How to make the most of a test drive

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  • How to make the most of a test drive
  • Premier Icon grey_or_black

    Does anyone have any advice of what to ask for/expect of a test drive of a new or a second hand car?

    From chatting to a couple of franchised dealers, I think one dealership want one of their employees to sit in on the drive, whereas another will give the keys for an hour or so (I assume this means they won't have anyone in the car during the test drive).

    I can see the sense of the former, but whenever I've been on test drives, the salesman has been in the car, and also dictated the (very short) test drive route. In these cases, the test drive wasn't really the determining factor in what car I bought.

    How have you made the most of the test drive?


    Premier Icon kiwijohn

    I usually drove stuff I couldn't afford.

    Premier Icon molgrips

    I think they are legally required to have someone sit with you. Or at least for insurance purposes.


    Even if you don't normally drive like this, surely a test drive should the one time you really rag the car (once its warm ofcourse) and if they don't let you they must have something to hide ?

    My last two cars have seen me have a nice twenty minute bash around local roads without the seller present. Then again, both came from very reputable places!


    had a test drive on wednesday and they took a copy of my licience and gave me the keys, of i went for nearly an hour.


    I'd not even bother if they made me drive a short distance. I'd want to get any car I test drove on a fast road or a motorway at the very least.

    One garage said I could only test drive a car if I was serious and gave them a deposit???! Walked out of that one. I could understand it if they been suspicious I was just trying to get a go in a fast car but it was an Astra!

    Premier Icon mtbfix

    On taking a friend to pick up his new Honda something-or-other some years ago the salesman spotted me taking an interest in an S2000 on the lot. He handed me the keys without my even asking and let me take the ex out, no papers, no nothing. Turns out it was the sales manager's car and the sales chap had an axe to grind and was on his way out the door. That car went like stink!

    Premier Icon Flash

    Went to test drive an Alfa once, the salesman came with us on the test drive. When he got in he asked if we would be mostly using it for motorway or normal roads. Told him it would be mainly motorway, so he directed me from the showroom to the motorway and off we went.

    And I drove, up the motorway until after about an hour and the fuel light had came on I asked him when he wanted me to turn off. He then told me he thought I knew where I was going.

    About three hours after setting off we got back to the showroom and they were ready to lock up so he didn't even get to do the salesman part.


    Depends on the garage. When I was buying my honda accord tourer I was given the sales managers tourer for the weekend. I'd mentioned I wanted it to carry camping gera so thats what I used it for.

    I think they are legally required to have someone sit with you. Or at least for insurance purposes.

    It simply depends on what insurance cover they have – some have more comprehensive cover than others.

    I would expect the salesman to be with you unless you were very well known to the garage. Tell them how long you want to test drive and what sort of route


    I had a brand new 307 for a weekend once. Left my motor there and took it to Manchester over Snake and back the next day. It was covered in massive pink logos which made me look like a bit of a dick


    When the XC90 first came out I got one to try for a day which was nice. I did buy one, but not from that dealer!


    Tool a punto for a test drive once with the salesman there. Got about a mile up the road and it ran out of petrol. Salesman didn't have a clue what to do so I abandoned him and walked back to the showroom and drove off. Lucky escape.


    5yrs ago I test drove a new M3 (main dealer) and they said I would have to stick to the normal 3-4 mile route. As an existing customer of theirs I said there was no way I'd part with that kind of cash based on 10-15 minutes of driving. They said that was their policy and that was that. Needless to say I took the drive anyway.

    Other dealers have simply thrown me the keys and said bring it back where you're done!


    Drive it like you stole it, and insist on a mix of A road, urban and motorway / dual carriage way.

    That way you'll get the chance to really see the car across all possible environments, and probably working it harder than you would if you owned it.

    In my experience the salesmen don't mind you ragging it, in fact a few have encouraged it. I remember doing 60 round a roundabout in a Civic Type R in 3rd gear, the salesman telling me to redline it…….


    When I lived in the highlands you'd just have to leave something of yours, like your license and just take the car for an hour or so.

    I knew a guy there, who to be frank was a long way down a spiral into madness and eventually suicide. He was the last person I would have handed a set of car keys too and yet he was able to use frequent test drives of Audi A8's as free taxis around the whole of the north of scotland.

    Got about a mile up the road and it ran out of petrol.

    That often happens – they deliberately leave them with hardly any fuel in in case of theft.

    i booked a test drive of a caterham at a local dealer, was told to wait for their 'test drive guy' to get back before i could go out.

    he couldnt fit in the car with the roof on (was raining, hard) so i was able to still have the drive on my own. and told since there was only a gallon or so in the tank if i refueled to put some in, and bring them the receipt.

    but if its a second hand car – i would just be looking to see if the car stops straight, that on a straight road it drives straight without pulling to oneside (tho allowing for the camber of the road on that one)
    that it turns on hard lock at low speed without any grinding noise (ie the CV joint is ok)
    theres no wobbles either at 20/30mph or at higher speed (60+)
    that the clutch bites ok – not too high or too much free play on the pedal.

    Try to get a mix of different types of road and drive for at least 30 mins-any seat/back problems would start to show up by then & the different surfaces will give you an idea of road noise and how it handles rough surfaces. Also, very important, as well as thrashing it, do a low-speed test too-considering a lot of driving these days is done in traffic jams, transmission snatch when the throttle is lifted or when the drivetrain is lightly loaded can be a real problem.I have had both accompanied & solo test drives-it all depends on the garage but try not to feel inhibited or intimidated if they insist on riding with you.


    Took out a Skyline GTR from a Jap importers a few years ago, on local roads I knew really well. The salesmen encouraged me to "give it some" but regretted it by the end of the test drive.

    He was white as a sheet and so were his knuckles as he gripped the dashboard.

    I enjoyed it mightily though 😀

    Always wanted one since but never had the dosh (and never will 🙁 )

    Premier Icon molgrips

    All the car dealers (well, nearly all) in Cardiff are in virtually the same place, so you get to drive the same roads in different cars – useful.


    In my opinion if they came with you they don't trust you.

    I cant relax or understand a car properly if someone sits with me, talks to me about tedious things and insists I take a prearranged short circuit.

    I've rarely bought from those sort of places. I've never test driven a car that I couldn't afford. I don't think I'd have the front!

    Premier Icon grey_or_black

    All good input – much appreciated.

    Sounds like I need to take the initiative on what kind of roads the test drive takes in – helpful as it seems like that's not something the dealer can object to.

    I wouldn't have the nerve to test a car I had no intention of buying, either. Sounds tempting though 😉


    I find it helps if you know quite a bit about the car and enthusiastically engage the salesman in that type of chatter. If he responds accordingly then there's a chance they'll take you more seriously and give you more flexibility on the type of test drive. I remember being encouraged to drive a VXT like a proper go-kart – that was certainly fun:)


    Ford will lend you a car any car for 24 hours if you join there company car drivers club, and it sfree and the car gets delivered,and picked up, by two very informative chaps who do it for a living so soon find all the niggles, and weaknesses.

    Drove a volkswagen once on a test drive,stopped on a bit of a hill and we rolled back as i told the sales chap the handbrake had failed, he nearly shit himself,before i sounded the horn and lifted the clutch,never did get a deal off him and he didnt see the funny side either.

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