I Don't Feel Bad About Test-Driving Cars I Don't Buy and Neither Should You
Being an Auto Enthusiast isn't easy. Unlike most hobbies, it can even be tough narrowing down what it is about motoring that piques your interest. For some, it’s racing, for others, it’s wrenching. These do, of course, tend to cross over, but what about someone like me who loves knowing every possible thing about cars and wasn’t born a Prince with a spare hanger out back?
If you're an avid reader, you make time to sit and read. There are even these amazing buildings full of books that they’ll lend you FOR FREE. If you love basketball you can find pickup games in every town in America and other far away places, too. But when you're into motoring, it’s not so easy. I read car magazines, watch videos online, and explore DRIVETRIBE on the daily, but that only covers motoring theory. So I test drive cars on the regular and I don’t feel bad about it one bit.
Pretty sure this used to be a restaurant, but hey, check out those clean looking Explorers!
I don't frolic around dealerships sans purpose, though that's probably what it looks like to a non-car person. Everything I test drive is within reason, and is something I would consider buying. (Side note: How a non-car person can land and hold a job at a car dealership is beyond me.) Since I'm really into cars, I see many possibilities. My girlfriend and I don't have kids, we both work from home more often than not, and we already have the Ford Ranger for getting around town and hauling. All this means we have the flexibility of driving pretty much anything as a second car. Even sticking to a reasonable budget leaves us with many options across a dozen or so manufacturers, and I want to know more about them. All of them.
Since I am no longer consulting with fleet companies, test driving cars also allows me to keep up with trends in the marketplace, improvements to aging models, the spiraling quality of new releases, and the ever-growing blind spots created by massive A, C, and D pillars. Even my favorite hot hatch, the Golf R, falls victim to bulging A pillars, which I only learned recently after eying several on CarGurus for over a month. When I finally did drive one I didn’t care about the speed or the handling because I was too busy leaning forward and back to see around its many blind spots. It was like driving from inside a bunkbed fort. From every other perspective the Golf R should be a great car. It IS a great car. But it’s not for me. Not here in L.A. anyway. And without that test drive, the listing would still be saved, taking up valuable time and attention.
I'm not suggesting that we all go test drive Porsche Taycans when they arrive just for kicks, not only because I'll probably love the car and can't afford it, but also because I don't want to waste anyone's time. If there's something feasible on the radar, I'm game. For instance, right up the road there's a 2009 Nissan GT-R that I've been dreaming about since its release ten years ago, and though I did swing by to get the details, I didn't drive it. It was a bit rough around the edges for my taste, and didn't want to waste the shop owner's time pretending not to care about things like cracked paint, torn seats, and a near absent vehicle history report. Actually, that might have been ego that kept me from driving it.
Did I mention the peeling aftermarket window tint?
I advocate that you test drive cars – many cars – across multiple manufacturers – before deciding on anything. Even if you're not into cars the way I am, it'll feel good knowing you've compared and contrasted before buying. Sure, your options thin out when you consider certain needs and price points, but at least you'll know what's out there. Don't settle because you feel obligated to make a purchase after one test drive. That's the whole point of the test drive! And if you are like me, someone who could just as happily drive a brand new Porsche Cayman or a first gen Fiat Panda, then drive 'em all. It's part of being an Automotive Enthusiast.
Yes, I love the first generation Fiat Panda. It's been on my radar since childhood and have been recently reminded of it by none other than James May. Here's a gem of a Sisley 4x4 model. (Source: Luzzago of Brescia, Italy)
I'd like to know how you go about test driving cars. Is it something you do only when ready to buy, or do you put more time into it? Do you go with one manufacturer in mind, or do you test a range? Big corporate dealership or the local lot everyone and their aunt buys from? Am I the only one who test drives every single car I think might work? Let me know in the comments below.