The world is full of beautiful automobiles that can dazzle you with flashy paint, innovative features, and that new car smell, but ultimately, you need a set of wheels that's going to get you from point A to point B safely and efficiently. This means engaging in comparison shopping to find the make and model that best suits your needs and preferences, within your budget.
The process begins by examining cars on paper, so to speak. Before you ever take a test drive, you need to do some research to narrow your options. You'll want to compare specs and consumer reviews to get a good idea of whether specific vehicles are even worth test driving, or if they're unlikely to suit you. From there, you can head to the dealerships to test your top picks.
The trick is to go in prepared with a checklist that helps you determine if a car really has everything you want and need. Here are a few tips to ensure you make the right choice.
Bring a Friend
Car buying need not be a solo experience. There are a few good reasons to bring a friend. First and foremost, it never hurts to have a second opinion. While a family member or friend might not have the same goals or preferences as you, they can point out things you may have missed.
They can also sit in the back seat while you test drive and tell you what the experience is like. This could be important if you frequently transport passengers and you're concerned about their comfort. Of course, it also helps to have someone along to run interference with the salesperson who may go with you. This way, you won't be distracted while you test new cars.
Plan a Route That Truly Tests a Vehicle
You can't exactly hit the Baja 500 to see what a new vehicle is made of before you sign on the dotted line, but that doesn't mean you can't put it through the paces in different driving condition to gauge comfort, handling, and overall performance. Plan a route that includes different road surfaces and speed limits, hills, turns, highway merging, and so on.
This will provide the best opportunity to test acceleration and braking, gauge the car's get-up-and-go factor, get a feel for the steering and handling, determine visibility and road noise, and ascertain the overall comfort of the ride, just for example. You can also test different modes, like sport or eco, for example.
Test Drive Multiple Vehicles
After the first test drive, you may think you've found your dream car and you're done, but you really need to test multiple vehicles. Any new car is going to seem better than your old one, but when you drive several new cars, you can conduct a real apples-to-apples comparison. With a bit of research, a friend, and a checklist to help you compare, you're sure to find a new car that's perfect for you.