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Own Your Next Test Drive With Advice From AAA’s Car Doctor

how to own a test drive

If you plan to buy a vehicle, a proper test drive is important. The typical 20- to 30-minute test drive doesn’t offer a ton of opportunity to gauge if a vehicle is right for you, but you can use it wisely.

Here’s what AAA’s Car Doctor John Paul recommends.

  • Successful test drives start at home. Identify what you want in a vehicle vs. what you need. A Ferrari might look fantastic, but it’s probably not the best choice for a family of four with two dogs.
  • A salesperson may recommend a route aimed at keeping you on freshly paved roads or in low-traffic areas. Ask to chart your own course that suits your driving habits. Drivers who merge into heavy highway traffic every morning probably should know how it would feel to do that.
  • Pay attention to how easy it is to get in and out of the vehicle. Minor difficulties on a test drive could become serious nuisances over time, especially if you’re in and out of your car a lot.
  • Most drivers develop go-to spots for wallets, cellphones and sunglasses. Re-enact your routine to see if a vehicle has good spots for your stuff. See if you’re comfortable with the controls. All new cars come with a learning curve, but being intimidated by a large touch screen might be a sign the fully loaded model isn’t a good fit.
  • Adjust the driver’s seat as if you had backseat passengers, then judge if it’s comfortable. This is also a good way to see if a vehicle has any blind spots, or may be difficult to drive in reverse.
  • If you have children, think about how difficult it might be to install their car seats and how challenging it might be to get them in and out of the vehicle.
  • Don’t fixate on cup holders. You may like to have your morning coffee within reach, but a conveniently located receptacle doesn’t make up for other shortfalls.

Do you have any other tips for winning a vehicle test drive? Let us know in the comments!

Also, find out what you should ask a car salesperson.

Once you’ve picked out your next vehicle, let AAA help protect it with an extended warranty and the best insurance policy.


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5 Thoughts on “Own Your Next Test Drive With Advice From AAA’s Car Doctor

    1. Hi James, are you referring to inspections? If so, AAA does not do inspections but our Auto Buying Program can give you all available safety and technical data on a used car. If you are looking for an inspection, you can go to the closest approved auto repair shop. AAA members receive a discount. You can find a list of them here: https://www.aaa.com/autorepair/

  1. I like to buy a car in winter weather. The test drive should include slow ascent of moderately steep slippery hills.

  2. I have noticed at the beginning of a test drive some salepeople would turn on the radio.
    It is good to know how the radio sounds but I generally turn the radio off during a test drive since it can mask many noises such as rattles and squeaks that could be a deciding factor as to whether you want to purchase this car.

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