TCC’s Ten Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Test Drive

July 16, 2010
Fifteen minutes might be enough time to quickly mouse-click through basic specs and prices and comparison-shop a few models; but it’s not long enough to test-drive a vehicle that’s likely going to be part of your daily life for years.

According to data from J.D. Power & Associates’ Mystery Shopping program, the length of the typical test drive is a scant 10 to 15 minutes—barely enough time to make a few innocuous right-hand turns and back around to the lot. And despite all the time Americans spend on the Interstate, roughly half don’t even include freeway driving.

In addition to assessing how the vehicle drives, performs, and fits your overall needs in such a short time, shoppers have another time-consuming (but potentially fun) task: putting the all technology through its paces. Interiors can now include sophisticated navigation systems, Bluetooth hands-free calling, portable audio interfaces, and complex screen-driven menu systems.

We’ve come to want to so much more out of our interiors than we did just a few years ago; besides safely following your driving inputs, today’s models can function as mobile offices, go-anywhere jukeboxes, smart traffic advisors, daily planners, and even entertainers for the kids in back. And you want to test out those abilities when possible.

Whether you're shopping for something as ubiquitous as a Toyota Camry or as exclusive as a Bentley, making sure you get a long enough test drive, along with the attention you need when you have questions, is an excellent way of testing out a dealership as well as the vehicle. The more a dealer is willing to help with the shopping process, the more likely they are to pull through after the sale, when you might have special service needs. But remember, keep shopping separate from dealmaking; don’t talk payments and prices on the test drive.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking up close at a number of aspects—aimed at helping you get more out of your speed date with a new vehicle—in a series called Test Drive In Detail. In the meantime, here are ten must-read tips for getting the most from your test drive:

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