How to Test Drive

6/17/2008 Consumer Reports testers log hundreds of miles in every vehicle they test, so who better to tell you how to do a test drive when buying a car?

Jon Linkov, Consumer Reports, says "Before you start driving, check to see if the vehicle fits you. Get in the cabin, adjust the steering wheel, find a comfortable seating position, and check your visibility. If you can't see out clearly or if the driving position isn't comfortable, the vehicle might not be safe and isn't the best fit for you."

Now it's time for the actual test drive. "Typically during a test drive the salesperson will get in the car, lower the windows, turn on the radio, and start talking with you. What you really want to do is turn off the radio, raise the window, and focus on how the car drives, rides, and handles," says Linkov.

Another tip, don't let the sales person pick the route. Linkov says "The salesperson will likely take you on a short ride over smooth, flat roads. Try to take the vehicle on an extended drive over bumpier roads that are more like the ones you drive on a daily basis."

Another consideration when test driving a vehicle, make sure it's the exact model you're interested in buying. A different engine or transmission can make a big difference.

Remembering these tips the next time you're checking out a new car will help ensure you get one that's right for you.

And if you're serious about a vehicle, Consumer Reports says make a point of going back after dark for another test drive to see how well the headlights illuminate the road.

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