Monday, 7 November 2011

The Test Drive

The best way to organise a test drive at a dealer or from a private seller is to initiate contact using the phone.

By choosing a day and time in advance, I am able to let the seller know when it is suitable to view and drive the car. Usually this depends on whether anyone else is test driving the car or whether the car is available, which the seller should inform you of.

The best time to drive is usually Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm since most people will be at work and there will be less traffic on the road. Weekend test drives are busier since most people don't work weekends.

I bring my driver's license and credit card with me as proof of who I am, where I live and what my age is. Some private sellers may not allow test drives due to their insurance policies and I am fine with that. In such cases, I just keep an eye on the driver's reactions and habits when he or she is behind the wheel.

The reason I do this is to safeguard BOTH the buyer (me) and seller against any possible, unfortunate events, accidents and to establish trust.

I also dress to present myself well and to make a positive impression.

Yes, how you look and present yourself makes a difference. Sure, I don't rock up wearing a suit and tie like it's a formal event, but I do make the effort to wear clothing that is presentable and does not give the seller a reason to rule me out as a potential buyer.

Next, I ask myself several questions before the test drive:

Doors - Before I get into a car, I take mental note of how easy it is to open and close a car door. How heavy the door is, how the door shuts, does it make a solid shut sound and how easy is it to enter and exit the car?

Seats - How easy is the driver's seat to adjust? Are the seat cushions soft or hard? Does the seat feel stable or does it wobble? Is there enough room?

Visibility - From the driver's seat, is it easy to look over the hood? Is it easy to look over your shoulder when reversing? Does the dashboard glare under sunlight? Are the readouts and driving instruments easy to read? Will the car be easy to park?

During the test drive, keep your ears peeled for:

Rattles, squeeks, vibrations, bumps, noises of any sort. I keep the radio off so that I can listen out for anything that does not sound like it is bolted down or attached correctly.

I also check the steering, brakes and acceleration for any unusual sounds, vibrations, and smooth operation.

If the car is an auto, make sure when the auto shifts up to the next gear that the shift is quick and firm, NOT slow or sloppy. With a manual, check that the clutch pedal is easy and smooth to operate and that it returns to its original position after being depressed.

Check that the air conditioning blows out both cold and hot air and check that all windows and mirrors operate if they are electronic.

In my experience, the more electronics a car has, the more complicated it can be if a problem develops, so testing out electronic features such as air-con, climate control, windows, mirrors, door locks, sun roofs, traction control, cruise control is VERY important.


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