Seven things to look for when test-driving a car
With a new car purchase being one of the largest financial outlays of our lives, it stands to reason that a comprehensive test drive is essential.
Taking the time to consider and evaluate a range of key parameters can be the difference between picking a winner and contracting a severe case of buyer’s remorse.
Because you’re probably going to end up driving a new car tens of thousands of kilometres during your ownership, this one is critical. When it comes to making an accurate assessment, don’t pull any punches. “Don’t test-drive a car on the smoothest road under the sun,” advises Mark. “Take it over one that’s bumpy with lots of potholes. See what it’s like to live with day-to-day. Find out what the suspension feels like when you’re driving over the roads you would normally drive on.”
If car performance is a make-or-break proposition, make sure you focus closely on your key indicators while putting a potential purchase through its paces. “For instance, you might make your judgement based on the acceleration, the noise of the engine or the fuel economy,” says Mark. “Or you could be interested in the handling, cornering ability or stopping power. Assess what you need the car to be before you start driving.”
All cars emit a certain level of sound, but it’s what you can actually hear while you’re driving that makes all the difference. When test-driving a new car, pay particular attention to the ambient noise. “Interior noise levels should very much be a consideration,” our expert says. “Take note of it in terms of things like motorway noise, tyre noise, wind noise and city noise.”
If practicality is a major concern, physical car dimensions are extremely important. Make sure it’s big enough for your needs. “If it’s a family car, chances are you might need to fit in baby seats,” explains Mark. “Find out if it’s easy to get them in and out, and also see if it’s easy to load and unload the kids, particularly if you’re having to lift them - that can be hard on your back. Apart from that, what’s the storage like? How big is the boot? Can you easily fit a pram or bikes in the back?”
With car infotainment features playing ever-larger roles in buyer decision-making, having a detailed checklist of any must-have items makes good sense. Mark asks, “For example, has it got enough USB ports to keep the kids amused and engaged during a ten-hour trip? Can you charge your iPads? Is there a digital radio? Are there connective capabilities around your smartphone? How these features work could have a massive impact on which way you’ll go.”
For maximum protection from accidents, make sure the car not only has a five-star rating, but that it also comes equipped with the latest in accident avoidance technology. “Buyers looking for a family vehicle should check for things like the number of airbags and the inclusion of advanced technologies like lane-change warnings and automatic emergency braking,” says Mark. “A reversing camera is also an important feature.”
7. Fun factor
For emotional buyers, this is possibly the most important part of the equation. When test-driving these types of cars, you’ll need to ask questions like: does it make me feel good when I’m driving it? Does it put a smile on my face? Does it make me feel a bit special? “For these types of buyers,” Mark says, “jumping into a large, soft, comfortable, quiet, not particularly fast but very economical sedan probably won’t offer an entirely joyous buying proposition.”