How to Test Drive a Car and Make Sure It’s a Great Fit

Nissan Midnight Edition Stylish Car

Doesn’t this new car look great on me?

As we all know, the struggle to find the perfect outfit is real. Shopping for a new car is much like shopping for the perfect outfit. Heading to your favorite shops and trying on item after item, hoping that a few look great and make you look fantastic. Similarly, the only way to make sure your new ride looks great on you is to try a few on for size.

A Girls Guide To Cars | How To Test Drive A Car And Make Sure It'S A Great Fit - Do You Need Onstar A Girls Guide To Cars Lillie.jpg

Photo: Lillie Morales

Tips To Make The Test Drive “Try On” a Success

First, be sure to have plenty of time. Don’t plan to dash in, take the car around the block and then dash off to your next appointment. Instead, carve out a nice stretch of time to spend with the car. Ask the dealer if you can take it home overnight–some dealers are fine with this. Also, ask if you can drive it solo. If that’s not an option, let the dealer know you plan to spend a good amount of time with the car.

Next, put the car through a day in your life, even if it’s an abbreviated day: Before you leave the dealer, learn to adjust the radio, set the navigation system, play with the seat adjustments and mirrors, sync your phone and get a primer on the car’s technology.

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Replace Child Car Seat

Strap the car seat into the back to check fit and ease. Photo: Robyn Wright

Strap in a Carseat, Fold Down the Seats, Explore the Cargo Space

Then, load the stroller or other daily use gear into the cargo area or trunk, and take the car on your rounds: school pick-up, dry cleaning pick-up and Costco for a quick case or two of paper towels.

If the car has center seats that fold down, be sure to put them down to accommodate your cargo. Do the rear seats offer a 60/40 split so you can fit in both kids and cargo?

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Apple Car Play is an excellent way to maximize your phone’s connectivity in your car. Just plug in your phone, and it’s mirrored on the screen. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Invite Family and Friends To Join You

Call your mother or best friend from the car’s hands-free phone. See if they can hear and understand you. Ask how you sound calling from the car. Be sure to take the car on the highway to test its acceleration, and find a bumpy road or speed bumps to see how comfortable it is on less-than-ideal road surfaces.

Does It FitIn Your Garage?

Take the car home to make sure it is a comfortable fit in your driveway and in your garage. This is a great time to take a picture of it, so you can think about it over the next few days. Before you leave home, load up all those bags of used clothing in your garage and head for your local GoodWill–get the experience of hauling stuff in the car.

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Run Errands, Take The Kids and Do Life

If your kids can accompany you on these errands, all the better; it’s important to see what it’s like for them to get in and out of the car before you commit to it. If your husband/dad/boyfriend or another person who will spend time in the car has a say in what you decide to buy, make sure he gets to take a ride too (maybe even let him drive it!). 

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What To Say Back At The Dealership

Back at the dealer, thank your salesperson for his or her time and accept any sales materials offered. Ask for a copy of the car’s Monroney or the window sticker, so when you have time to dig in, you can easily review the standard features and options of the car you drove. Also, promise to call in a few days. Don’t let the salesperson pressure you into making a decision; take time to sleep on the experience first.

Everything you need to know about a car is right there on the Monroney window sticker

Photos and Sleeping on it: The Key to Finding the Perfect Fit

Just like you do in the dressing room at Nordstrom, take photos of each car you test drive. Don’t be shy to schedule a test drive for each car you’re considering, and make notes about the features you liked best about each car. Then, once you are sure which model you want, you are ready to begin negotiations for your new “outfit” and drive it knowing it looks great on you.

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Your New Car Should Look Great On You. The Key Is A Great Test Drive. These Tips Will Make Sure Your New Car Is The Perfect Fit!

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss