The importance of the test drive

There are very few things in life that we purchase without first trying them out.  We shove ourselves into fitting rooms with hangers full of clothing before purchasing one new pair of jeans.  We sit down in front of a kneeling salesperson to select that perfect pair of shoes.  Rather than walking into an appliance store with a bag full of groceries or a week’s worth of our laundry to test out appliances, we read countless reviews, and some fastidious shoppers consult consumer reports to see what their options are.  So why would you buy a vehicle without first taking it for a spin?

The test drive is a time-honored tradition in the automotive retail field, and many salespeople are well-equipped to deal with everyone from the worst drivers to the tentative drivers to the over-informed.  Many used car dealerships have specific routes on which they take their test drivers, and it usually offers a wide variety of road types in order to fully get the feel for the car and how it will handle.  However, it seems as though more people are opting out of this time honored tradition in favor of shortening the car buying process.

Recent studies show that more people, nearly 20%, are forgoing the test drive when purchasing a car.  Whether this is because they’re sticking with the same brand and model, and feel that they don’t to test drive it or if they’re just hustling their way through the purchase, this number is shocking.  While it may not seem to be an astronomical number, 1/5 of purchasers driving a car off the lot without getting a feel for it first seems a little ridiculous.  How else are we supposed to know if we’re biting off more than we can chew in terms of the vehicle we’re driving?

In the instance of purchasing a car we’re familiar with, perhaps we consider the test drive to be an unnecessary thing.  However, models of cars change so rapidly that the same model, just ten years older, isn’t going to drive the same as the one you’re currently driving.  The car you’re using for your commute to work is something you’ve gotten used to, the tires are worn to the roadways, and the alignment is something to which you’ve become accustomed.  This won’t be the case with a brand new car, as they come off the line without imperfections.

We’ve always been taught that test driving a vehicle is of the utmost importance, as it allows us to make a firm and well-researched decision about a major commitment.  Buying a car without test-driving it first is akin to marrying someone without ever going on a first date.  This sounds completely out of the question to most people, so why are we willing to make such a major purchase without first ensuring that the car is going to fit our driving capabilities, our comfort level, and even our personalities?  Yet, this is becoming the trend.

A car is a large piece of machinery that the control of which is our responsibility.  How do we know if we can do so, in a safe fashion, if we’re not trying it before buying it?  Driver in Pennsylvania are often taught to not only test drive a car once, but to take it out a second time.  Living in a state that gets a pretty consistent amount of winter weather, as a driver it is your responsibility to ensure that you’re getting the best vehicle for the conditions.  Without getting it out on the roads, a driver is not able to properly gauge the appropriateness of this vehicle for their particular situation.

Shockingly, another phenomena that seems to be occurring is that people are purchasing the first car they see, and still saying no to the test drive.  Due to the internet’s stronghold on the automotive industry, people feel as though they’re conducting thorough research about a vehicle by reading about it on the dealer’s website.  Forty percent of people say they’ve only gone to one dealership in their pursuit of a new car.  In these instances, the best possible research that can be done is of the features offered, the exterior and interior appearance, and possible gas mileage.  There is no way to tell, from an internet ad, if that car is going to be right for you, as a driver.

Part of the reason for the lack of test-driving these days may be the fact that we’ve become somewhat obsessed with the idea of instant gratification.  We want what we want and we want it now, or perhaps it stems from the fact that we think we’ll acclimate to driving the vehicle.  However, it can be argued that perhaps this is also the reason we see so many people in parking lots struggling to park their vehicles, or the major highways are congested with traffic because of people losing control of their cars in the rain.  A vehicle often contains some of the most important things, our lives and the lives of our children, so why are we treating our feet and our fashion sense better than what should matter most?

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