Five Tips for Test-Driving a New-to-You Car

Starting a test drive

In the course of a year, it’s possible to review more than 75 new cars, trucks, and crossovers when you’re an automotive journalist. That’s not put forth as some kind of bragging. It’s just to demonstrate that driving more than 6 new vehicles a month gives one an insider’s view on test-driving new cars.

Let’s look beyond all the things you need to do before going to a dealership. That’s been handled well here in other articles at CarGurus. Instead, here are five insider tips to keep in mind for test-driving a new or new-to-you car.

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Test-Driving a New Car? Don’t Do These Five Things

test drive the vehicle you plan to buy

Test drives aren’t as fun as they used to be.

In the past, a buyer would find a car he or she liked, request to take it for a drive, and have the salesman throw the keys and say, “Enjoy!”

When I was shopping for a 2004 Jaguar X-Type in late 2003 (don’t laugh, it was a cool car back then), the salesman gave me the car for an afternoon with the only condition being that I have it back by closing. I did, and I ended up making a purchase a few months later.

I don’t think the odds of that happening today are very good. That’s a shame, because a long drive provides ample time to get a true feel for the car. Today’s 15-minute drives tend to not be as comprehensive as they should be.

Next time you take a test drive, make sure you maximize the value of your time in the car by following this advice.

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Would You Buy a Car Without a Test Drive?

Test driving a car

Don't skip the test drive!

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!

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