Buying a new car is an exciting experience. But before you make this major purchase, it’s essential to test drive the vehicle first. Taking a car out for a spin allows you to fully evaluate its performance and determine if it’s the right fit.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make the most out of your test drive. Follow these tips and you’ll be prepared to assess the car from all angles.

Bring Along a Friend or Family Member

When going for a test drive, be sure to bring a friend or family member. They can provide a second set of eyes and ears, noticing things you might miss. Your companion can also give honest feedback and weigh in with their opinion.

Having someone along is also safer in case of an emergency. They can serve as a second witness if any issues occur. And if you get distracted evaluating the car, your friend can help keep an eye on the road.

Pair Your Phone to the Car

Today’s new cars come loaded with technology. That’s why it’s important to pair your phone during the test drive. This allows you to evaluate features like hands-free calling, music streaming, and navigation.

Take some time to test out the pairing process. Make sure it’s quick and intuitive. You’ll also be able to assess how seamless phone integration is once connected. Pay attention to call quality, audio streaming, and ease of use.

Adjust Seats, Mirrors, and Steering Wheel

Before hitting the road, take time to adjust the driver’s seat, side mirrors, and steering wheel. Finding a comfortable driving position is essential for your experience behind the wheel.

Pay attention to the adjustability range and ease of making changes. Quality materials and ergonomic design also impact comfort. Don’t forget to check blind spots after positioning the mirrors. Being able to see clearly in all directions is vital for safe driving.

Consider Your Unique Lifestyle

We all have different needs when it comes to a vehicle. That’s why you should test drive the car with your specific lifestyle in mind.

For example, if you regularly transport golf clubs or bicycles, bring them along during the test drive. This allows you to evaluate cargo space and ensure your belongings fit. Or if you have kids, test the car seats to check for roominess. Think about how you’ll use the vehicle on a daily basis.

Check Performance in Different Settings

Don’t just stick to side streets for the test drive. Be sure to drive the car on a variety of road types to test performance. Evaluate handling and acceleration on highways, inclines, and tight turns.

This allows you to experience the engine power and transmission under different demands. Try out cruise control on straight highways. Test cornering stability on winding roads. The more settings you try, the better sense you’ll have of real-world performance.

Pay Attention to Steering Feel and Handling

A major factor in driving enjoyment is how the car feels on the road. Pay close attention to steering and handling during the test drive.

The steering wheel should have a responsive, solid feel. Handling should be agile yet stable around turns. You want a confidence-inspiring grip on the road. Also, listen for squeaks or vibrations that could indicate issues.

Test Out Tech and Safety Features

Modern cars come packed with high-tech features. Use the test drive to experiment with things like:

  • Satellite navigation
  • Collision detection systems
  • Parking assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane-keeping assist
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Parallel parking tech

Evaluate which features are useful for your needs. Also, assess how intuitive the technology is to operate. Well-designed systems should provide a seamless, enjoyable experience.

Practice Parking and Tight Maneuvers

Don’t just cruise along straight highways. Be sure to test out the vehicle in tight spaces and parking scenarios.

  • Try out parallel parking in a safe area. Pay attention to the car’s turning radius and backup camera quality.
  • Test visibility and blind spots by parking between other cars.
  • Simulate pulling in and out of your garage or driveway.

This reveals how easy the car is to maneuver in everyday situations. Newer models have surround cameras and parking assist to make things easier.

Consider Insurance Costs

The specific car model can impact your insurance rates, so keep this in mind. Sports cars or vehicles with high horsepower often have much higher premiums.

Before buying, get an insurance quote for potential cars. The test drive is a good time to evaluate how expensive the car will be to insure long-term. This may influence which models are within your budget.

Ask Yourself Key Questions

During and after the test drive, reflect on these important questions:

  • Is there enough legroom and headspace?
  • How natural does the vehicle feel to drive?
  • Is the cabin quiet and peaceful at highway speeds?
  • How smooth is the ride quality over bumps?
  • Are the controls conveniently positioned and easy to use?
  • Does it have enough power for merging and passing?
  • Is visibility clear in all directions?

And perhaps most importantly: Can you see yourself happily driving this vehicle every day? Go with your gut instinct.

Don’t Rush – Take Your Time!

Never feel pressured during a test drive. It’s completely normal to spend 30 minutes or longer evaluating the car. Don’t rush! Take your time getting a feel for everything.

The more time you spend behind the wheel, the better sense you’ll have of the car’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to drive to multiple locations to simulate daily usage. Test it out in as many real-world ways as you can.