With so many brands and models available in Australia, buying a car can be confusing and time consuming.
For some people, the final decision on which car to buy can come down to the ten-minute test drive.
It’s part of the buying process that we have come to accept as standard, but if you stop and think about it, what value can you really get out of that ten minutes?
The test drive is a very artificial situation.
Chances are you’ll be doing it sitting with a slick dealer giving you a sales spiel, or if you’re buying privately, a complete stranger sitting next to you.
You’ll probably be concentrating on driving on unfamiliar routes, in an unfamiliar vehicle, and it’s unlikely that you’ll get to experience freeway driving.
Having spent many years as motoring writer I know that it takes more than ten minutes to fully evaluate a car.
That’s why car manufacturers typically give motoring writers a week-long test drive.
This gives us time to put the car through real-life scenarios, and not just the dealership’s predetermined test drive route.
But as an ordinary buyer, you can bet there wouldn’t be very many dealers who would let you take a car for a week, much less someone selling his or her own car privately.
When I lived in a regional centre, I would drive to the major city every Monday to drop off a press car and pick up a new one. It was a 600km round trip, so I really got to know how the car handled in freeway conditions, taking particular interest in fuel efficiency and the car’s ability to maneuver safely past the B-doubles.
Once back home I would test out the boot space with the weekly shopping and school bags and see how easy it was to get the kids in and out of their car seats.
Another really important feature to assess is the ease of parallel and reverse parking.
It gives you the opportunity to check out the technology, such as reverse parking camera and parking sensors as well the visibility out of the rear window.
Does your pram fit in the boot? Does your supersized latte fit in the cup holder? Do you like the sound system when it’s blasting?
Of course the person selling the car be they a dealer or a private seller, isn’t going to point out any potential problems with the car, so it’s a prudent step to have an independent assessment of the car’s condition, particularly if it’s a used car.
This is why we’ll see the industry change and the test drive become superfluous.
Newly launched HelloCars, for example, sets a non-negotiable price and after buying your car, you have seven days to test it out, and if you don’t like it, you can simply return it for a full refund.
It takes time to get to know a car and its features and to know if you’re spending your money wisely - a lot more than ten minutes.
Melissa Pye is the marketing manager of HelloCars.