Test Driving Lexus

What To Expect When Test Driving A Car

In this blog we’ll take you through everything you need to know before, during, and after test driving a car – covering everything from shortlisting vehicles, how long you can test drive a vehicle for, and what type of questions you should be asking.

Hi, I’m Emma – Marketing Specialist for the Miles Group.

I purchased a car from the Miles Group less than a year ago (funnily enough before I started working here), and as the test drive process is quite fresh in my mind I thought I’d put together a blog post answering some commonly asked questions.

Having also just started in the automotive industry I’m still getting my head around all the terminology, so I understand the position someone looking to purchase a new vehicle is in. Looking to purchase a car and undertaking test drives is an exciting experience – but can also be quite nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time. I know that I had a multitude of questions when I started test driving vehicles!

Keep reading below for how to prepare for a test drive, what to expect when you get to the dealership, how far you can go on your test drive (it’s further than you’d expect), and how to make the best decision for you so you’re driving away in the perfect vehicle. We recommend purchasing from a trusted, authorised dealership, however we’ve also covered what to look out for if you’re purchasing a vehicle through a private seller.

Have a read below for a comprehensive run-down on everything test drives, or view our test drive FAQs.

New Zealand’s varied landscapes makes for the perfect test driving grounds.

Do your homework

Before you get excited and jump into a vehicle, it pays to do your homework. Nowadays, there is quite literally a car for everyone; big or small, white or purple, electric or petrol, practical or impractical. Putting aesthetics aside, it’s imperative your car suits your lifestyle and meets your requirements.

First and foremost, create a shortlist of vehicles you want to test drive. Here are a few things to consider when crafting your list:

  • Size – how many people are you needing to transport? Is it just you, or do you have young kids, a family etc.?
  • Where are you going? Do you need a car for running errands around town or are you doing motorway miles?
  • Safety and technology features – if you’re driving long distances, you might like the sound of adaptive cruise control, and responsive safety features. Alternatively, if you’re concerned about parking then a reversing camera and parking sensors would benefit you.
  • Are you more comfortable driving an automatic or manual transmission?
  • What type of fuel? Nowadays it’s not just petrol or diesel, you’ve got electric vehicle, plug in-hybrid, and hybrid options.
  • Budget – Whilst knowing how much you want to spend on the car itself is important, ongoing costs such as regular servicing, insurance, fuel etc. should also be taken into consideration.
  • Ultimately, test drive a vehicle that matches your lifestyle. For example, are you wanting to tow a boat? Travel to the bach often? Explore the countryside’s off-road tracks? Or, do you need a zippy urban commuter that will very rarely leave the outskirts of the city?

Thanks to the internet, there’s now so many places you can gather information about the vehicles you’re looking at. Other than official dealership websites, we recommend watching YouTube reviews, asking friends or family members who drive similar vehicles, or reading reviews from trusted websites such as the AA.

Keep in mind, you’ll get the most up to date and accurate information and specifications from authorised dealership websites, which also include handy tools and information around finance, leasing, warranties, servicing, and more. If you’re still a little unsure at this stage, don’t stress, a good vehicle specialist will be able to answer any questions you may have. If you’re really struggling, myself and my collogues are happy to help. You can introduce yourself through the live chat function at the bottom right hand corner of this page. 

If you’re going through a private seller we recommend checking out external websites such as Car Jam who will be able to give you a run down on odometer readings, owner history, WOF and Rego. It’s a great way to cross check information the seller is providing.

Once you’ve decided on what cars you want to test drive, we recommend driving as many as you can on the same day. This way, they’ll be fresh in your mind and you can easily compare the positives and negatives.

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous or apprehensive at this point. Rest assured that there’s no such thing as a stupid question (I didn’t even know that you could take a vehicle back to your house to see if it fits ok in the garage!) I think at this point it’s important to remember you’re just test driving a car. You’ve likely driven many, many hours already in your life – this is really no different.

Emma White

What to bring

  • Driver’s license
  • Something to document your experience; take notes and photos. This is especially important if you’re driving multiple vehicles. Note taking apps on your smartphone are perfect for this.
  • Your cargo. Think items you regularly travel with, anything from car seats, push chairs, golf clubs, surfboards – even your favourite reusable cup or water bottle!
  • If you want extra support, a trusted friend or family member can be very helpful as they may have questions you mightn’t have thought of, and it’s always good to have an extra set of eyes and moral support.
  • Wear clothes that you normally drive in.
  • It also pays to have a rough idea of the area you may want to drive in.

