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 Test Driving Cars

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  • Total Posts: 7595
  • Joined: 4/17/2005
  • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
Test Driving Cars Wed, 11/16/11 2:32 PM (permalink)
The Auto Show is in Los Angeles now and the newscasters on TV said that it's a good way to choose a new car if you're in the market for one.
But...  you can't test drive them.
Does test driving even help? 
When I purchased my 2003 Infiniti I had taken test drives in many different cars, both model and manufacturer.
What a waste of time!  If I could have taken my Infiniti out for a real drive or just around my home I never would have purchased it.  It takes acres to make U-turn.  I often times have to take a couple shots to get in to a parking space in a parking lot.  The turning ratio is awful!
All test drives that I took were on city streets... driving straight down a street.  I never even got to back up any of the cars to check out the blind spots.
Next time will be different whenever that happens.  I will want to do all the things that bug me with my car. 
How do you test drive a car?

    • Total Posts: 3290
    • Joined: 12/13/2003
    • Location: Near Grand Rapids, MI
    Re:Test Driving Cars Wed, 11/16/11 2:55 PM (permalink)
    I test drive a car exactly as I would be driving it. City, highway, parking lots, narrow streets, fast, slow, everything. If a test drive takes you less than 20 minutes and you go less than five miles, you're doing it wrong.
      mayor al

      • Total Posts: 15059
      • Joined: 8/20/2002
      • Location: Louisville area, Southern Indiana
      • Roadfood Insider
      Re:Test Driving Cars Wed, 11/16/11 3:04 PM (permalink)
      Test drivng is a very important part of the purchasing exercise, especially if you are not familiar with the make and model  you are "trying on". While driving on streets and freeways is important, so is parking, backing up, ease of operating all controls from the driving position, and seating position and comfort.  When we test a new vehicle, we include a bit of practice in a nearby Mall parking lot (an empty section).
        Since my last three vehicles have been Ford Supercrew Pick-ups, I also check the ease of the shift into and out of 4 wheel drive.
          Our latest truck has the 'Sync' feature for hands off cell phone operation. The Sales Rep, who BTW has sold us 5 cars in the past 10 years, and who I have learned to trust more than the typical salesman, programmed the SYNC thing so even a novice like me can deal with (or NOT deal with) incoming and outgoing calls without touching my phone. One button on the steering wheel controls it all.
         I will admit that when we bought Janet's little Ford Focus in 2009, she did the test drive. I have yet to sit in the car, much less try to get behind the wheel. Only after getting my new truck recently did we discover that her Focus had the 'SYNC" system as well. Now it is functioning for her also.
      All of the above involves "NEW" car purchases. When I purchased used cars in the past. I shopped many dealers  and even some private party sales. In those cases, the test drive focused much more on the running condition and 'noises' on the test ride.  I also used to follow the annual Consumer Reports Buying Guide for research into the overall quality and issues with the various cars and or trucks I might consider purchasing.
      Some time back I owned and loved a 1981 VW Rabbit. Unfortuneatly it fit into the image portrayed by CR as having A LOT of Electrical and Cooling system problems. Had I done my homework before buying the 2 year old car, I might have considered looking for another make or model.  But I didn't, and it cost me a lot of 'down-time' and fix-it money over the years.

        • Total Posts: 9543
        • Joined: 9/1/2006
        • Location: Gilbert, AZ
        Re:Test Driving Cars Wed, 11/16/11 3:08 PM (permalink)
        If it doesn't "Feel Right", don't buy it or you'll curse the day you bought it forever.

          • Total Posts: 4714
          • Joined: 11/5/2004
          • Location: Stoughton, WI
          Re:Test Driving Cars Wed, 11/16/11 3:21 PM (permalink)

          How do you test drive a car?

          I ask my wife if she likes it.  I look under the hood to see how much (or little) maintenance can be done at home.
          Very timely topic, Mar.  We've just shifted our search into high gear and hope to have a new family car by Christmas.
          My personal vehicles are of the vintage nature and were bought based more on emotion and past experience with similar models than a test drive.  Now that I think about it, I think the last time I test drove something that was going to be just for me might've been about 1988...

