You wouldn’t buy a big-ticket item without first carefully and thoroughly checking it out, right? This holds as true for a house or a boat or a new car. To be certain you’re getting exactly what you want, here are a few tips for a great new car test drive – a vital part of your car-buying experience.

The AAA is a good source for all kinds of valuable information on a number of automotive-related subjects, and we’ve briefly summarized some of their advice on the subject of the new car test drive.

Start your test drive on the computer. – Although it sounds ridiculous to think you can test out a car on the computer, this really should be your first step in trying to determine if a particular car, crossover, SUV, minivan, truck or convertible is right for your needs – as well as your budget. Be sure to check out safety and performance features, purchase price and resale value, not to mention any available incentives or rebates.

    Don’t just fall in love with how it looks. – Sure, it’s so easy to be blinded by how terrific the styling of your proposed new car purchase is, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if that’s all you do before you sign on the dotted line. Just because it’s a snazzy model or the latest redesign doesn’t mean it’s sized right or feels right to you. So, insist on a test drive and make sure you take all the time you need to ensure it’s exactly what you want.

      Do a walk-around of the car. – Get a good idea, up close and personal, of every aspect of the car on the outside, even before you sit behind the wheel or in the passenger seat. As you walk around, think about how this vehicle will be able to meet your family’s needs for passengers, cargo capacity, and ease of loading. Check the paint and chrome for any pitting or bubbles. Do the doors and windows fit snugly? Are there any gaps in the body panels? Open and close the tailgate and trunk. How does the overall quality of the vehicle look?

        Sit in the backseat while the salesperson drives. – Yes, you want to be a backseat passenger while the salesperson does the first pass at driving. While you’re in the back, concentrate on the ride, how quiet it is inside the cabin and how comfortable you feel, as well as whether there’s sufficient room in the back for passengers you’re going to be carrying.

          Sit behind the wheel. – Next, you’re ready to get in and sit behind the wheel. See how easy to see, read and use the controls are and if the visibility forward, rear and to the sides is clear and unobstructed. How much legroom, headroom, knee room do you have? Now, check out all the accessories and options, including sound system, air conditioning, and navigation assistance. Don’t forget blind spot monitoring, rearview camera and other high-tech features. Ask for a demonstration and instruction if how these work is new to you.

            Pick a number of different routes. – According to the AAA, the idea is for you to choose your own route, one that mirrors what you’ll normally drive. Include a number of different options, freeway driving, city streets, winding roads and hills. This ensures that you’ll get a good idea of the car’s ride and handling capabilities.

            Other things to look for.  – Check to see that the car has enough power for highway merging and stop-and-go driving. Also check when power accessories are on, such as air conditioning. Observe how smoothly the transmission operates and be on the lookout for any straining or hesitation. As for handling, be sure the steering is responsive, both in long and sharp turns and sudden swerves. Also check the brakes to be certain there’s adequate stopping power – do both soft and sudden braking. While you’re on the test drive, listen for excessive noise in the cabin that may be coming from the wind, road or engine. Also listen for any squeaks and rattles. Do this with the windows open and closed. Finally, do a parallel parking maneuver to make sure there are no blind spots or difficulty navigating the car into the spot.

              Since buying a new car is a considerable investment, paying attention to these tips for a great new car test drive will help ensure greater satisfaction in your vehicle purchase.

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