It might surprise you to know that every day, customers walk away from their perfect vehicle, missing out on options they needed because they were focused on the cost and didn’t pay attention to the drive. The reality is that both you and the dealer want to find that one vehicle that’s right for you yet we’re quick not to listen to the professionals and tools that are absolutely free.
So where is the struggle? It lies in bad buying techniques that have been propagated for a hundred years, although we think they may save us money, may also cost us the optimum vehicle we want and inevitably create a sense of buyer’s remorse because we’re not sure we did the right thing because we’re not even sure of our techniques.
The baseline to any purchase is the test drive. Never skip it. You wouldn’t ask your doctor to operate without an x-ray; don’t go into any purchase blind. Even if you’ve driven a vehicle like it in the past or have driven your friend’s version of it, do not skip the test drive!
Get familiar with the car so you know what you’re getting. Don’t aim for the lowest price; aim for the right price for the right vehicle; the one you’ll be happy with because it’s the car you want and, therefore, valuable and satisfying to own. If you only consider cost in your factoring you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment.
Here are three steps to take to get the most out of your test drive so that you can gather the best information that will lead you to making the right decision.
Step 1. Gather Information Ahead of Time
Good information is going to set the stage for your vehicle selection, and also help to remove any fear or apprehension you have prior to your visit.
Before going to the dealership, take a quick “test drive” on your current vehicle. When you’re done driving, make a list of the things you’ll need, the things you like, and things you want your next vehicle to have that this one doesn’t. Try not to take anything for granted; don’t assume the next vehicle has that option.
A lot of things have probably changed since you last purchased a vehicle, so you’ll need to be prepared for these changes. Manufacturers understand your need to know these changes so they make websites that go over the details. When you go to their websites look for their “vehicle builder”. Here you have an opportunity to see your finished vehicle first hand. Use the list you created earlier as a reference and build a vehicle the way you want it. Take note of new technology in the options as these may be something you’ll want to consider on your test drive. You will be able to see the MSRP of the vehicle and can compare it to your current vehicle’s original MSRP. Remember that payments are simple mathematics so if you like your last finance payment then build a car with similar price. You can print this out and bring it with you.
It can be disheartening if the vehicle that you test drive is not equipped with what you were planning for, so start out by giving your vehicle build to your sales person first. This will help them find you the closest match. Don’t let it disturb you if they don’t have your exact vehicle either, but don’t select something with less options. Always move up in your selection. The importance is to see the options you want first and if they don’t work you’ll be in a better place to rule them out. Now if the dealership wants you in a vehicle on the lot they’ll have to match the price you have or get you what you want for that price. This sets you up for success from the get-go.
Step 2 Get Comfortable & Take Your Time
Your first impression will be to jump in the vehicle and rush the drive. Whether this is due to anxiety, fear or excitement now is a great time to take a deep breath and slow down. Absorb your new surroundings. Some things will be different while others will be familiar. Use this moment to feel the ambiance of your new surroundings.
This is your opportunity to slow down and make this vehicle yours. The vehicle you’re about to drive has had someone sitting in it before you. Whether that be the last person to test drive or the delivery person who drove it off the truck, it is likely that their physique is nothing like yours. Take the time to adjust the seats, the mirrors, the climate control, turn to your regular radio station and find your way around while you let the vehicle warm up to its maximum operating conditions. You don’t want to be driving down the road and not realizing where the turn signals or emergency brake is either.
Try your hand with the new technology. Program your favorite radio station into the presets and play with the navigation system or even pair your phone with the Bluetooth (but don’t forget to unpair it when you’re done). Make sure the functionality works well for you. Remember the sale person assisting you is trained to know the vehicle while you’ll be experiencing it for the first time, so absorb every ounce of information you can retain and don’t be afraid to ask questions; lots and lots of questions. You don’t have to pass the test on how it works, but you should know how comfortable it works with you so when you are familiar you will enjoy it more. Think of this as the light version of your daily commute.
Now when you’re done the real question is, does this vehicle work for you. If it doesn’t then don’t feel bad. If you move to the next step and this isn’t the vehicle you’re just wasting everyone’s time, but nobody cried foul when you tried it, didn’t like it and moved on. So before you move to step 3 you should be saying, “this is the car I want to own.”
Step 3.) Save the Money for the Desk
You may be tempted to start thinking about cost and asking prices right during the drive or even worse, before you even get behind the wheel. Resist the urge with all your might. The test drive is a compressed moment to absorb the vehicle and see if it works for you. It will require a good amount of focus to do that. If you’re thinking about how much the navigation will cost, you may ignore it and defeat the whole purpose of the test drive. Just because the vehicle has lamb’s wool carpets doesn’t mean you’re going to have them in the vehicle you drive away with, but it shouldn’t stop you from considering them in your wish list if you find that enjoyed them. Make sure you ask if there are any additional options that you should consider and don’t add them to your list unless you’ve experienced them.
If you performed step 1 correctly, then you’re already in a vehicle that will be close to a price you’ve already considered, so stop worrying and enjoy the ride. At the end of the test drive when you are sitting down crunching the numbers back at the showroom you can start crossing things off that don’t fit into your budget and since you’re probably in a car with a couple of more options you can simply say, “to earn my business today you’ll need to get me this built vehicle or find a way to make your vehicle in inventory meet my price.” It doesn’t get anymore black and white as that and your sales person, his manager, and his boss will all understand it.
At the end of the test drive you’ll be going back to talk numbers. The great thing about this three-step process is that you won’t be worrying if you picked the right vehicle or not. You’ll already know what you want and what you don’t want, and the rest is just math. Does this mean you’ll drive away the first time out? I certainly hope not! Give it some time and try out a few vehicles. It’s okay to get out of your comfort zone here. Get your bearings and a sense of what you do and don’t like. The goal is to be happy with your vehicle and to avoid buyer’s remorse.