How to get a longer, more substantial test drive of a new car.
July 8, 2009 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Do dealerships still loan out cars you're interested in buying for an hour or two? Years ago before I was of driving age, I went with my parents to a dealership to look at some cars. I can't recall if we were buying a new or used car, but the dealership let us take the car for a couple of hours. (Perhaps it was a used car and we took it to a secondary mechanic?)

For those of you who recall my recent thread about buying a new car after my accident, I've test-driven a Honda Fit and a Civic. I liked the Fit, but the problem was, the test drive lasted about 5 miles and maybe 10-15 minutes on roads I'm not familiar with... not really long enough for me to get a feel for the car, especially since Consumer Reports and bloggers say the ride tends to be rough. Also, it's the first time I've ever test-driven a car where they did not ask me for my driver's license to photocopy it. Of course the salesman rode along, which I don't mind.

Also, the Fit Sport model (the one I'm interested in) has something I'd never heard of before - it has paddle shifters. (If you're clueless like I was, you put the car in S instead of D and it's like shifting without a clutch. It will still automatically go up to 3rd gear on its own if you don't tell it to and it needs to, but you can choose when to shift.) I had no opportunity to try out this feature.

Do I go back to the dealership and ask the salesman to take me on a slightly longer test drive? Or would they let me take it out on my own for an hour? I'd just like to take it to an area I typically drive in, or at the very least take it for a longer drive and see how it feels.

I did have a once-brand-new car that was destroyed in the accident but my parents paid for it, and they had told me "we're taking you to the Chevy dealer and getting you a Cobalt" so this is the first time I've really shopped around for a new car. My used cars have never been acquired from a dealership.

If they won't let me take it out I might rent one for a couple of days, if I can find one available.
posted by IndigoRain to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yep. Your phrase here is "Extended test-drive." It's perfectly reasonable to want to get a real feel for the thing beyond just puttering around the neighborhood.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:07 PM on July 8, 2009

My (used car) dealership loaned out my Aveo for a full 24 hours. All I had to do was show them my auto insurance. In this economy, I feel fully confident that any dealer will offer a loan for at least an afternoon, if not longer. From their perspective, the more you feel the car is yours, the more likely you'll buy it.
posted by thatbrunette at 7:12 PM on July 8, 2009

Just go and ask, if they wont accommodate you go to a dealer that will.
posted by outsider at 7:13 PM on July 8, 2009

I bought a 2002 VW Jetta in 2005 from a VW dealership. They let me take it out for a couple of days, actually. When I brought it back to them to buy it, I'd also had those days to find a few little, er, "quirks" that I requested be repaired before I purchased it. Definitely worth asking about.
posted by booknerd at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Some dealerships even encourage this; the idea is that you will take the car and grow attached to it -- how it looks in your driveway, how people react to seeing you drive it, etc -- and be more willing to buy it.
posted by nitsuj at 7:41 PM on July 8, 2009

There are lots of Honda dealerships, even in Indiana. You don't have to buy the car from the dealership you borrow from, so you can definitely try out the car somewhere and then shop around for the best deal if you decide to buy.

As an aside, I'm not a big fan of clutchless manual transmissions. Pretty much car with one will also have an automatic transmission, which is just fine for the vast majority of situations, at least for me. It's a gimmick, and not a particularly fun one at that; the novelty definitely wears off fast. If you want it, great, but I really don't think it's at all worth paying one cent extra for.
posted by zachlipton at 8:40 PM on July 8, 2009

Nowadays, what've they got to lose? The vehicle probably has a chip so it can be located via GPS -- maybe this feature's disabled after the sale, maybe not.

Anyway, what they may NOT want to do is send a salesman along for the ride -- I remember an LA news article many years ago where the salesman, car and potential buyers went missing during a test drive, and days later the car was found out in the desert, burned up with the salesman's body inside.
posted by Rash at 8:52 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

There are no rules on this, so it will depend completely on the dealership or the individual salesperson you talk to. It might even vary depending on how busy they are.

But your request is eminently reasonable. You're a prospective five-figure sale, for crying out loud. Of course they should accommodate you, and if they don't, check the next dealership.
posted by rokusan at 10:44 PM on July 8, 2009

Thanks everyone. Zachlipton, I'm not sure I want it, but since it'd be coming with the car, I want to try it out.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:23 PM on July 8, 2009

As an aside, my wife and I have an '07 Fit, and the ride isn't particularly rough. The paddle shifers are only on the automatic transmission (the manual is a traditional stick on the floor), and are 99% a gimmick. (They let you shift, but only when the car thinks it's an ok idea.) The Sport model, however, includes some useful things, with cruise control being most notable. The fit and finish feels much less cheesy in the Sport than the baseline model.

As for the extended testdrive- the worst that happens is they say no and you try a different dealership.
posted by JMOZ at 5:17 AM on July 9, 2009

The vehicle probably has a chip so it can be located via GPS -- maybe this feature's disabled after the sale, maybe not.

OnStar is maybe what you're thinking about. If your car doesn't have that, there is no hidden GPS tracking device installed by the manufacturer. I'd be interested if you have evidence otherwise.
posted by odinsdream at 7:39 AM on July 9, 2009

bottom line. if they want your business, they will work around you. if they dont, walk away.
posted by Heliochrome85 at 9:12 AM on July 9, 2009

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