6 Tips for Test Driving a Car When Looking to Make a Purchase

By Shannon Gurnee
In Car Review
May 4, 2016
1 Comment

This review was made possible by iConnect and Autotrader
I was provided compensation to facilitate this post, but all opinions stated are 100% mine.

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I am so thankful to have a vehicle that runs great and allows me to drive our 6 kids to their 3 different schools every day during the school year, run errands and shop with, as well as travel with. But shopping for a car took some time and effort and was definitely one of the biggest purchases Frank and I have made.

While the purchase of a car is typically one of the biggest purchases a consumer makes, a recent Autotrader® survey showed that 84 percent of consumers say it is extremely important to test drive a vehicle they’re considering. The top three things they look for during test drives are performance, comfort and handling. While 30 percent wait to test drive vehicles until they know the exact model they want to buy, 44 percent get behind the wheel when they’re still considering a few options.

For consumers in the market for a new car, it can be difficult to keep up with all of the new—and newly redesigned—models that have been released since they last bought a car. Autotrader’s editorial team is helping consumers narrow down the many choices on the market today by selecting the top 10 vehicles that shoppers should experience for themselves. Announced today, Autotrader’s Must Test Drive vehicle lineup for 2016 includes a wide range of body styles to ensure that no matter what kind of vehicle a shopper is considering, the list will point them in the right direction for their next purchase.

The annual Autotrader Must Test Drive awards program is a uniquely consumer-focused accolade designed to showcase vehicles that shoppers definitely need to take for a ride before deciding what to buy. Selected vehicles are ones that can change the way a consumer perceives the model—or even the entire brand. The awarded vehicles are chosen based on a diverse set of criteria outlined by Autotrader’s editorial experts, who log thousands of miles test driving the latest cars, trucks and SUVs on the road each year.

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In alphabetical order, Autotrader’s Must Test Drive Vehicles of 2016 are:

  • 2016 Chevrolet Malibu: The all-new 2016 model competes with the very best cars in the segment. The Malibu feels agile and light on its feet and has a long list of available high-tech features, including Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto.
  • 2016 FIAT 500X: The FIAT 500X competes in the hot new subcompact-crossover segment. The 500X is roomy, offers more-than-adequate power, is as capable and efficient as rivals and is reasonably priced.
  • 2016 Honda Civic: Car shoppers may find themselves dazzled by the new Civic’s generous interior dimensions, its impressive list of available equipment and its truly fantastic interior. The latest Civic offers the car’s usual benefits, such as reasonable pricing, several engine and body style choices, and notorious durability.
  • 2016 Kia Sedona: The Kia Sedona comes equipped with a comfortable interior, handsome exterior styling and a surprisingly sporty driving experience. Then there’s the long list of amenities, which includes everything from reclining second-row captain’s chairs to adaptive cruise control.
  • 2016 Lincoln MKC: A stylish, well-designed compact luxury SUV, the MKC isn’t too big or too small. Instead, it is sized just right to compete with rivals, and it offers just as many high-tech gadgets, if not more. The MKC is also sporty and yet surprisingly efficient thanks to a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.
  • 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300: The Mercedes-Benz GLC300 is a handsome new luxury crossover that makes a huge leap forward over the increasingly outdated GLK it replaces. The GLC features nicely balanced steering, crisp design and premium materials throughout the cabin.
  • 2016 Nissan Titan XD: The Nissan Titan XD is uniquely positioned between standard light-duty pickups and traditional heavy-duty trucks, which is only bolstered by its available Cummins V8 turbo diesel engine. A surprisingly quiet cabin and compelling trailering features add to the appeal.
  • 2016 Subaru Legacy: The Subaru Legacy touts standard all-wheel drive, strong gas mileage, reasonable pricing and a very inexpensive suite of modern safety gadgets, such as lane-departure warning, automatic forward-collision braking and a blind spot monitoring system.
  • 2016 Toyota Prius: The fully redesigned 2016 Toyota Prius is now better than ever, especially in the Touring trim level, touting a futuristic exterior design and a sharply upgraded interior that looks both modern and high-class.
  • 2016 Volvo XC90: The new Volvo XC90 sets the standard in virtually every category: style, technology, safety, comfort and equipment. It’s also surprisingly well-priced for a luxury SUV.

