Best practical tips for test driving a new or used car

There is lots of advice out there on the best ways to test drive a new or used car. Here, though, are some real world practical tips you may not have considered.

Use the electronics

One of the leading problems of initial quality studies is new owner’s dissatisfaction with the infotainment systems in their new cars. When test driving a new car (or new to you), get the seller to explain the infotainment system to you — and then try to do it yourself.

More importantly, try to do it while driving the car. Your best bet might be an open parking lot going 10 to 15 mph. After all, you don’t want to hit something driving someone else’s car. Odds are if you can’t work the system at 15 mph, you’re not going to be able to at 60 mph.

Hit the drive-thru

Is there a particular coffee shop or fast food restaurant drive-thru you frequent? Go through it to see how well you can handle your car.

True story: a friend’s sister once bought an SUV that she couldn’t park in her garage because it was too big. Well, imagine buying a vehicle that you can’t maneuver through your favorite morning drive-thru without scraping the tires for instance.

Once you get your order, do the cups go in a handy position for you? Lots of new cars have cupholders approaching double digits, but what good are they if you can’t use them comfortably?

Check the trunk

Don’t just pop open the trunk and look inside. Consider if it has something called a high liftover. That’s basically when there is a lip on the bottom of the trunk. Good trunks allow you to slide boxes inside.

Also, can the trunk hold your gold clubs? Obviously you don’t want to bring your clubs with you but count on needing at least 48 inches width either across or diagonally to get your clubs to fit. A trunk that only fits your clubs diagonally may preclude you from bringing other golfers along.

Child seat

Do you have a child that uses one? Bring it with you if you can to see how easy it is to install. Not all cars are created equal when it comes to their latch systems.

After all, a child seat is really not something you should install and forget about. Take it out frequently to clean it and below it because festering food can do bad things to your interior.

Enter and exit the car

Do this a few times in a row just to see how easily you can open and close the doors from the driver’s seat, as well as how easy it is to enter and exit. Recently, I drove a Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. My daughter observed the doors didn’t open very wide.

Also, if you feel like you’re dropping into the driver’s seat, this may not be the right car for you. It’s fun to slide down into a car once or twice, but not once or twice a day as you get older.

Keep these practical tips in mind when test driving a car and you’ll find yourself a lot happier initially with your purchase. Nothing worse than buyer’s remorse after buying a car because it’s an expensive feeling to get.

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