Apr
24
Test Drive Checklist

Test driving a new vehicle can be exciting, but be sure you stay focused and carefully examine all aspects of your potential purchase. This test drive checklist will help.

At Consumer Guide, our editors test hundreds of new vehicles every year. We evaluate them in a wide variety of conditions: daily commuting in the city, highway road trips, performance testing, and ferrying kids and family members, to name a few. In short, we strive to use each vehicle the way an owner would.

Our testers have a broad range of experience and expertise that can help you zero in on the car, truck, or SUV that’s right for you. However, only you can know precisely what you want and need in a vehicle, and how a given vehicle “fits” you.  As such, we’ve published a test-drive review checklist below—this is a basic version of the checklist our editors use when evaluating a test vehicle.

Though traditional test drives are on hold and likely will be for a while as COVID-19 shutdowns are in place, using this checklist will help you focus on key elements and get the most out of your future test-drive experiences.

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Test Drive Checklist

Be sure your evaluation includes driving over a variety of road surfaces, and at different speeds.

Power/Acceleration

  • From a stop
  • From cruising speed
  • Merging
  • Transmission behavior
    • Smooth shifts
    • Timely shifts

Fuel Economy

  • Relative to class
  • Observed vs. EPA
  • Regular or premium required

 Ride Quality

  • Comfortable
  • Floaty vs. firm
  • Over jarring bumps and rough pavement

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Test Drive Checklist

Wheels, tires, and suspension tuning can vary with trim level, and can significantly affect handling and ride comfort. Be sure to test drive a model equipped like the one you intend to purchase.

 Handling

  • Lean in corners
  • Steering feel (over- or underboosted?)
  • Brakes
    • Pedal feel
    • Stopping power
    • Progressiveness (especially hybrids)
  • General sense of poise

Quietness

  • Engine and drivetrain
  • Wind noise at highway speed
  • Road noise

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 Controls

  • Size of main gauges/readouts/touch screens, legibility at a glance
  • Logical placement of controls
  • Control ergonomics/ease of use/ease of reach

 Details

  • Cabin materials quality
  • Cabin fit and finish
  • Exterior fit and finish

Room/Comfort (Front)

  • Ease of entry
  • Ease of exit
  • Seat comfort
  • Head- and legroom
  • Driver position
  • Driver vision/sightlines (especially to the rear)

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Do not allow a salesperson to pressure you into a quick decision. Take the time needed to fully test drive each vehicle you are seriously considering. If you feel uncomfortable with the dealership you’re at, take your business elsewhere.

Room/Comfort (Rear)

  • Ease of entry
  • Ease of exit
  • Seat comfort
  • Head- and legroom
  • Is three-across seating comfortable (or possible)?

Cargo Space

  • Volume of trunk/cargo-area space
  • Ease of seat folding in SUV/hatchback
  • Lift-over height
  • Trunklid-hinge intrusion
  • Cabin storage space
    • Console
    • Glove box
    • Additional cubbies? Door pockets?

 Value

  • As equipped
  • Versus vehicles in class

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Test Drive Checklist