Before the test drive

We recommend making a booking for a test drive, as this ensures the vehicles you want to drive are ready for you, and the team are ready to answer any questions you might have. However, you’re also welcome to pop into the showroom anytime.

If you have made a booking, a friendly team member will be there to meet with you. You’ll hand over your driver’s license and be asked to complete some paperwork. One thing you’ll fill out is a Test Drive Agreement, which outlines what you can and can’t do on your drive (essentially, nothing that breaks the law). In doing so, this means that both you and the dealership are covered under insurance. Insurance on a test drive works similarly to the insurance on your personal vehicle where an excess is payable, should something happen.

Keep in mind, if you test drive a car that is being sold privately, there’s a good chance you won’t be covered by insurance. Check your own insurance – you are looking for the words on the policy that says you can ‘drive another car with the owner’s permission’. This is known as DOC or Driving Other Cars cover.

Once that’s been checked off, and before you go for a spin, this is a great time to have a thorough look over the vehicle and note any imperfections on the vehicle with the dealer representative.

Here is where the dealership can run through any features that make the car unique – understanding these will help you get the best out of your test drive.

Before you head out on your test drive, you and the dealership (or private seller) will set out expectations on how far you will be travelling and where you can go etc. At our Miles Group dealerships, we offer overnight test drives, encouraging you to take the vehicle home. If required and in proximity, most of our dealerships can even drive the vehicle to your home.

For private sales, it comes down to what you and the seller agree on. It’s common practice to leave an item of value with the seller (e.g. your current car keys). Make sure you also have their contact details as well, just incase you need to call them while out on the test drive.

More so with used vehicles, you ideally want to test drive the car from cold. A warm car can hide a multitude of mechanical issues, particularly in a diesel. You’ll be able to tell if the car is already warm by checking under the hood or taking a peek at the engine temperature.

It’s nearly time to drive! Before doing so, adjust your mirrors, get into a comfortable seating position, and ensure that you can easily view the instrument cluster and understand all the dials. Clear your head and focus on the experience you’re going to have with this vehicle.

Audi Test Drive Canterbury

During the test drive

Now is the fun part – heading on a test drive! At the Miles Group, you’re more than welcome to head off on your own, with your friend/family member, or someone from the dealership can accompany you. It’s totally up to you.

Once you’re on the drive, don’t feel rushed. Your dealership or private seller will have agreed on a set time, or perhaps a set number of kilometres you can travel. It’s well worth making the most of these so you can really experience the vehicle.

On the drive, make sure to take it on the routes you normally drive, and aim to cover a variety of driving situations and speeds. Cover straight roads, speed bumps, corners, hills and motorway driving if you can. Make sure to test your skills parking, parallel parking, and reversing. Essentially, try cover as many driving scenarios as possible. Take note of how the steering handles and how the brakes feel.

Whilst you’re on the drive, test all the features of the car (this is particularly relevant if you’re looking at a used vehicle). Make sure the windows go up and down, the radio and speakers work, any wireless or Bluetooth features connect, etc. While you’re driving, turn the radio down and listen for any unfamiliar noises. If you’ve brought someone along, get them to sit in the back so they can get a feel for the vehicle as a rear passenger, too.

Drive within the law, but this is also a great time to give it a boot when you’re heading into a open road speed limit zone to get a felling of the vehicle’s responsiveness and power.

Test drives with the Miles Group

When you test drive a car with the Miles Group don’t feel like you need to rush. We encourage you to take the vehicle home overnight to your house (whether this be 10 minutes down the road, or to the bach). This gives you the chance to see how the vehicle performs in the comforts of your own personal space. It also means you have the opportunity to see how it performs at night – this is especially relevant when it comes to being satisfied with the vehicle’s headlights. Are you wanting to see how a vehicle you’re interested in handles towing your boat? We can organise a test drive for that.

Alternatively, we can also bring out a vehicle to your home or workspace.

After the test drive

You’re likely buzzing after your test drive, but don’t jump the gun just yet. Once you get back the private seller or dealership will likely ask you how it went. Be honest with your feedback, they can’t help you find exactly what you’re looking for if you’re not.

There’s absolutely no pressure to make a decision straight after your test drive. Maybe you have other vehicles you want to look at, or find a comfortable spot to review how well the car meets all the criteria you set out at the start. Consider your finance options, insurance costs, and if you’re wanting to trade in your current vehicle.

