I don’t like to buy socks without first trying them on. I know that’s a bit extreme, but usually I can’t take new socks for a “test wear” anyway, because they are wrapped in plastic, which I find terribly inconvenient.
When it comes to buying a car, something that cannot be returned and must be lived with for a number of years, I can’t imagine not test-driving it first. Twice.
Yet in certain situations, people are buying vehicles, especially used ones, online without as much as opening the doors to peer inside. That’s just a bad idea, on so many levels!
Online research is, of course, a vital step in any car-shopping endeavor. Internet tools and search engines, such as DealFinder, can help define a fair price, provide dealer reviews and even open a buyer’s eyes to option packages. None of those tools, though, can or should replace a test drive. Even cars of the same make and model may drive differently once they enter the used market. Test drives can point out potential engine problems (hesitation, knocking, etc.), brake issues and other neglected maintenance. Test drives can even expose nuisance items that will only make you despise your car over time. Things like the the sound of the turn signal indicator or the placement of the radio controls or a flimsy cupholder could grate on your nerves and impact the level of satisfaction you have with your car.
A story by The Detroit News dives into some circumstances in which test-driving a car may not be important to people. Those include situations where someone assumes another person’s lease or that involve enthusiasts who are so obsessed with a certain model that the test drive isn’t necessary. Here’s a quote from an enthusiast featured in the article, which frankly astonishes me:
I never test-drive a car, but I do subscribe to five different car magazines… So by the time I’ve read all these different opinions and finally sit behind the wheel, I have every reason to believe it’s going to be exactly what I wanted.
That’s either a huge compliment to the writers of the magazines or a show of this guy’s inability to make his own decisions. I’m leaning toward the latter. I’ve read all there is to read about the new BMW M5, but in no way do I feel like I could take the driver’s seat and know exactly what to expect as I initiate its launch control.
When buying a new or used car, there’s just no substitute for a test drive. Ever. Right?