4 Tips for Test Driving a Vehicle Like a Pro

Some car buyers treat their test drive like a formality – something that’s expected of you but not necessarily helpful in any significant way. It’s like when a server at a restaurant has you try a sip of the wine before you agree to buy the bottle. Not knowing much about wine, you feel pressure to nod and say, “that’s fine.”

But your test drive is an essential step in getting the right vehicle. It is a chance for you to cross-reference your particular criteria against the vehicle’s available features, handling and driveability. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t fret. In this article, let’s explore four tips for test driving a vehicle like a pro.

Arrive at the Dealer Having Done Your Research

Let’s say that you’re in the market for a new pickup truck. Before you set foot on the lot, do your research and narrow your search down to a truck make and model that fits your criteria and lifestyle.

For instance, let’s say that you need superior towing capacity and payload, but also want some comfortable, safe and family-friendly enough to transport the kids around. In this case, your research would lead you to conclude that you should buy a new Ford F-150 (which is, non-coincidentally, the most popular pickup truck). Knowing what you want in advance helps you avoid being put on the spot at the dealer.

Start with a Spot Check

Before you start the ignition, give the interior and exterior of the vehicle a visual once-over. This is more important when buying used vehicles, but it’s still best-practice regardless.

Check for dents, scratches and imperfections on the exterior, consider whether the colour is the right fit for you and ensure that the suspension is even. If you’re buying a brawny truck like the Ford F-150 and have space concerns in your parking space, measure the area in advance and either bring a measuring tape to the test drive or ask the dealer for accurate size specs.

Play Around

Have fun with the vehicle’s features. Try out the infotainment system by adding an address into the navigation, syncing your phone to the Bluetooth and testing how intuitive the controls are. Flip the seats up and down. Test the windshield wipers. Bring your coffee mug to see if it fits in the holders. Do whatever you need to do.

By playing around with the vehicle’s features, you get a terrific sense of what day-to-day life will be like in the vehicle.

Test the Brakes and Handling

When you hit the road, pay special attention to the way the vehicle handles and brakes. Experts can qualify handling through an objective set of metrics – something that you as a test driver just can’t do. Instead, ask yourself how confident you feel in the vehicle. As it turns, accelerates, decelerates and rounds corners, do you feel confident in the vehicle’s responsiveness and handling? Do you feel satisfied with the way it brakes?

When it comes time to purchase your next vehicle, arrive prepared. Do your research, thoroughly inspect the vehicle, play with its features and test the brakes and handling as you drive. Combined, these tips should give you a fantastic sense of if the vehicle is the right fit for you.

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