If you’re planning on buying a car, it’s a good idea to take it for a test drive. Even the most experienced drivers can get distracted from the details when they’re driving something different.
We recommend you read our guide to getting the most from a test drive. It will help you to ensure you come away from your next test drive with the information you need.
Before you begin
- Decide what you’re looking for;
- how much you’ve got to spend; and
- find the make and model that meets your needs.
Once you've chosen the car that you'd like to buy
Find all the ones of its type that are available for sale and set up test drives. If possible, it’s best to do all your test drives on one day so you can compare directly between each experience.
Your test drive should take about 30 minutes and it’s wise to plan your route in advance. You’re going to want to drive on as wide a range of road types as possible. Try to include some street maneuvering, the opportunity to park, some highway driving, and some big bends.
Test drive insurance
It’s important to be aware of your insurance status before you go on any test drives. If you’re test driving with a car dealership they probably have cover for test drive situations. Private buyers are less likely to have insurance, so check your own cover first (it will be detailed under your Driving Other Cars Cover) and look into temporary cover if necessary.
Ready to test drive? Find a friend!
Once you’ve got your test drive(s) booked, it’s time to recruit a friend to come along. Bringing a friend is an important part of the test drive process, because they are going to help you with three key things:
- Keeping the sales person occupied. Whether you are buying privately or through a dealer, if you have to drive with someone else in the car then speaking to them is going to distract you from the drive. Your friend can be in charge of conversation while you deal with the task at hand.
- Giving a second opinion. Having a friend with you will give you access to a second opinion and help you to consolidate your thoughts at the end of the test drive process.
- Safety. Whether you’re male or female, getting into a car with a stranger could be a risky business. Taking a friend along for the drive will help you to stay safe.
The test drive
Follow these simple steps to get the most from your test drive experience.
Don’t just jump into the car and drive.
Take the time to walk around the vehicle and inspect it visually. Once you’ve inspected the exterior you should have a thorough look through the interior, paying particular attention to the following:
- Features that could annoy you. In any part of the car there could be issues that could annoy you with daily use. Search them out now or risk being frustrated by them later.
- Seating. Seating is one of the most important parts of the interior. Check seat numbers, accessibility, and upholstery. You should check that all seat adjustments work and consider whether they are sufficient for your needs. If you use car seats for your children bring them along so that you can be sure they will fit.
- Boot. Is the boot big enough, low enough, wide enough? Can you access the boot effectively and if it’s capacity can be adjusted by lowering or removing seats, check that you can do that easily. If you have particular equipment that needs to fit into the boot space measure it and sense check the boot measurements, or alternatively bring it with you and try it out.
- Safety features. Check out the safety features such as air bags and seat belts. Be aware of their location and whether you are happy with their position and quantity.
- Special features. If you’re buying a car with special features or technology, check that those features are in working order and do what you want them to do.
- Gadgets. If you’re likely to want to use gadgets in the car then your connection and power points are important. You also need to be confident that you have enough storage places to tuck everything away when you leave the vehicle.
Time to start the engine
Your test drive is your opportunity to listen to the car and feel how it performs in a variety of situations. As you take it on your planned route make sure you try the following and take note of whether the car performs as you would like.
- Driving on a range of roads. Cars can perform very differently at different speeds and in different circumstances. Make sure you get plenty of opportunities to test the way that the car handles when accelerating and braking, and cornering and maneuvering.
- Forwards and backwards. We drive cars in two directions all the time, but we often forget that when it comes to test driving them. Try reverse parking and check out how good your visibility is and whether the car performs well in reverse.
- Tight turns. If you need to drive a lot in town then the size of a car’s turning circle could make quite a difference to you. Try executing at least one 3 point turn so you can assess how tightly the car turns.
- Visibility. Using your mirrors and your windows during driving ensures you have maximum visibility. Take time to explore how good the visibility is in the car as this is crucial to the safety of you and your passengers.
- Sounds. It’s important to know that the stereo works well so test it before you drive: then switch it off. Use your ears throughout the test drive experience to evaluate engine noise levels and whether the car itself is making too much noise when it reaches high speeds.
Once you’ve completed your test drive you should have plenty of data that you can use to inform your purchase decision. Once you’re ready to buy, or even before you begin your search, you can work with our team to find out your finance options and if needed apply for a car loan. Then when you’ve had the chance to test drive a car that you love, you can simply sign on the dotted line and drive it away.