Car shopping can be nerve-wracking. It can be easy to feel at a disadvantage dealing with an industry professional while you lack their expertise to talk on their terms. After broaching the topic of money and identifying a car you’re interested in, the next step is the all-important test drive.
It’s a vital stage in the buying process, whether you’re looking at a new car or a used one. It’s not just about throwing it down a set of twisty corners and seeing if it’s fun to drive – you need to use many of your senses (except, perhaps, taste…) to establish whether or not it’s the car for you.
Your test drive is about much more than clambering behind the wheel and making sure you can comfortably reach the controls. If you’re shopping for a used car, it’s your chance to check that the car is in good working order, and has been well looked-after by the current owner. And if you’re shopping new, it’s a chance to assess the quality of the fitments and that your chosen engine delivers the performance you require.
Settle into the driving seat and take a good look around before you set off. How’s the visibility through the rear windscreen? Can you see comfortably over your shoulder into your blind spot? Are the front pillars likely to obstruct your view at junctions?
Not all cars will suit every driver because of their different dimensions, and you might simply find that the car you want is too big (or too small) for your frame.
Also pay attention to the layout and design of the dashboard. If you’re planning on covering many miles, you’ll going to spend plenty of time looking at it – is it visually appealing?
Step into the car and close the door. Does it give a satisfying clunk or are there any rattles?
Start up the engine and give it a good rev. It’s helpful to pop the bonnet and listen while car idles to see if everything ticks over correctly; a misfire or other unexpected noise could point to a potential future bill.
Once you’re on the move, listen for gravelly acceleration, and knocking noises that can hint at damaged suspension.
This is all especially true of used cars where there’s no warranty provided, or there’s patchy service history. For added peace of mind, choose an Approved Used model from Inchcape Audi – they all come with a comprehensive warranty and have been multi-point inspected to ensure their quality and reliability.
Before setting off, take time to place your hands at various points around the cabin. Does everything feel well-made and the materials durable? Is everything logically laid out and where you’d expect to find it?
Check that all the buttons work and have a satisfying action, and that the seats adjust so you can achieve the perfect driving position. If you’re going to be sharing the car, make sure everyone can get equally comfortable behind the wheel.
Once you’re on the move, get a feel for the weight of the steering and the pedals. Some models will have offset pedals that can make long-distance driving uncomfortable.
Any brand new car will have that distinctive ‘new car smell’, but if you’re buying used it pays to open your nostrils and take in a good sniff. Is there any evidence of damp that could indicate a leaking door seal? Be on alert, too, for excessive exhaust smoke - especially from diesel models.
Stay with us on this… but your sense of balance tells you a lot about how the car handles. And what you prefer is all based on your driving style.
Cars with softer suspension will lean more in corners, so while they provide a smoother ride, they will inspire less confidence when changing direction at speed. It’s all down to preference - do you prioritise comfort or excitement?