Last Updated: August 4th, 2020

Hand on Steering Wheel

Guest Post by Mike Jones

There's nothing more exciting than visiting a car dealership and seeing your dream car on the lot. However, before you make the vehicle yours, you want to take it for a test drive. You wouldn't buy a house without getting it inspected. And you wouldn't buy a bed without trying it out. You shouldn't buy a car without taking it for a quick drive.

When you're making such a large purchase, there's no turning back, so it's important to make the right decision. A vehicle's appearance is important but it takes a backseat when it comes to a vehicle's driving capabilities, its comfort, and its safety.

1. Look for a vehicle's drivability

When you're out on the road, pay special attention to the way the vehicle feels. Listen for strange noises. Feel for any vibrations or bumps. Take a look at the buttons and gears. Can you get used to them?

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does the transmission shift smoothly?
  • How does the vehicle respond to bumpy or unpaved roads?
  • Does the steering respond properly? Does it vibrate?
  • Do you feel the car being pulled to the left or right?
  • How does it accelerate?
  • How do the brakes feel? Do they respond quickly?

Chances are, you'll be driving this car for tens of thousands of miles, so make sure it drives how you want it to. Moving from a small car to a large SUV or vice versa brings quite a noticeable difference. Make sure you're comfortable with this change.

2. Consider your comfort

Long road trips. Commuting to work during rush hour. Visits to your family. You'll be spending a lot of time in your car. Research estimates that you'll spend just under 300 hours in your vehicle each year. You want to make sure you're comfortable.

As you drive, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there enough head or leg room?
  • Can seats be adjusted?
  • Is the driver's seat comfortable? How is the quality of the material?
  • Are there controls for warming the seats, cooling the back, etc.?
  • Can the steering wheel be adjusted?
  • If you have a family, is there enough room for passengers?

3. Take safety features for a spin

More so than appearance, more so than comfort, and more so than cost, safety should be the most important consideration during your test drive. Today's vehicles feature more safety measures than ever before.

Consider the following basic safety features:

  • Do seatbelts work properly?
  • Are the windshield wipers in good condition? Is there a back wiper?
  • Can you easily adjust the mirrors?
  • How is visibility? Do you have large blind spots?
  • Do the dashboard warning lights illuminate properly?
  • Do locks work properly?
  • Do turn signals work?
  • Is there four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive for the snow?

Over the years, there have been considerable improvements in the safety features available in vehicles. Therefore, there are also some more advanced safety features you'll want to consider:

  • Is there a backup camera or blind spot detection?
  • Is there crash detection or emergency braking?
  • Does the vehicle come equipped with emergency services, like OnStar?
  • Is there a GPS?
  • Are there childproof locks or Safety Exist Assist?

You may end up paying extra for some advanced safety features. Carefully evaluate the safety features you prioritize. If you have children, you may require drastically different safety features than someone who's not a parent. If you drive highways, you may want different safety features than someone who frequently drives backroads.

4. Get a mechanic's advice

Sometimes it's best to take a test drive straight to your mechanic, especially if you're buying a used car. Ask the dealership or seller if your mechanic can inspect the car. They may ask to go with you, but them being there during the inspection may give you some added bargaining leverage.

Mechanics may be able to spot things that you didn't notice during your test drive. They may also be able to explain any weird noises, check engine lights, or bumps/vibrations you experienced.

You should also request a vehicle history report to make sure the car poses no hidden dangers or vulnerabilities.  Make sure the vehicle has a clean title, no odometer irregularities, no major accidents, and has received regular maintenance.

Before purchasing your vehicle, ask questions. Do research. If you need to, go for a second test drive. Do what you need to do in order to guarantee automotive peace of mind with your new car.

Mike Jones is the president and CEO of autopom!, a BBB Accredited A+ rated provider of vehicle protection plans for both new and used cars. Click here to learn more about autopom!

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