In addition to the criteria above, consideration is only given to vehicles that car shoppers can buy at the time of the award announcement, are of the current or next model year, have a base price under $75,000, offer a significant value for the asking price and scored no lower than a four on Autotrader’s five-point rating scale in a variety of categories, including exterior styling, interior quality, cargo capacity, included and available technology and ride quality.

“No matter what you’re looking for, there’s sure to be at least one car on this year’s Must Test Drive list that you should check out for yourself,” added Moody. “The more vehicles you try, the more prepared you’ll be to make the right decision when it’s time to buy.” I know for myself, I would love to test drive the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu! Which one would you love to test drive first?

To read more about why the Autotrader editors selected each of the vehicles, and to learn how to make the most of your next test drive, check out www.Autotrader.com/MustTestDrive.

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6 Tips For Test Driving a Car

When it comes to buying a car, one of the things you’ll need to do is test drive the car. Check out these 6 tips when it comes to test driving a car.

1 – Come prepared with people and stuff. Your test drive should mimic closely the way you use your car in day-to-day driving, so you need to bring the people and items that typically ride with you. If you have a family, take them along. Try a child safety seat to see how it fits. Throw your golf bag in the trunk. See if your lanky teenager can sit comfortably in the backseat. If you’re single and typically drive alone, bring a friend. You’ll benefit from the help of a sidekick anyway.

2 – Don’t follow the usual route. When you take a test drive with a dealership salesperson, it’s likely that the route won’t be very long. Nearly any salesperson will allow a longer test drive, if a shopper requests it, especially if they’re serious about making a sale. Make sure you test the road in your typical driving conditions—through neighborhoods, on the highway, and in rush hour traffic if your daily commute has you in tenuous stop-and-go traffic. And don’t forget to try driving it home, if possible, and parking it in your garage to see if it fits.

3 – Drive on rough roads. One of the most important places to go on a test drive is on rough roads to find out how a car drives on harsh surfaces. It would be no fun to drive home in a new car and discover later that the ride is too jarring for you to handle.

4 – Drive on curvy roads. After you’ve driven on a rough road and on the highway, your next stop should be a road with some curves. You’ll want to do this in order to feel the physics of the car. Is it too top-heavy? Do its motions make you carsick? And, of course, do you feel like the steering and handling is adequate for your needs? A curvy road is the best place to answer each of those questions.

5 – Try parking the car in various scenarios. Many shoppers on a test drive forget a crucial aspect of driving that can be very stressful: parking. That’s why we strongly suggest that you take any vehicle and try to park it in different parking places like a crowded parking lot and even a parallel parking space. If you do, you might discover potential flaws with the car, such as a large turning radius or poor visibility. Of course, you also might find out that the car is easy to park, which can only be a good thing.

6 – Test the infotainment system and connect your phone. The interface for making phone calls, answering texts and accessing the maps on your phone is probably the portion of the car you’ll interact with many times per day – second only to the steering wheel and seats. Make sure the pairing is easy, that the graphics are large enough to read at a glance. If at all possible, look for a system that is very easy to use like Chrysler’s Uconnect or either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. 

Resources such as Autotrader have made it so much easier when it comes to purchasing new cars! Be sure to follow Autotrader on Twitter and Facebook for more information.

What is the Test Driving Tip you agree with most?
Which of Autotrader’s Must Test Drive Vehicles would you test drive first?


About Has 1228 Posts

Shannon Gurnee (formerly Shannon Gosney) is the author of The Mommy-Files, a national blog with a loyal following. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with a Minor in Business Management. Shannon and her husband, Frank, have a large family with 6 awesome kids and love living on the Central Coast near San Luis Obispo, California, as well as traveling around the world. A full-time Social Media and Professional Blogger, Shannon also serves as a National Brand Ambassador for many well-known companies. Her blog focuses on motherhood, family fun activities, traveling, fashion, beauty, technology, wedding ideas and recipes while providing professional opinions on products, performances, restaurants, and a variety of businesses.

One Response to “6 Tips for Test Driving a Car When Looking to Make a Purchase”

  1. Helen Swarts says:

    Such an informative post, love it!!

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