Do You Need a Test Drive Before Buying a Car?

Buying a car? Can you skip the classic test drive entirely, or is it still a crucial step in picking the perfect motor? 

With the average cost of a car aged 1-3 years in UK rising to £26,132, it’s no wonder people are increasingly turning to online research and virtual tours before visiting dealerships as they look to find the reliable from the ruined. 

Let’s put on our motoring hats and navigate the pros and cons of test drives in the modern car-buying landscape.

The Importance of the Test Drive: Beyond Specs on a Screen

While online reviews and detailed specs are helpful, a test drive goes beyond the data, giving you a hands-on experience of the actual car that you’re going to own – especially if you are buying second-hand. 

It’s your chance to assess comfort, handling, performance, and how the car feels on different road types and at different speeds. Remember, you’ll be spending hours behind the wheel, so making sure it feels right is essential.

Things to Look for When You Get Behind the Wheel

  • Comfort: Adjust the seats, mirrors, and steering wheel to your preferred position. See if you can comfortably reach all controls and if there’s enough headroom and legroom for you and your passengers.
  • Driving dynamics: Take the car on a variety of roads – dual carriageways, city streets, winding lanes – to assess handling, acceleration, and braking. Notice the noise levels, suspension comfort, and overall responsiveness.
  • Technology: Test out the infotainment system, sat nav, and any other tech features you’ll use regularly. Ensure they’re user-friendly and intuitive.
  • Boot space: See if the boot can accommodate your typical luggage or cargo needs. Fold down the seats if necessary to test for larger items.

Buying a Car Online: Does it Change the Game?

The recent rise of online car buying platforms has challenged the traditional dealership model. While many platforms offer home delivery and return policies, a test drive might not be readily available. 

In such cases, consider requesting a short-term lease or temporary car insurance to test drive the car independently. This gives you the freedom to assess it on your own terms without a salesperson present.

Your Test Drive Checklist: Don’t Forget the Essentials

  • Temporary car insurance: Ensure you have valid cover for the test drive, especially if buying online.
  • Driver’s licence and proof of insurance: Be prepared to show these documents to the dealer or seller.
  • Comfortable clothing and shoes: Dress appropriately for the weather and driving conditions.
  • Route planChoose a route that encompasses different road types and driving scenarios.
  • Questions: Prepare a list of questions for the salesperson or seller about the car’s history, features, and any concerns you have.