How to Make the Most of Your Test Drive | Dick Hannah Dealerships

How to Make the Most of Your Test Drive

When you buy a new pair of shoes you usually try them on first before heading for the register, right? This same philosophy of “try before you buy” is extremely important in car buying as well. You’ve done hours of research, built and rebuilt your favorite car, truck or SUV on the manufacturer site over and over again on your couch trying to find ways to get the price just a little lower. You’re ready to make a move and buy the car of your dreams. More and more of the car-shopping process is taking place online, which is great news! Informed consumers make for the best customers. But one aspect of the car shopping experience that hasn’t, and most likely won’t change is the test drive. It is an essential step in the process and one you definitely shouldn’t skip over no matter how many hours of research you’ve done. Nothing beats the experience of getting behind the wheel of the car you’re looking to buy.

With the amount of research consumers are doing online the test drive is quickly becoming one of those skipped or overlooked options when going through the sales process. You should always go for the test drive. No matter what. There aren’t any number of pictures or YouTube videos that are going to give you the same feeling as actually driving the car you are looking to buy. Here is a brief breakdown of how to get the most out of your test drive.



On average you will, have or are in the middle of visiting about 23 different websites, what almost an hour of videos and in total spend about 12 hours total during your research phase of buying a new car. Don’t let all of that hard work go to waste. Schedule an appointment with our sales team and they will have the car or cars you are looking to test drive ready and waiting for you.

Research the car you want before ever stepping in to a dealership - including price, model, trim and more

Busy? Our sales team will even drop off a car for you to test drive and pick it up if you don’t think you’ll have time to make it to the dealership before it’s time to sign the paperwork.


What Do You Want to Test Drive?

Knowing exactly what vehicle and the trim level you want to test drive when you get to the dealership is extremely beneficial. Knowing what trim level of vehicle you want to test drive helps to ensure you are getting the full experience. The base-level Impreza doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the Impreza Premium. If you are wanting to buy the Premium trim then make sure to tell your sales specialist so they can have the correct vehicle ready and waiting for you.

If you aren’t sure what trim level you want then take them all for a spin and see which one feels better to you or has the type of tech you are wanting.


Get to Know Your Vehicle

Before your sales specialist lets you loose on the roads they will give you a quick walk around to point out those basic features that everyone needs like blinkers, wipers, lights, etc. Be sure to pay close attention so you know where all the essential features are on the vehicle. If you feel like something is missing or there is an extra button you’re not sure about, just ask. The better you know the vehicle before you get behind the wheel, the better that test drive will go. The goal here is to familiarize yourself well enough that you can concentrate on the feel of the drive.

Man inspecting new or used car looking for any imperfections before sale

Make the Adjustments Before You Hit The Road

Make sure the driver’s seat is optimized for you before you put the thing in drive. Adjust the mirrors, steering wheel, seat, and whatever else is available to maximize comfort for you. You don’t want to have to make these adjustments on the fly while driving around town.


Turn Off the Radio

A quality sound system is definitely important for a lot of drivers, but wait to test that out till you’re back on the lot. Turn off the radio and make sure to listen to road noise and what the car sounds like just by itself. Is the road noise too much for you? Does the engine or ac sound weird? These are all good things to know before you sign the paperwork.


Is It a Fit For The Whole Family?

placing kids in car seat

Obviously, the driver is pretty dang important when it comes to comfortability in the car but don’t forget to think about those passengers who are going to be riding with you on the daily. If you aren’t bringing your partner or kids with you then jump in the passenger seat and double-check to make sure it is comfortable and they would enjoy riding along. Kids? If you are leaving the kids at home then bring the car or booster seats when you are doing a test drive. Installing the car seats or booster seats into the car will give you a fantastic idea of the amount of room you’ll have in the back.


Bring a Friend with You

If you don’t have a family member available to come with you then you should really consider bringing a friend along. A second person’s opinion on the car, the drive, noise level, and ride quality can really help you make up your mind. They are an impartial third party. If they think the noise level is a little too high, they’re going to tell you.

You’ll also be able to bounce your own dislikes and likes off of them to see if you are appropriately weighing everything when making your decision.


Duplicate your Travel

If you are someone who is driving down I-5 every morning heading from Ridgefield, WA to PDX for their job then make sure your test drive gets the car on the freeway. Lots of trips to the store? Make sure to drive to your local Fred Meyers or Safeway and turn in and maybe just drive around the parking lot a bit to give you a feel for the car’s maneuverability. Basically, try to replicate the driving scenarios you see on a daily basis. If you regularly take the off-road route to work then make sure you find some kind of dirt trail to drive the car on to make sure it will get you where you need to go.


Blind Spots

Always check the blind spots. Blind spots are different on every car, heck, they’re different based on how you have your seat adjusted in your own car. Take a minute and check to see where the blind spots are on the vehicle you’re driving and what adjustments can be made to help minimize them.


Brakes, Parking & Turning

cars in parking lot

Here is the fun part. Testing. Find an empty parking lot and check the brakes to give you an idea of the stopping time the car requires. Make sure there are no other cars around and then accelerate to a legal speed and then quickly press on the brakes. Make any necessary notes for yourself about sensitivity, pressure, smoothness, etc., and then stick that info in your back pocket to assess later.


Parking is definitely another thing you should test while you’re behind the wheel. We know, this sounds kind of silly. You’re probably sitting there like, “how hard is parking? You shouldn’t need to test parking, just fit the car between the two white lines.” We get where you’re coming from but it is still good to see what parking is like in your new machine, especially if you are going up in size from a sedan to an SUV or truck. The turning radius of a sedan is extremely different compared to a truck or SUV. Once you are in the parking spot, get out, and take a look around the car. Did you think you were in the center of the spot but you are actually right up against the right line? Are you sticking out the back of the spot because your forward view is longer than your last car? These are all things to take note of before purchasing your new car. Also, definitely see what parallel parking is like. Nothing worse than being in downtown Portland or Vancouver trying to parallel park with a line of cars behind you and having to pull in and out multiple times because you aren’t used to how the new car parks.


Test Drive Similar Models

If you are wanting to test drive multiple models, make sure to get them all done on the same day. It is infinitely easier to compare them against each other while each ride is fresh in your mind.


What to look for when buying a used car - happy looking couple after buying a used new car


Ready To Drive?


Whether you are shopping for a new or used vehicle, our sales specialists stand ready to help you find the car of your dreams and to make sure your test-driving experience is the best it can be. Give us a call or stop by and visit the team, today!



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