I’ve bought too many cars in my life. At this point I’m jaded to the process and even the excitement around buying a car. In pieces over the years I’ve pretty much broken down the entire car buying process. From the second you walk into a conventional dealership in this country everything is about walking you through those steps as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
But the test drive is the one step dealers take the most seriously. I’ve watched salespersons get their customer taken from them simply because they lacked control enough to get the customer to drive a car. This has been this way for decades longer than I’ve been alive, and was thought to be this way forever.
That was until Al Gore’s internet became advanced enough that you pretty much could buy anything from butt plugs to appliances from home. At first this was a threat to the status quo of the industry, because it put pricing first and ignored the standard road to the sale. But eventually it actually made the industry better, slowly turning salespeople from money-obsessed deviated septums to product specialists.
Those product specialists were now more responsible for selling you on the features of a vehicle than ever before. Customers are well-researched more often than not nowadays and it falls on these salespersons to still wow you if you walk through the door looking. But what if you don’t want to come to the lot and look at the car you spent three weeks on the internet researching and tracking down? What do you do then?
The dealership isn’t going to miss your business over this. They will accommodate and will be more and more willing to do so into the future because of how the business model has changed. Carvana and Vroom exist purely because people were tired of the conventional car sales model and wanted to buy them like they’re on Amazon.
But that’s enough about why we do test drives. In my opinion you don’t need to drive a vehicle before you buy it. Let me add this though, everything I’ve said here so far applies to buying your average automobile. Outliers like enthusiast vehicles, higher end luxury cars, and true exotics I very lightly recommend you take the test drive. Why the difference? Well lack of difference is why somebody buying a Rogue or an Escape doesn’t really need to test drive the car. The cars are so similar in that landscape nowadays that driving impressions aren’t really all that important.
On the other hand even though I (lightly) recommend you drive the wild stuff, it honestly doesn’t matter if you test drive it or not. Most dealers that will let you buy without driving will let you out of the deal if you genuinely don’t like the car. And if you really have your mind set on something you’ll buy it without trying it. I’ve done it quite a few times myself.
I was always taught that your average retail buyer is almost totally moving off of emotion when they’re in the showroom until the numbers. But buying without test driving or otherwise is probably the most emotionally involved you can get with a vehicle, even if you did work out an excellent price. And honestly, if you’re not emotionally involved it’s probably not the car for you. So buy how you want because at the end the day the only person that needs to be involved with what you’re feeling is you.