Top tips for test driving a car at a dealership
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  • Test Driving A Car: How Important Are They?
  • 21 August 2017
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    Test Driving A Car: How Important Are They?

    Test-driving your next potential vehicle used to be one of the most important steps in deciding which vehicle was right for you. We've had a look at how to get the most out of your test-drive experience and help make sure you get the right vehicle for you.

With the emergence of online shopping and the ‘click to buy’ culture, buying a new car is becoming a very different experience. Primarily, the most obvious difference with online shopping is that it does not include a test drive! Test driving is an element of the buying process that you cannot replicate online and it also one of the major factors in deciding on the right car.

One of the most important steps in deciding on which car to buy or lease is seeing if it is compatible and comfortable, it’s an integral part of everyday living. In fact, the average Brit spends three full years of their life driving, including 32 hours a year in a traffic jam! It is incredibly important to take your prospective car out for a spin and make sure it is the one for you!

Unfortunately, the test drive is becoming one of the most overlooked elements. Sometimes we just fall in love with the way a car looks and overlook the actual experience. Vehicles differ in how they handle, it is important to ensure your driving style and preference is best suited to this particular car.

In the current automotive climate, there is no need to settle for something that is not quite right. The perfect car for you is out there! Each car gives a slightly different driving experience and that is why test driving your options is really important!

That being said, we’ve decided to outline some top tips for what you should be looking out for if and when you try out your next vehicle. So, have a browse of our range of new and used cars, get your short list together and follow the following steps.



So, you’ve gone through the website, compared it to other websites, maybe watched an online video and perhaps read a review or two. On average you will have spent 12 hours shopping online for your new car.


Next step, contact your local dealership and schedule a test drive. At Howards, we like to try and prepare just as much as you prior to your test drive to try and ensure you get everything you need from your experience. On arrival, one of our helpful and knowledgeable sales team will be ready and waiting to assist you in any queries before and after you take your prospective vehicle out for a spin!

What vehicle do you want to test drive


Make sure to dedicate your research and online shop to working out exactly which car, and at what trim level, you are wanting to take out for a spin. Cars can differ between specifications and grades, it is important to take note of this as the dream car you saw online may not be what you’re taking for a spin and may actually offer a completely different driving experience. Don’t assume that all various trim levels of a model will be the same.

If you are open to options, then why not take the other grades of your chosen vehicles for a spin?

Familiarise yourself with your vehicle


The general rule of thumb is to have a walk around the vehicle before getting in, this is generally something that is led by your sales advisor who will talk to you about the external features of the vehicle. Pay close attention, this is the perfect opportunity to pick up if this is the right car for you and to clarify if it is the same car you saw online. Our sales team will not mind being asked questions, even about the minor details, that is what they are there for!


As well as getting to know the outside of the vehicle, familiarise yourself with the inside before setting off! Make sure you know where the headlight and windscreen wiper controls are located, you want to minimise distractions and enjoy your experience! Note where everything is, how accessible it all is and even how big the glove box is. Small elements like these need to be suited to you for the car to be right!


Overall, you are looking to have an overview of how everything works together and, most importantly, whether you like the way it works!

Lifestyle and Family


Basically, you need to remember it is not just you who will be using the car. Don’t get us wrong, the driver’s comfort is of paramount importance but you must remember how this vehicle will practically function in your life.


Ask yourself, is the space adequate? Could a few of you go shopping and comfortably fit? Is there enough space to safely and comfortably fit child seats? Is there enough luggage space for your annual road trip? The list is endless... Speaking of lists, it may actually be a good idea to write a list which names all the specifics you will want from a car, laying out how it will be used predominantly and what features are needed to do so.


A great tip for those with small children is to actually take a seat with you and fit it in the car. Is it particularly fiddly and how accessible are the back seats? These are KEY things to check, you don’t want the basic task of fitting your kids' seats to become a chore, especially when there will be easier options!



Comfort is key. Make sure to find your optimum driving position before the off, adjust your seat and steering wheel to get the most comfortable position for you. This may seem like a no-brainer but in the heat of the moment, it is quite easy to forget to do this precisely. Make sure you have found the most optimum seating position that this car can offer you. By doing this you will have a true representation of what it would be like to drive and exactly how comfortable you would be in the real world using this vehicle. The last thing you want is to be distracted by your positioning once you are on the move. Get comfy, sit back and enjoy the drive.


