Step 9: Take a test drive.
According to a recent survey, 16 percent of car buyers skipped taking a test drive altogether, with 33 percent taking only a single model out once for a brief spin before signing the paperwork. For our part, we can’t help but find the idea of spending an average of $32,000 on a vehicle in which someone might spend as much as three or more hours a day without fully putting it through its paces (or testing another model for comparison) to be foolish. Visit a dealership with the sole purpose of taking a particular model you’re considering for a test drive. If you know someone who owns one and will let you take the wheel, or can rent a version for an extended test, so much the better. Pay attention to as many details as possible before turning the key, including ease of entry and exit, seat comfort, leg- and headroom, outward visibility and how easy or complex dashboard controls are operated. Negotiate around-town traffic to see how it behaves at slower speeds and under stop-and-go conditions, as well as how smoothly it rides over bumps and potholes. Take the vehicle on the highway to test on-ramp acceleration and passing speed, and be sure to try out handling and braking abilities to your satisfaction. Parallel-park the car and note how light or heavy the car’s low-speed steering feels and how wide or tight the turning radius seems. These steps are necessary to ensure the car is right for you.