            • Total Posts: 7595
            • Joined: 4/17/2005
            • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
            Re:Test Driving Cars Wed, 11/16/11 3:30 PM (permalink)
            What about renting a car for a day?  I have no idea what that would cost, but when you get down to a couple of choices, it might help.

              • Total Posts: 1275
              • Joined: 12/25/2007
              • Location: berea, KY
              Re:Test Driving Cars Wed, 11/16/11 3:50 PM (permalink)
              Al, I've bought a number of Fords/Lincolns in the last 15 years.  I noticed that on the last one, they offered to program the Sync.  When they sent me the survey on my "purchasing experience", one of the questions was on whether or not they offered to program the Sync.  I use Sync for the phone, but nothing else.  My wife's Escape has the "Parking Assist" on it, but she still avoids parking on the street.  I took it out after I first bought it to see just how well it parked itself  and it worked perfectly each time. 
                mayor al

                • Total Posts: 15059
                • Joined: 8/20/2002
                • Location: Louisville area, Southern Indiana
                • Roadfood Insider
                Re:Test Driving Cars Wed, 11/16/11 4:01 PM (permalink)
                One thing I haven't learned to do is 'update' the SYNC program for my phone. I added a bunch of numbers to my cell directory after we first programmed the truck. Now I must "call by saying the number" instead of saying in a clear voice "Call Moonlite BBQ" !! (heheeh)

                  • Total Posts: 3704
                  • Joined: 6/24/2007
                  • Location: McKinney, TX
                  Re:Test Driving Cars Thu, 11/17/11 9:29 AM (permalink)
                  In 1991 my Volvo dealer buddy let me have the new car he had just bought his wife as a "loaner" while service worked on my Bertone Coupe.  I didn't look the gift horse in the mouth, but I did say "You paid HOW much for a $&^*-in Toyota!". 
                  I drove that car for a 100+ miles that day.  The next day I traded my Bertone and have driven Lexus ever since.

                    • Total Posts: 1286
                    • Joined: 11/29/2005
                    • Location: South FL
                    Re:Test Driving Cars Thu, 11/17/11 10:34 AM (permalink)
                    That's exactly what happened with us this past Aug '10 last year. We pretty much narrowed down to 5 vehicles based on service records,safety,general impression,handling from limited test drives,even consulted our mechanic for advice from his database. One eye opening thing we did was run the selection past our insurance co. only to see some dramatic price differences between the vehicles. Once we narrowed down to two, we rented both for a few days. Surprising amount of nuances such as orthopedic comfort,interior noise,visibility, instrument access,and how detached you feel from the road that you can't subjectively assess from a test drive or customer reviews. We had the time to make a selection that we both could agree on and had well over year casually invested in informal research on the net and publications. Getting up in age, we found looking at higher trim levels that we initally didn't want to pass a price point became necessary if you wanted the orthopedic adjustments and some creature comforts that we've passed on years before.

                    What about renting a car for a day?  I have no idea what that would cost, but when you get down to a couple of choices, it might help.


                      • Total Posts: 238
                      • Joined: 12/17/2010
                      • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
                      Re:Test Driving Cars Thu, 11/17/11 5:16 PM (permalink)
                      I always test drive.  If I'd bought the truck my dad wanted me to buy, I would have had a hell of a time getting in and out of the Ford Ranger.  Banged my knee against the door panel each time.  Ended up getting the Chevy S10, not only was it easier to get in and out of, but the ride was smoother.  If I can't drive what I'm looking to buy, I'll go somewhere where I can.

                        Re:Test Driving Cars Thu, 11/17/11 6:59 PM (permalink)
                        Personally, I suggest using "" for any reviews including used cars.  They are super and free.  I have used the site for years.
                        Paul E. Smith
                        Knoxville, TN
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