Are you buying a new car? If you are, be sure to go on a test drive. Some people make the mistake of buying a car based on sight, brand and reputation, and that irresistible “new car smell”—but guess what? Just because it looks great, smells great, and people are saying great things about it doesn’t mean it’s the best car for you.

The best way to tell whether you should be buying that car you’ve been eyeing is to take it out on the road, get a preview of what it’s like to be driving it every day.

Go ahead, set that test drive appointment and show up prepared to make the right decision.

While you’re here, check out these tips on how you can make the best of a test drive:

1. Determine the answers to your important questions.

A test drive will answer the most important questions you have about your dream car, or at least the car you want for now.

Generally, these are the questions that should be answered by the time you return the car:

  • Is it the right size of car for you?
  • Are the seats comfortable?
  • Does it offer all the safety features you need?
  • Does it handle well enough for you?
  • Is it the right car for its intended use?

2. Test-drive your options on the same day.

If you’re considering two or more cars, try them out on the same day. Back-to-back test drives can help you make a proper comparison. Be sure to pay close attention and take detailed notes.

3. See if you can keep the car overnight.

Many car dealers, especially if they’re new, now offer overnight test drives. Being able to take the car you’re considering home can help you determine whether it fits in your garage, lets you test out and get more familiar with its features without the salesman, and gives you a better sense of the car’s capacity and the experience of traveling with your family.

4. Plan a route that will show you how well the car handles in different road situations.

Take your daily route, plus highways if you don’t normally take them, so you get an idea of how driving in everyday traffic feels like. If your daily route is pretty straightforward and consists of smooth, even roads and broad streets, then include a route that lets you test how well the car handles rough, steep, narrow, and winding roads, as well as speed bumps and stop-and-go traffic.

Oh, if it rains on the day of your test drive, that’s a bonus. You’ll learn even more crucial details about the car when you get to drive it on wet roads and when visibility is not so great. Otherwise, you will just have to do your research and ask a pro to go over the car’s relevant features and determine how those would fare in rainy weather.

5. Drive the way you normally drive.

The idea is to determine whether this is the car you will be driving every day for the next five years or more, so you need to see how it handles with the way you drive.

In particular:

  • Be sure to pay attention to how the car reacts when you accelerate, decelerate, brake, and come to a full stop.
  • Get a feel of the steering and handling to determine whether it’s smooth enough.
  • Test the brakes and safety features. Listen for any noise when you hit the brakes.

6. Bring someone along.

Ideally, this should be someone who knows cars and can give you valuable insight to help you choose the right car.

7. Read the owner’s manual and ask questions.

Before you show up for your test drive appointment, be sure you’re already familiar with the car so you can ask the right questions.

Don’t let appearance, brand, reputation, and even reviews, decide your choice of a car. It should suit you, and whoever you share it with (including your pet!).

While reviews and friends’ advice are helpful, ultimately, only you will truly know whether the car you’re test-driving is right for you when the rubber hits the road.

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