Buying cars online is becoming increasingly popular thanks to a surge in car buying services and leasing deals which have made it easier than ever to secure a deal on a brand new car. So easy, in fact, some buyers aren’t even going down to the showroom before securing a deal. Obviously, we’d always recommend getting behind the wheel and test driving a car (preferably a number of cars) before making a purchase, here’s why...
Right now, Mazda are offering up to £4,000 off selected new models, and Ford up to £4,250 off in their scrappage schemes. Hyundai are offering up to £5,000 off new SUVs and Kia up to £2,500 off selected models in their scrappage schemes. Similar schemes are offered from Nissan and Renault when you trade in your old car. You can save up to £3,000 off a Renault Kadjar and up to £5,000 off a new Qashqai. Some manufacturers also offer incentives for taking a test drive, to encourage you to try before you buy. These aren't just exclusive to Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Renault and Ford, even Maserati are offering deals on their Levante SUV. Lots of manufacturers have these offers on throughout the year including 0% finance deals. It really is worth the effort to get behind the wheel of a car you might be interested in for this reason alone.
Find out the truth for yourself
It’s no secret that the miles per gallon figures quoted in the brochures are often generously exaggerated by some manufacturers. It’s also worth noting that we all drive differently, some more economically than others. If you take a car out for a test drive and drive it in your normal conditions then you can get a real world and honest idea of what fuel efficiency you can expect. Don’t just take the salesperson’s word for it.
Manufacturers offering 24hr or longer test drives
Traditionally, a ‘test drive’ from a manufacturer involved sitting in traffic around the dealership with a salesperson in the passenger seat who is in full sales-mode. Pointless, really. Nowadays it’s worth enquiring about 24+ hour test drives. BMW, MINI, Volvo, Jeep and Alfa Romeo are currently offering these on selected models, they usually have to be booked in advance but it means you can actually live with the car for a short while. You get a better idea of how well you get on with the car and you also get to show it off to your friends, a win-win situation really!
You can never ask too many questions…
Find out which engine suits you best. Ok, so if you’re looking for a Golf, there are countless engine choices to pick from and the way things are going at the moment, the diesel models with the highest MPG might not necessarily be the best option. Turbo-petrol engines are getting super economical too now, and in some instances, it should just come down to which engine the driver likes the feel of and to find that out you’ve got to test drive a few models.
Test out the new toys
Modern cars now come loaded with technology and equipment that was never available on older models. Like all technology though, it’s not always as straightforward as it probably should be. If you’ve got an Android phone you’re going to want to make sure the car supports your handset, and if you’ve got an iPhone then it needs to support Apple Carplay to have the full app-integration. Does the Bluetooth connect seamlessly or does it require navigating menus and submenus? Things like this are difficult to explore through a computer screen and require testing out in person.
Try the same model a number of times (used cars)
If you find a fault with a second-hand car while test driving it then there's a good chance the salesperson will say ‘oh yeah, they all do that.’ Do they? Do they really? Find out for yourself by testing different versions of the same model from different used car dealers. You can check if a car has got a hidden past here and this will help you identify which cars have worn clutches, clunky gearboxes and unwelcome engine rattles, so you can strike them off your shortlist.
It’s actually fun
One of the best reasons to take a car out for a test drive is because it can actually be good fun. You’re not expected to treat it like vintage Ferrari, and manufacturers understand that testing hard braking and acceleration (in safe and law-abiding conditions) is necessary to get an idea of what the car is capable of. Not only is that useful for the buyer, but it’s also enjoyable to experiment what a new car can do. The salesperson will know that if you really enjoy the test drive, you’ll probably end up making a purchase with them.
Find out if the shoe fits
We’ve all got our own parameters that our cars need to fit. Is it too wide to get in the garage? Is the ride too hard to deal with the speed bumps at the bottom of the road every day? Can I fit my golf clubs in the boot? Will the kids like it? Can I get my baby seat in and out easily? If you ask the salesperson these questions, he’s only going to give the right answers. Find out for yourself. Take a car for a test drive and see if it really does suit what you are looking for. Only you can decide whether it ticks all the right boxes and the only way to find out is through some thorough investigation.
Compare them all, one after the other
If you’ve done your research online, you’ve made a shortlist of a few cars to pick, arrange to test drive them all one after the other over a weekend. This is good for a number of reasons. Firstly, you can compare and contrast each car with more accuracy if you can try them back to back. Secondly, you’ll also be able to compare and contrast the dealership experiences of each manufacturer. How easy was it to set up a test drive? How pushy was the salesperson? How were you welcomed and how did they respond when you didn’t put a deposit or purchase down there and then? Remember, you could potentially be dealing with this dealership throughout your ownership of the vehicle so finding a dealership you can have a good relationship with is essential.
Lastly, can you actually drive it?
This has become a much bigger deal over the last few years as more and more people have moved up to buying SUVs instead of just hatchbacks and regular family cars. A lot of people have never driven SUVs before and while the difference is not massive, it is significant. They’re quite a bit harder to park because the rear view window is sometimes above the height of the car behind you, so that takes getting used to. They’re also usually quite a bit wider, but the parking spaces aren’t, so you’ve got less room for error when you’re reversing into a bay and so on. Most people are more than capable of driving bigger cars, but do you think you could live with the extra effort required to park it every day? A test drive is the only way to find out.