Use this time to take any photos you need and make a record of your thoughts, while they’re still fresh.

If you’re looking at used vehicle, it’s worth getting a pre-purchase inspection done. We recommend visiting one of our authorised dealership, if possible. The Miles Group have over 20 motor vehicles brands and will be sure to supply you with a honest inspection. For example, our Audi Dealership offers pre-purchase inspections from $299.

This is also a great way to foster a relationship with an official dealership going forward, who will be able to help with genuine parts and servicing.

Test Drive Kia Christchurch

Your vehicle purchasing decision

Once you’ve made a decision (exciting!), your dealership or private seller will be able to talk you though what happens next. If you’re going through a dealership, they’ll be on hand to assist you with all the paperwork that is required. It’s important to note that if you’re going through a private sale, it’s a legal requirement to inform Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) when you buy or sell a vehicle.

If you purchase from the Miles Group’s new vehicle brands , pre-owned selection, or buy privately, rest assured our business are here to help every step of the way. Our exceptional after-sales service, including personalised service and WOF reminders are designed to ensure you get the very best vehicle ownership experience that lasts a lifetime.

Emma White

I hope this blog post has eased your nerves or answered some questions about test driving vehicles. If you do have any further questions or are interested in going for a test drive you can live chat to myself or my colleagues by clicking the chat function in the lower right hand corner.

All the best on your car buying journey, and happy driving!

Test Drive FAQs

  • Drivers license
  • Something to document your experience, take notes and photos. This is especially important if you’re driving multiple vehicles. Your phone is perfect for this.
  • Your cargo. Think items you regularly travel with, anything from car seats, push chairs, golf clubs, surf boards, even your favourite takeaway cup!
  • If you want extra support, a trusted friend or family member can be very helpful as they may have questions you mightn’t had thought of, and it’s always good to have an extra set of eyes and moral support.
  • Wear clothes that you normally drive in.

If you’re going through a private sale, as many as you want.

It’s much the same at a dealership, it’s best to discuss your needs with a vehicle specialist.

For new vehicles it’s worth noting:

  • Visibility from the drivers point of view
  • How comfortable you feel after adjusting your seating
  • How much passenger space is there?
  • Does it have all the technology and safety features you desire? E.g. wireless phone charging, a touch-screen infotainment system, adaptive cruise control?
  • Can you easily get in and out of the vehicle, and access the boot space?
  • Can it fit the cargo you normally carry?

For used vehicles it’s well worth checking:

  • Why are they selling the vehicle?
  • How many previous owners has it had?
  • Does the vehicle match the description/information the seller has provided?
  • Exterior condition, are there any dings or scratches on the car?
  • Interior condition, such as wear and tear on the upholstery, stains
  • The ground beneath where the car was parked, is there anything leaking?
  • Check under the hood for leaks, rust etc.
  • If you can, have a trusted friend or family member have a look over as well.

At a dealership you’ll fill out a Test Drive Agreement. In doing so this means that both you and the dealership are covered under insurance. Insurance on a test drive works similarly to the insurance on your personal vehicle.

There’s a good chance you won’t be covered by insurance if you test drive a car sold privately. Check your own car insurance – you are looking for the words on the policy that says you can ‘drive another car with the owner’s permission’. This is known as DOC or Driving Other Cars cover.

Before you head out you and the dealership or private seller will set out expectations on how far you can go, where you can go etc. At Miles Group dealerships, we offer overnight test drives, encourage you to take the vehicle home (even if home is Kaiapoi) and can even bring the vehicle out to your house.

For private sales, it comes down to what you and the seller agree on. It’s common practice to leave an item of value with the seller (e.g. your current car keys). Make sure you also have their contact details as well while you’re out on the drive.

There’s many things to look out for on a test drive.

First and foremost, how the car handles. On the drive, make sure to take it on the routes you normally drive, and aim to cover a variety of driving situations and speeds. Cover straight roads, corners, hills and motorway driving if you can. Make sure to test how easy you find it to park, parallel park and reverse. Essentially, try cover as many driving scenarios as possible. Take note of how the steering handles, and how the brakes feel.

For used vehicles, it’s a great idea to get a pre-purchase inspection done as this will cover any potential mechanical faults. If you’ve brought a trusted friend or family member along, get them to have a listen out for any noises and check features such as the radio, speakers, air conditioning etc.

2023 Take Charge Expo
Ayrton Hodson Pacific Toyota stock car