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Do more than just look at a car while shopping for a ne... Do more than just look at a car while shopping for a new ride. (shutterstock)
A new study released this month shows Americans are turning away from old-fashioned, hands-on car buying.

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 it

Is 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 features

Familiarize 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.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 10 Comments
      T Rock
      • 11 Months Ago
      I've scared every salesman that ever rode with me - it's a TEST drive! Take it over bumps and around corners and get a feel for the car. Tell them what you don't like about it and don't listen to what they are trying to sell you on. Or just get an old classic and learn to keep it going yourself.
      njenel
      • 11 Months Ago
      test drive a car ?? you want to test drive a car "RENT IT" you can't test drive a car w/the salesman in it !!!
      disngaj
      • 11 Months Ago
      I believe many more potential buyers would test drive cars if not for the required (and distracting) salesperson riding along, issuing instructions for 4 right turns, negating any real usefulness of the drive. There's also the factor of credit checks secretly being performed at each dealership, actually degrading your credit score each time; that may be illegal, but who's to know / stop it?
        • 11 Months Ago
        @disngaj
        it's not difficult to remove a hard pull if you didn't sign your name to authorize it. Extremely easy. If you care about your credit, stay up on your credit and that kind of thing will be the least of your worries...
      RMS
      • 11 Months Ago
      I would NEVER buy any car without driving it first. You don't know how it feels, how it rides, how quiet it is, if there is any road noise transmitted to the cabin, how the acceleration is, or how good the visibility is unless you drive it first. I know a few people who bought without driving first and they were disappointed. I can usually tell within five minutes of being behind the wheel if it is a car I would be happy with. I recently drove my employer's 2011 Ford Fusion and hated it, ditto for my father's 2007 Saturn Aura. I recently had the opportunity to buy a 2002 Impala with only 22,000 miles on it that had been in the family since new. I drove that car a lot over the years, and would never buy it. I passed on the sale.
      farsideopus
      • 11 Months Ago
      If buying a new car do research. Find out about reliability and resale value through various websites. When I bought my car I went to every BMW dealership in the local area and told the dealers flat out :I am going to buy this model with these options and the dealership who brings me the best offer will get my business. One dealer actually had a problem with my plan asking "Is it worth it to do this to save a thousand or two?"...yes it is. As far as the test drive, the dealer did ride with me, but didn't dictate the route driven. Had he done so, I would have told him that I will drive the route that I want to drive if you want my business. I also went to a parking lot and tested how the car handled braking hard, accelerating hard, and cornering hard. No radio during the test drive so you can listen to the car. Play with the radio and options once you park, or if you want to listen while driving, turn it on after you have driven it for a while. You are going to be spending a lot of money for a car whether it is new or used so you hold the cards. A dealer who tries to bully you can quickly be shut down if you threaten to take your business elsewhere.
      gmustain
      • 11 Months Ago
      How could anyone be so stupid as to by a car without actually driving it? Online research is a great tool but your own tastes and judgement should be a major factor in your choice. Every single online "EXPERT" and blogger out there might say a car is the greatest thing since the invention of the internal combustion engine but you may get behind the wheel and hate it! For example, I recently test drove a Lincoln MKZ and a Ford Fusion, the automotive press raves about the Fusion but I thought it was mediocre at best. It just did not do "IT" for me. The MKZ was slightly more luxurious but WAYYYYY over priced.
        merstockgto
        • 11 Months Ago
        @gmustain
        Because it is 2014 that is why. People are just different mentality than they used to be. Have to have a cell phone attached to their ear texting while walking and crossing the street. Common sense has just gone bye bye.
      RAF 803
      • 11 Months Ago
      hmmm,, the test drive on the future wife thing . just how do I convince her on this test drive ??? you talking about a quicky run around the block ?
      brennemanbelkin
      • 11 Months Ago
      The strongest position in any negotiation is the willingness to walk away.