Other than a house, a car is probably one of the most expensive purchases you will make. Add to this the fact we spend on average over 100 minutes a day in the car, it’s no wonder that we like to shop around and find a good deal or car that fits ‘just right’.

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A test drive is a great way to do this. It gives you the opportunity to try all the features and if carried out effectively, puts you in the best position to make an informed decision.

So let us help you make the most out of your next test drive with our top five tips:

Do your homework

Before you even book a test drive, do your homework. Google around to see what brand and model fits you the best. Are you looking for style and luxury or are you looking for a car to get you from A to B? Are you looking for a vehicle to hold its resale value?

Once you have a list of models you like, check out reviews and get an understanding of the features. How does the vehicle rate for fuel efficiency and safety? Do you need four or five doors?

This early research will help you save time in the dealership and narrow down your choice to a few specific vehicles that you can test drive and compare in a structured way.

Before you get in the car

The internet is a great place to start for information, but you won’t get a real feel for the vehicle until it is right in front of you. So before you dive in and start driving, take some time to inspect the vehicle. Is it easy to get in and out of? If you have young children, check that it is easy to install a car seat. If you are buying used, check for rust and make sure that doors/windows open and close properly. These details matter especially if you’re looking to use the car regularly and own it for a long period of time.

On the road

Once on the road, you will get a real feel for the car. Try to mentally list things such as handling, ride, and how much noise you can hear from the road. This will be critical to comparing the vehicle to others that you’re looking to try.

Drive the car how you would on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to push the car a little to get a sense of acceleration. If you’re concerned about safety don’t be afraid to try a simulated emergency brake.

This is a great time to try the technology too. Make sure you’re happy with the climate control, the backup camera and sound system. These may seem trivial, but when you’re trying to parallel park your car in the city or driving through a sweltering heat wave, you’ll be thankful!

Back at the dealership

The test drive doesn’t end when you give the keys back to the car salesperson. This is another chance to ask questions and remember there are no silly questions. Ask about any quirks of the particular model and how to use any features that you don’t understand.

If you decide that this is the car you want, make sure you ask about available discounts, promotions and finance deals. If it is a used car ask whether the vehicle is still under warranty and request a vehicle history report to ensure you are aware of previous accidents and modifications.

And remember, just because you test drive a car doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Drive a number of cars and take the time to think it over. The more you know about the cars you’re considering, the better placed you’ll be to make an informed decision.