A document with the word caa on it.

Feb 4, 2019

6 min. read

How to get the most out of your test drive to ensure a smooth ride down the road.

Buying a Car Can Be both exciting and stressful. It’s always nice to get a new ride, but it can be a lot of work to find the one that’s best for you.

“After your primary residence, a car is probably the second most important investment of your life,” says Ed Franz, supervisor, automotive technical services at CAA Manitoba. “You’re going to spend a lot of money on it, so take the time to ensure you make the right decision.”

Do your research and narrow the field to a few makes and models, then take each of them for a test drive to assess how well they suit your driving style and automotive needs.

Check the fit.

Before you start the engine, Franz suggests spending a few minutes to gauge how comfortable you are in the driver’s seat. How easy is it to reach the primary controls: the steering wheel, brakes and gear stick; and can your seat position to be adjusted to accommodate your needs?

Then look around: Do the mirrors offer an ample view of what’s behind the car? Are there any built-in blind spots? Do you have to tilt your head awkwardly to see around the car’s metal “pillars” while performing a shoulder check?

Similarly, look out the rear window. Will you be comfortable reversing or backing up into a parking space?

Put it to the test.

Once you’re comfy in the cockpit, it’s time to put the vehicle through its paces on the road. In particular, evaluate the steering, acceleration and brakes. Make a series of left- and right-hand turns to ensure the car is easy to steer. Test the acceleration too. Does it accelerate well—from a stop and when you need to merge onto a highway? If the engine doesn’t have enough power to match your driving style, then it may not be the car for you. When braking, ensure that the car stays straight and true, and pay attention to the ABS—does it kick in too soon or not soon enough?

Drive your own route.

Some dealerships have a specific route that they use for test drives. But how you drive and where you typically drive may not align with that predetermined course. To get a real feel for the vehicle’s performance, arrange to drive it for at least 30 minutes. You’ll want to drive in both urban and suburban traffic, and try it out on the highway too. Drive on a gravel or rougher road, if possible, to gauge how the vehicle responds, especially if you drive to a cottage or anywhere rural.

If you’ll be sharing the vehicle with a partner, make sure that person also gets time behind the wheel—giving you a chance to check out the back seat. Better yet, if you have kids, bring one along for the ride. You’ll want them to be comfortable in the car too.

Look at the bonus features.

After your test, but before you exit the car, spend a minute playing with non-driving functions, such as climate-control and stereo systems. Are they easy to operate without having to think about it? Will you be able to do so while wearing gloves or mitts (an important consideration for winter driving in Manitoba)? Ask for a demo of the in-vehicle infotainment system, to make sure it suits all of your family’s needs.

Share this article: