Beware: All Car Sales Are Final, So Donít Skimp on the Test Drive

Test Drive Gear Shift
Copyright: iQoncept/
I preach it on the radio regularly, but it happens way too often. People go out and buy themselves a new vehicle, and within 72 hours they realize they donít like it or it doesnít fit their family, or some other issue. It is called buyerís remorse, and in spite of what people think, there is no ďcooling offĒ period in any state in America. When you drive away, you own it. Usually when someone regrets his or her purchase, it is because he or she didnít take a proper test drive.

Some people refuse to take a test drive. I believe the test drive of a new or used vehicle is a very important step in the car buying process. I cannot imagine spending money on shoes without trying them on, and I sure cannot imagine making your second-largest purchase without driving what you are buying. Here are some tips for doing it properly.

  1. Before you drive a prospective car, know your priorities. For some, it is power when accelerating, for other people it is comfort, and the list goes on by individual. I have seen people for whom cup holders were a top priority. Look for what is important to you from the start of your test drive.

  2. Before you put the car in gear, get to know the controls for a safe trip. Set the mirrors and your seat adjustment for safety. Tilt the steering wheel to the position that feels best to you, and head out on your journey. Of course keep your eyes on the road at all times. If you have someone with you, let him or her drive at some point so you can look at the features of the car safely.

  3. Donít rush the test drive, even if the salesperson makes you feel rushed. You are spending a lot of money, so you are literally in the driverís seat. Drive in different kinds of traffic if at all possible. Most dealerships are near a highway, so experience the acceleration of the freeway entrance and see how the car feels to you at freeway speeds.

  4. During higher speed driving, turn the air conditioner and radio down to check for interior quietness and road noise. Excessive road noise or wind noise is a real problem for many people, so pay close attention to this.

  5. In the course of your test drive, check the visibility limitations when you go to make a lane change to the left and to the right. Make sure you can see behind you through the back glass without any problems. Depending on your size, you may not be able to see well out of certain cars and this can be a real safety hazard to you and others.

  6. Either on the test drive, or back at the dealership, check to see how comfortable you are parking the car. Pull it in, back it in, and find a place to parallel park the car. Make sure this is not something you think youíll have trouble with. This is a classic mistake people make, especially those who are not great at parking.

Once you are finished with your test drive, feel free to ask your salesperson to give you a few minutes to reflect on the experience of the test drive.

  • How did the car REALLY feel to you?
  • What did you not like?
  • Did it meet the requirements in a car you set out to purchase?
  • Can you see yourself driving this car for the next five years?

Be sure you are honest with yourself and not just in love with the thought of a new car.

A couple of final thoughts:

  • If you are going to compare more than one car for your potential purchase, try to do them on the same day while everything is fresh on your mind.
  • Also, donít let a bad salesperson ruin a car choice for you. If the salesperson isnít helpful on the test drive, donít get down on the car, just donít buy from that person.

The test drive is not just fun, it is important! Make sure you do it right and take your time.
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Hello, we are looking for a new used car to replace a 2012 GMC Terrain that we've had nothing but issues with. We have found a 2012 Audi Q5 with around 60,000 miles. We have read your review of that car back when it was new, any updates? My wife drives 20,000 miles a year, kids to school, games, etc. and we need an affordable, reliable car. Only requirements are leather, and wheel drive suv. Love the Kia Telluride but trying to avoid that much of a payment.

Thank you!!
The Car Pro
Q5 has a great history. If you can find one with a clean history report and around 60,000 miles, it will have a lot of life left in it. I think itís a good choice!

Jerry Reynolds
Deborah O.
Buyers regret w/purchase of 2018 Hyundai Elantra SEL from Massey Hyundai, Hagerstown MD. Salesman, RD Sutton, saw this old disabled woman coming! Oh, I helped... I was a willing pigeon... bought in, hook, line & sinker!
The Car Pro
I always hate to hear these stories Deborah. I wish there was a magic answer for you. Hopefully it?ll grow on you over time, they really are good vehicles.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Peggy F.
Same thing happened to me, Deborah! I was an idiot. But the article doesn't answer the question. Should I even try to go back to the dealer and try to swap for a different model?
Michael U.
Back in the 70's, I remember a few dealerships that would send a car home with a prospective buyer for a weekend. I guess with the cost of vehicles these days that would never fly. I had a personal case of buyer's remorse last August when I was negotiating the purchase of a factory certified 2015 Ford Taurus. First, the dealer did not mention there was a lower price on the dealer's internet page, then while I was given a Carfax report, it was not presented until all paperwork was completed. That's when I found out the car had been side swiped, totaled, and sold at auction. Don't get me wrong, I love the car but had (and still have) a bad taste in my mouth about the whole deal.