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Top tips for getting the most out of a test drive
Top tips for getting the most out of a test drive

So you’re thinking about buying a new car? That’s a great idea: engineering and technological advances mean that new cars are typically significantly safer, more capable and more reliable than older models – whichever brand and type of vehicle you opt for.

Once you’ve browsed through the web pages and brochures to narrow down your options and identify the right type and choice of vehicle for you, your next move should be to book a test drive. This is a sensible next step, to ensure you’re making the right decision. Not least because, for most of us, a car is likely to be the next most expensive purchase after buying our home.

You should use your test drive to be sure that the car you’ve chosen feels good to drive and fits into your lifestyle in just the way you’ve imagined…

Safety is always a key consideration. So it pays to take a few minutes to check the Euro NCAP safety assessment ratings for the vehicle you’re interested in – and how its ‘fitted as standard’ safety systems and features compare with those of other potential contenders.

Oh, and don’t forget to check if your preferred car manufacturer or local dealership is promoting any test drive offers that might be linked to attractive finance options!

To help you get the most out of your test drive, we’ve compiled some top tips to ensure you have the best possible experience – especially if you’re on an unaccompanied test drive during the Covid-19 outbreak.

At Subaru, all our showrooms are independent dealerships, meaning that we can’t guarantee that all test drive procedures will be the same UK-wide. So our first tip is to always speak directly with your local dealer to arrange your test drive.

What do you want to get from your test drive?

Whether you’re phoning or dropping into the dealership in person to request a test drive, take the time to explain what type of car you’re looking for and why, where you’d like to test drive it, how long you’d like to test it for, and what sort of things you want to check to ensure that this particular vehicle will suit your specific driving and lifestyle needs.

You’ll find that most dealers are happy to be flexible about how they arrange your test drive for you – and may even be able to offer some additional useful advice before your test drive. After all, it’s in their best interest to ensure you enjoy the best possible experience in your potential new vehicle.

Bear in mind that a dealership is unlikely to have every derivative of their model range within the demonstrator vehicles they offer. So be sure to be clear about the specification of vehicle you’re looking to purchase. If that particular model isn’t immediately available to test drive at your local dealership, and your intent to buy is genuine, you may find that they’re able to locate one for you – it’s worth asking...

Likewise, it’s always worth requesting an extended test drive – so you can really get to know the vehicle that you may end up owning for years to come. Some dealers will be happy to facilitate this, while others won’t be able to. Either way, it never hurts to ask.

Think about how you’ll typically be using your new car and try to test drive it in similar circumstances. So if you’re going to be driving it on your regular commute or for the school run, for example, see how it fares on that familiar route (or sitting in traffic maybe!). If you’re more likely to be using it on main roads, make sure you do the same on your test drive to see how it handles at different speeds and how easy, safe and efficient manoeuvres like lane changes feel to you. Do you need to tow something? Speak to your dealer about potentially testing those capabilities too.

If you’re unfamiliar with the area, ask the dealership to share an appropriate, pre-determined test drive route with you to ensure you get the best and most suitable experience with the vehicle.

Remember that you’ll also need to speak with the dealer to arrange suitable insurance to cover your test drive, so you’ll need to have your driving licence to hand when you arrive.

Getting accustomed to unaccompanied test drives

If you’d rather avoid a trip to the showroom – especially with a heightened focus on personal wellbeing as we all strive to adapt in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic – ask whether your local dealership is offering delivery and collection options for your test drive vehicle.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, Subaru is offering unaccompanied test drives, to help keep everyone safe and healthy. So consider how this might affect your test drive experience...

If you’d like to familiarise yourself with the various controls and technology offered in your selected test drive vehicle before you actually jump into the driving seat, ask the dealership to record and send you a brief walkaround video to cover key features in advance of your appointment. Alternatively, you could arrange to view these features via a FaceTime or WhatsApp call for a more interactive experience.

You can rest assured that all demonstrator vehicles will be thoroughly sanitised between each use and protective vehicle equipment will also be fitted where possible to ensure the safety of all dealership customers and staff. We recommend further mitigation of any personal risk through the use of disposable gloves and thorough hand-cleaning before and after both your visit to the showroom and your test drive.

As the dealer will be unable to accompany you on any short test drive while coronavirus is still a threat, you may like to take a close friend or family member with you instead. If you have any questions during your drive, they can make a note of these for you to ask when you return the vehicle.

Check comfort and suitability for the whole family

Taking the whole family on your test drive is a good tip at any time. Because you need to be sure that this is the right choice of car for everyone who’s likely to travel in it. All potential passengers should feel comfortable and secure during every journey – not just the driver. And you’ll want to check that the car performs as well with a full complement of people and gear as it does with just you at the wheel.

Many Subaru owners are also dog owners. So some of our dealerships are also open to requests to take the family pet on your test drive – because you’ll naturally need to make sure that your furry friend’s travel cage fits into the boot or that he or she can be comfortably secured into the rear seat.

It’s all too easy to focus solely on basic performance, engine sound and the general feel of a car when you take a test drive. Especially when you’re driving an unfamiliar vehicle and you’re concentrating so hard on being in charge of someone else’s shiny new car on potentially unknown roads!

That’s why requesting an extended test drive is such a good idea: you can give yourself a break and take some time to really think about how the car will suit you and your family in a variety of different ways.

How well will the car fit into your lifestyle?

Don’t forget to consider the practical elements of your chosen vehicle, as well as how it handles in various road and weather conditions.

Making sure you’re familiar with the in-car technology, navigation system and any advanced safety features like Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist technology or Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection is one element of this. But there are plenty of other considerations that all add up to helping you decide whether this is the best Subaru (or any other type of car) for you and your family.

Check that the boot space is suitable for your needs, and that you can easily increase cargo space by dropping the back seats down in a sensible way when required; that your driving position feels comfortable, and passenger seats are equally supportive; that you have plenty of storage options front and back for all the bits and pieces you tend to keep in your car; and that you’re happy with where you’d rest and charge your phone while driving.

If you have young kids, be sure to take a few minutes to see how easy it is to fit and remove your own child seats from the car you’re test driving – and whether the pushchair will fit comfortably in the boot and still leave space for all the other gear you know you’ll need to pack in for any extended family road trip!

Once you’re happy that the car offers all the comfort, space and capabilities you need, that it will fit perfectly into your lifestyle, and that driving it puts a big smile on your face, it’s time to return to the dealership. And a friendly talk about the availability of any compelling finance offers…

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