A good test-drive starts before the car even shifts into gear

(October 24, 2013) SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A car shopper can learn just as much on a test-drive when the car is parked as when it's zooming down the road, advises Edmunds.com. In fact, says Edmunds.com Sr. Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed in his new piece "How to Test-Drive a Car," a quick orientation in the vehicle before you hit the road can answer a lot of your questions.

"It's a little like trying on clothes," says Edmunds.com Sr. Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed. "People come in different sizes and shapes, and they have different tastes in what they want. The little things that you spot now could be major annoyances later, so don't discount any of your reactions."

At the start of any test drive Edmunds.com advises car shoppers to take note of some of the car's physical accommodations:

    • Is it easy to get in and out of the car without stooping or banging your head?
    • Does your body type match the pedal positions? If not, are the pedals adjustable?
    • Is the seat comfortable? Is it easily adjustable? Is there a lumbar support adjustment?
    • Is there enough head-, hip- and leg-room? Remember to sit in the backseat too.
    • Are the gauges and controls easy to read and use?
    • How is the visibility? Check the rearview mirror and the side mirrors and look for potential blind spots.
    • Check the trunk space and cargo area. Is the vehicle easy to load? Is there a pass-through in the trunk opening for long items?

Of course, the "drive" part of the test-drive is equally important. Edmunds.com offers these recommendations to make sure car shoppers get an accurate driving impression of what just may be their next new or used car:

    • Turn off the radio so you can hear the engine and concentrate on the driving experience.
    • Make sure the test-drive route incorporates your specific driving requirements. If you regularly drive into the mountains, find a hill and see how the car climbs. If you have a highway commute, get on a freeway and see how the car accelerates into traffic and performs at higher speeds.
    • Be sure to evaluate these other specific points: braking, steering and handling, suspension and in-cabin ergonomics.

More details on how to get the most out of your test-drive can be found at http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/how-to-test-drive-a-car.html.