Get your environment just right


This applies to noise and temperature. Again this is about minimising distraction and ensuring that you are noticing all details and potential of the more major factors that make for a good car ie the actual driving experience! Though a good sound system and easy to use displays are important this is part of the car that is better explored before you’ve set off. Keeping a quiet cabin environment also means that you can hear engine noise, gear changes and wind noise. In addition to this, ensure the cabin is comfortable. The temperature needs to be just right! Not only are you then ensuring that the ambience and temperature controls are easily altered but you are also minimising the distraction that a stuffy or cold car might cause!

Bring a friend


It is well worth considering bringing either a family member or a friend. A second opinion has never been more valuable.


It’s super easy to get carried away with the excitement and fall in love with a car for all the wrong reasons, some impartial insight may be exactly what you need.  A second set of eyes and ears may also pick up on something you haven’t and it gives you an impartial participant with which to sound your opinions out with.


Though don’t undervalue the Sales Professional, they are there to give you sound advice and to help with anything you don’t understand. Also, it is important to remember that talking with a professional you can pinpoint your likes and dislikes and use this knowledge to work together to find your ideal car!


Make it your own


Another really important thing to factor in is your everyday driving. You must mimic your ACTUAL driving and see if the car is up to it! Make sure some of your test drive mimics your everyday driving. Say, for example, your everyday journey consists of 30 minutes of motorway each day or even a rougher dirt track, make sure that you tell whoever you are with and that you get to test your real-life situations.


During this real-life trial note how comfortable and easy you find it? Is the car responding in the way that you want it to? If not, it's not the car for you!




Check your blind spots! Part of being a good and safe driver is being able to identify where your blind spots are and check them! Because of our height and seat positioning, blind spots differ from person to person so it is important to identify where they are for you. Some car designs may not suit your positioning and not be for you so it’s a really important part of the process.


Due to the difference in pillar designs across the broad spectrum of manufacturers and models you need to comfortably position yourself and ensure that your vision is not overly hindered.



This is a bit of a no-brainer really but definitely worth including in our list. Remember the emergency stop from your driving test? Well, that is not only great for testing you but it’s also a great test of the agility and responsiveness of the car.


Make sure no one is behind you, accelerate to the legal speed and BRAKE! Make a note of how they react to pressure, how they feel underfoot and whether you felt secure. Oversensitive or sticky brakes are the traits of a car that do not suit a lot of people. The braking should feel smooth and efficient and you should feel safe and secure, it differs between cars and it is important that you are comfortable with the response. As outlined in our article, 'Stopping Distance: Is The Highway Code Wrong?' you can not fully rely on and predict stopping distance so it is important that you find this out.


Maneuverability & turning


Maybe one of the most important things you should be testing out on your potential new ride… How well can you actually drive it?! Is it going to be a pleasure, is it going to be a struggle? Like with any aspect of life people are good at different things, and this is also true where driving is concerned. No matter how much we like to believe that we are the best on the road and the stupid driving is due to everyone else's ignorance... Some people are champion parallel parkers, others are fantastic at the old reversing round the corner… Either way, you need a car that suits what you’re good at and helps you in the ‘weaker’ skills.


So, how easy is it to get this particular vehicle into a tight spot? What is its turning radius? Think about the manoeuvres you have to pull out the bag daily, make sure you give it a go in the test drive! The sales rep will not mind! They want to know what works for you just as much as you do!


Try and drive a few on the same day


So the subtitle is pretty self-explanatory. What we’re saying is, if you are planning on driving a few different models to find the right one then try and drive them on the same day. Our sales advisors at Howards will be more than happy to help organise this with you.


By driving the cars on the same day you will be able to make a better comparison. Even if you’re just narrowing the choices down, you can always test drive this car again against another etc. This process of elimination is not to be rushed! This is a big decision to make and it is important that you take your time and make sure that it is right for you.

One of the most important things to remember in the process of purchasing your next set of wheels is not to rush and to make sure it is the right car for you. One of the best things to do to ensure both is to test drive. Make sure you keep your lifestyle and driving style in mind throughout and don’t be distracted by the fancy hardware.

So, have a look at the great range of vehicles we have available on our site and use our easy online booking system to book a test drive! Or, alternatively, ring your local dealership where our team will be more than happy to help you organise your test drive experience!   

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