable for your needs. Take a couple of cars for a test drive is a good way to determine whether or not you enjoy driving your ride of choice. It’s your chance to make sure you feel comfortable with your purchase and inspect for any issues. Whether you’re a boss lady looking for something to reflect your growing success or your last car looks like it’s seen better days, here are the essentials to look out for test driving a car:
1. Take a Longer Test Drive
Short test drives are great, but if you really want to get a proper feel for the car and how it moves, a longer test drive is important. You should allow at least half an hour for a test drive. An extended test drive (anything more than an hour) will allow you to tap into the things you may miss on a short drive, like how the car feels to park, low-speed manoeuvring and driving on the freeway and at night.
Regardless of whether you take the car for a short or long test drive, don’t forget to drive up hills to feel how it pulls up and whether it struggles or not.
2. Use Your Ears
And I don’t just mean to test the car’s sound system out either! During your test drive, turn the stereo down and listen out for any knocks or rattles – especially when you’re driving over bumps and while turning. Turn the car’s air conditioning on at different levels whilst driving to listen out for any noises there too. You’ll also want to listen out for any rubbing noises or vibrations when braking. All these sounds may indicate mechanical problems.
3. Is There Room to Move?
The test drive is important. But you want to get inside the car and consciously spend a few minutes adjusting the seat and making sure there’s enough room to move. Don’t just check from the driver’s seat either, take the time to sit in all the seats, check the boot and storage compartments to determine whether it’s big enough for your needs. Check whether it’s easy to get in and out of the car and if the seats can fold down easily. Usually, these are things we forget to inspect during the testing stages and it’s only after you’ve made the purchase you realise there’s not enough room.
4. Comfort vs. Practicality
Take note of how the car feels when you drive it. Familiarise yourself with the major controls and how practical everything is too. Snazzy interiors may look great, but if it’s not comfortable or convenient, it’s going to end up driving you crazy over time. It can be worthwhile bringing a friend or partner to the test drive with you, so they can give their opinion on the interior and passenger comfort too.
5. Make a Gadget/Feature List – and Stick to it
Everyone has a list of their essentials when buying a car. Make sure you write down what’s important to you in terms of gadgets and features (and stick to it!). This won’t just help you stay on track and avoid spending money on something extravagant you don’t really need but also acts as a handy reminder to know exactly what to look out for on your test drive.
Check the electronics and in-car technology to see if it’s right for you. Does the air conditioning blow cold? Does the navigation and Bluetooth connectivity all work as they should? Assessing the condition of the car is vital, but in-car technology can be expensive to repair if things go wrong too) so making the extra time to check before you purchase saves you the headache of paying for features and gadgets that don’t work according to plan.
6. Braking, Steering, Acceleration
How the car feels and responds to braking, steering and acceleration can say a lot about what’s happening behind the scenes. Does the car have enough overtaking power for you? Does the gearbox shift into gear smoothly Do the brakes and clutch function effortlessly and effectively? How does the steering feel when you do a three-point turn or a U-turn? How does the car feel when you brake hard?
7. Conduct a Post-Test Inspection
Once you’re happy with how your possibly new ride looks and feels, do a post-test inspection to check for faults and possible issues. You don’t need to have mechanical knowledge to check the basics, but if you’re buying second hand or you’re unsure, it’s worthwhile bringing along someone with more experience in this area to eliminate any potentially costly problems.
Inspect the physical condition of the car, even new vehicles can suffer from dents and scratches. Look under the hood for signs of poor maintenance, overpowering smells or dark/sludgy oil in the oil filler cap. Don’t forget to check the tyres as well.
For second-hand cars, make sure you ask for a record of previous servicing and maintenance completed.
Buying a new car doesn’t have to be a hair-pulling nightmare! In fact, it should be a relatively fun shopping experience to get you enjoying those’new car feels’ with a ride that’s perfectly suited to your needs and budget.
This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who recommends easifleet – Australia’s novated lease and fleet management company dedicated to helping you achieve success with your new or used car purchase. You can catch her on Google+.