Buying a car is a large financial decision, and one which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
It’s usually undertaken after plenty of discussion among the various parties likely to use the car.
Having said that, it’s also an opportunity to buy your dream car, should your budget so fit.
But before you buy, you must try, and that’s where test drives come in.
You might be knowledgeable about all things automotive, but nothing beats a good old-fashioned test drive when it’s time to choose your car.
What should a test drive tell me?
A proper test drive should give you enough information through the seat of your pants to help you make an informed decision.
It’s not merely feeling the car’s power and acceleration – there are other important criteria too.
Most importantly, the car should firstly suit your needs.
Do you need the space of an SUV, or the economy of a sedan or hatchback? How many people will you be ferrying?
Here are five important things you must note while on a test drive of your future four-wheeled friend:
1. What’s the purpose of the car? All too often, people get caught up in getting a test drive in the shiniest new metal, but forget what they actually need it for. If you’re only buying it for yourself and your partner, why not invest in a compact and frugal hatchback? If you have a small family or very young children, perhaps a small SUV or sedan will do. Buying the biggest and nicest car is great, but make sure you can justify the associated costs.
2. Remember the three S’s: start, stop, steer. It’s a mantra even automotive journalists follow. One of the most important aspects of a car is how it feels when it moves off, brakes and steers. If you can get some passengers along for the test drive, get a feeling for how the car accelerates, stops and steers while fully loaded. Most importantly is whether you’re comfortable with how the car performs. Does it jiggle or glide over road imperfections? Is there too much wind noise at speed? Does it roll too much in the corners?
3. Check if the car’s boot can fit what you need to carry. If you’re a young parent, chances are you will be carting around a stroller. Check to see if the car’s boot can fit your stroller – bring it along on the test drive if you need to! Some small SUVs have, in fact, smaller boot space than a comparable sedan, which then ends up being a better deal. On the flip side, if you only envision yourself carrying three to four people at most, carefully consider if you really need that seven-seater.
4. Comfort is key! Check if you fit well in the driver’s seat, and get your partner to do the same if they drive. Getting comfortable in the car is important as it improves your concentration on the road. Also, check whether ingress and egress is easy; whether the doors open wide enough for an elderly passenger to comfortably enter and exit.
5. What safety features does the car come with, either as standard or add-ons. Motorists used to driving “basic” cars with no active safety features might find things like autonomous emergency braking or blind-spot monitors newfangled and overwrought. But these systems are proven to make drivers safer on the road, and since you’re buying a new car, you might as well get the best safety systems available.