What to look for when test driving

An important, but often neglected feature to take into consideration when test-driving a vehicle is the steering system. While all steering systems perform similar functions, they are not all created equal. The steering factor is an important function to take note of when purchasing new or used, because it is a vital link to how well a car performs on the road.

Most salespeople accompany potential buyers on road tests, while some dealers allow you to take the vehicle out by yourself. Either is fine, but if you can take the vehicle out yourself, we recommend it. And, take it for an extended test-drive–at least 25 miles. Test the vehicle on all roads and on the highway to determine whether it performs correctly at various speeds. While you are driving, ask yourself some questions:

*Does the model you are test-driving perform similiar to your old vehicle?

*Does the engine run smoothly?

*Do the gears shift easily?

*Are there any noticeable rattles, squeaks or shakes?

*Are you comfortable in the vehicle?

To ensure adequate field of vision and improve steering control, the height of the driver’s seat should be checked. The steering wheel should be no higher than the top of your shoulders: The tilt steering wheel or column option may be for you. Your hands should fall at “eight” and “four” oclock, with upper arms resting on your rib cage.

As mentioned above, taking the car out alone is terrific, because you can put it through any paces you want; using caution, of course. If there are two of you who will be driving the vehicle, both should take a turn at the wheel. Test our those steep hills, parallel parking and stop-and-go traffic situations. Put the car through some short stops and hard turns to see how well it responds. Try to duplicate the road conditions that you will encounter most often.

Probably most important is how comfortable you are in the car. Does it feel right? Are the vibes you are getting good ones?

Before you return to the dealer, stop and evaluate what you have discovered while test-driving. This helps you develop perspective on your intitial opinions before the sales person hits you with his/her pitch.

Whatever you do, do not skip the test-drive. Believe it or not, many buyers neglect to test-drive the model they want, choosing a vehicle only by how it looks, or how popular it is reported to be. This is a big mistake

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