How can I test drive a car for longer than 20 minutes?
July 5, 2020 5:30 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy a new car, and want to try driving it for a few days before I take the plunge. How exactly do I go about this? I have neck/back issues that make some cars very uncomfortable to drive, and I can't tell if a car will work for me during the 20 minutes you normally get for a test drive.

When I looked at cars last year, only one brand (Toyota, which I am not interested in at this time) seemed to have a "try for a weekend before you buy" program.

I am fine spending money on this, but I am not sure how. I looked on the big car rental companies, but it's hard to tell what their inventory is, and usually the option is "Honda Accord or similar" rather than the specific model. ZipCar doesn't seem to have my top choice (VW Golf) in my area.
posted by radioamy to Shopping (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could renting a car from Turo work?
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 5:38 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Carvana offers seven-day risk free returns. It requires all the overhead of buying before you get to "try" the car, so understandable that a rental or an overnight test drive would be preferable. Still, it's an option that gives you a lot of time with the car, and if you're interested in a nearly-new car and happy with Carvana as a service, they can effectively swap a car that doesn't work for you with another one to try.
posted by AteYourLembas at 5:42 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

only one brand (Toyota, which I am not interested in at this time) seemed to have a "try for a weekend before you buy" program.

Car manufacturers generally only set a "minimum standard" for sales, but don't prohibit dealerships from going beyond that standard. It's definitely not uncommon to do an overnight test drive on any car. You'll have to look serious to the dealer. I would suggest pre-negotiating a price - "I want to buy this car at $xxxK, out the door, but I need it for a day or two to see that I'm comfortable with it." I'm fairly certain that at least half of the dealerships you talk to will take you up on your offer - although I think you'll only get overnight, not for a few days.

I looked on the big car rental companies

It's pretty uncommon to rent VWs. However, most car rental companies will allow you to rent cars to buy - for instance, Hertz Car Sales has a "Rent to Buy" offer where you rent a car for three days for a pre-set price and either return it or buy it.

Carvana offers seven-day risk free returns.

Carvana doesn't sell new cars, and further, they will not refund you their delivery fee ($600-ish) if you return a car and don't buy it.
posted by saeculorum at 5:48 PM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

I was able to call my local Enterprise car rental to ask if they had the specific make and model I wanted to test drive for a week. They did. I rented it for a week. Didn't care for it. I wasn't able to find anyone renting the second make/model I was considering, though.
posted by KayQuestions at 5:53 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, call a car rental office directly. There are usually several of each brand in a city, most of which are not near the airport. Call one of these and talk to a sales rep. Since they’re not at the airport, their business isn’t as in-demand, and they’ll usually have both the time and the demeanor to help you. You also have the benefit of not having a specific rental date, which isn’t the case for most renters. So call and explain your situation, and when they get one of the models you’re looking for in stock, ask them to call you. It might help if you’re a member of their loyalty program, but those are free to sign up for (and useful in their own right).
posted by kevinbelt at 5:58 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not to turn this into a Carvana debate, but they don't charge a delivery fee on all their cars, just the ones that come from pretty far away from you. If you meant you want a new-to-you car, OP, I'd definitely suggest looking into them. r/Carvana is a great source of reviews and $500-off codes.
posted by teremala at 6:12 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

You could also try, a peer-to-peer car rental platform. Maybe they have someone renting the make/model you want to try. I have never used Getaround, so this is not an endorsement.
posted by KayQuestions at 7:24 PM on July 5, 2020

If you go to a VW dealer you they may have Golfs as loaner cars that they could let you test drive for a few days. They may also be more willing to let you do this on a used version of the car you want, or for a 2019 model of which they probably still have stock left.

The same would likely apply to other makes you might be interested in.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 7:53 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some dealers let you spend the night with the car. With how desperate they are right now to sell, it’s worth a shot to bring this up.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:22 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I bought a new car last year. As part of that process, I took a very similar model on an overnight test drive, during which I drove it about 300 miles.

Not every dealer wanted to help me with the test drive (or: even had access to a relevant model). The dealer who arranged the test drive was the dealer from whom I bought the car. That was not a coincidence - it was also the dealer who offered the best price - they really wanted to make a sale, I guess they were short of orders that month.

It's good practice anyway to be talking to multiple dealers - it means you'll get a better price. Email (not phone! never phone!) a whole bunch of them, and one of them will help you. I used an online service called carwow that made it easy to get a bunch of email quotes from different dealers - if you have an equivalent, you can use it to start the process.
posted by rd45 at 1:34 AM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would try Turo or Getaround. I bet you can find one for rent if you live in a major urban area!
posted by amaire at 9:26 AM on July 6, 2020

Yeah, I'd just reach out to dealers about what you want to do. Although having bought a car via an email-initiated process recently, my experience was that email inquiries go to the bottom of the pile in terms of who they're responding to, so having a burner number (I used a Google Voice account) to give out is helpful when you're trying to get answers from multiple dealers at the same time. Many of them were accessible via text; I got multiple photos of term sheets & quotes.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:34 AM on July 6, 2020

Lots of dealers rent cars, especially if they have an attached body shop. Check the websites of those nearby.

As of a few years ago, Avis had Jettas and Golfs in their fleet here in Florida. Around here, it's not at all difficult to just go to one of the locations and see what they have parked out front at any given time. I've actually done this at the airport garages on more than one occasion.

Avis and Hertz cars are easily identifiable by the sticker on the windshield and the no smoking decals on the driver and front passenger windows, in the case they are in some strip mall parked among other cars.

Here in Miami, ZipCar had a couple of Golfs back when they still let me rent their cars.
posted by wierdo at 11:13 PM on July 6, 2020

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