Out of the 2,000 respondents to a recent survey conducted by marketing firm DMEautomotive, 33 percent only test-drove one car. Sixteen percent of car shoppers skip the test drive all together.
Women were less likely to kick the physical tires, with 19 percent foregoing a test-drive compared to 12 percent of men. Women influence 85 percent of all car buying decisions, and also less likely to trust car salespeople, at just 19 percent.
Why are so many people dropping thousands of dollars on a car they've never experienced? It may be because the internet has taken over the role of the showroom. We're all so use to going online that four in five people polled had visited at least 10 auto websites, such as AOL Autos, when looking for a new car.
Doing tons of research on a car without taking it for a test drive is like marrying someone who seems perfect for you, though you've only recently met. Just because something looks good on paper doesn't mean it will work for you in real life, and it can end up costing you.
Here's a few tips to feel confident about your next test drive.
1. Take Your Time
Drive along different roads at different speeds -- city streets, highways, residential roads, etc. Basically, you should try to replicate your daily driving to get as accurate idea of how the car is going to perform under your normal driving conditions.
Also try test driving more than one vehicle. Maybe there's a car out there that you haven't considered, with options you didn't even know you wanted.
2. Park itIs it easy or difficult to parallel park? Are there big blind spots that interfere with backing out of a space? Is it maneuverable enough to meet your daily parking needs? Can you get in and out with ease? These are aspects of car ownership that a lot of people don't think about, which can turn into issues after it's already too late.
3. Play with the tech and other featuresFamiliarize yourself with the infotainment system. Is it easy to use or clunky and distracting? Play with the radio and see how the speakers sound. Take a minute and connect your phone to make sure the Bluetooth connection works, if it's available.
Additionally, it's important to ask about and test other features that you think are going to be important to your ownership experience. Find out how the luggage rack works and see how easy the seats fold down, for instance.
4. Test the handling as the driver and the passenger
A vehicle's handling can be a very important aspect of your ownership experience, one that can cause you a hassle if you fail to test drive before you buy. Although you may love the way a certain car looks, the way it drives can make or break how much you actually enjoy having the car.
Make sure the car has the suspension you want (too tight, too soft or just right), has good braking performance, steers the way you want and has the right amount of power for you.
If you're going to have passengers regularly, ride in the front and back seats to ensure that others are in for a comfortable experience.
5. Listen for anything and everything
Wind noise is a major complaint for many drivers, so make sure that the cabin is well insulated from it. Additionally, listen hard for any clunks or rattles. Anything that sounds out of place should be investigated, as it could point to safety issue or expensive repair down the line. Odd sounds should be looked at by an independent mechanic before purchasing a new vehicle.
6. Don't fall into a false sense of security
Remember, just because you are testing a new car does not mean that it is free from defects or other problems. You should be just as meticulous as you would testing a used car.
Look for issues with the paint and interior materials, as, even though the car may have been perfect when it rolled off the assembly line, nicks and scratches can occur when the car is transported to the dealer.
7. Bring A Friend
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, two sets of eyes and ears are always better than one. Bringing a friend or family member who can help you notice things you may not catch yourself. Make sure this person can also keep you from getting overly excited about a car and making a rash purchase.
8. Shop around
Of the people polled by DMEautomotive, 68 percent reported they visited two dealerships or fewer before buying, with 40 percent visiting only one dealer. Shopping around for a salesperson you feel you can trust is just as important as shopping for the car that will carry you through the next several years. If sales staff seem to be pressuring you into making a decision, walk away. You can get better deals and more information if you shop around.