Thursday, August 09, 2007

How To Properly Test Drive A Vehicle

By Joshua Rose

SUMMARY: Don't let the stress and heat level produced from the car buying process keep you from performing the kind of test drive you'll learn the most from.

It doesn’t matter where you found the car, whether at a Dealership or from a private seller, the time will come when you need to drive the car with a critical eye, ear and feel. And you may not be totally comfortable with the prospect of doing a “test drive” because it’s obviously something most people don’t have to do very often.

So let’s do a trial run here. Some of this may seem painfully obvious, but you may be surprised by what many car buyers forget to do when in the heat of the buying process. So, try to stay calm and cool. You may even want to do a dry run on your own car first just to help the learning (or remembering) process.

Before starting the vehicle, inspect the interior and sit in each seat. Are the seats comfortable? Is there enough room for the passengers you are likely to have in the vehicle? If it’s a factor in your life, will passengers be comfortable on a long trip?

If you’re looking at a minivan or SUV (especially one with a third row), remove the seats to judge their weight and the ease of doing so. This will also help you evaluate the total space available for your cargo needs. Also, flip and fold the seats into their various configurations to measure how flexible the interior is.

Next, open the trunk. Think about the kind of vehicle use you anticipate. Imagine loading groceries, luggage or other bulky items you’re likely to transport. Also check the spare tire compartment. Is it accessible and easy to open and close?

Then, sit in the driver's seat and adjust the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors to your specific driving position. Does your body seem to fit the seat? Is the seat too hard or too soft? Remember, you’ll be spending a lot of time right there.

Now look around and check your visibility. Are there any blind spots hampering your field of vision? Also, can you tell where the edges of the vehicle are?

While you’re in the vehicle, test the heater/air conditioner, the stereo system, all the power accessories, the windows, headlights, turn signals, visors, and emergency brake. As you’re reaching around, does anything seem out of place or awkward for you? Can you see your speedometer and other gauges without obstruction?

How about the seat belt? Is it easy to put on? Do you have to reach back too far to find it? Is there anything about it that may bother you over time?

Now think about things you’ll likely have with you when driving. For example, are there enough cup holders? Are there enough convenient compartments for your CDs and so forth? How about power outlets? Where are they and are there enough to meet your needs?

Now actually go for a drive. Start out in a relaxed, easy mode as you get used to the vehicle. If possible, pick a route you’re familiar with and one that has different driving environments (flat, uphill, downhill and highway). If you’re in an area you are not familiar with, let the Dealer or seller direct you to these kinds of driving locations.

Keep the conversation to a minimum and the radio off. Does the engine accelerate smoothly and quietly (unless it’s the kind of vehicle that’s supposed to be a bit rough or noisy)? Do the tires make any noise?

Try all of the gears. Is the transition from one gear to another smooth? What’s the acceleration like on a hill? Also, are there any noises when turning? Does the steering wheel adjust back smoothly after turning?

How does the car drive on the highway? Is the noise level appropriate? Is there any shimmering? Does the vehicle repeatedly drift off in one direction or another?

Now find a safe area to brake hard several times. Are you getting predictable performance from the brakes that you feel comfortable with?

Find a parking lot and make two 360-degree turns each direction. Is the turning radius acceptable to your needs? And if possible and safe, try out an emergency maneuver as if you were suddenly forced to evade another car or a pedestrian. Did the vehicle manage the maneuver in a predictable way and remain easy to handle?

When you return the car, put it in Park with the emergency brake on. Then, go out and listen to the engine idle. Is it running relatively quietly and consistently? Note the same about the exhaust.

If you are now satisfied that this is the vehicle for you, it’s time to finalize the price (fun, fun, fun). Once agreed, if this is a used vehicle, it’s time for setting up your independent mechanical inspection before making your final decision.

1 comment:

Driving said...

It is good to have knowledge in driving when buying car.