A car is likely the second largest financial burden you’ll take on in your life, behind only the purchase of a house. No one in their right mind would buy a house sight unseen, so why are more and more consumers buying cars without a test drive?
Blame it on the wealth of information available online. Before even setting foot in a dealership, consumers can learn everything there is to know about a particular make and model, down to the exact price they can expect to pay by zip code. Reviews from trusted professionals (like us) can tell you in advance if a particular car will meet both your needs and expectations, so in the mind of the average driver, a test drive simply isn’t necessary.
Or is it? We’ve driven hundreds of cars in our lives, and one thing is still painfully evident: while no manufacturer can afford to build a bad car these days, there are still cars built on a Monday and cars built on a Wednesday. We’ve driven brand new models fresh from a dealer lot with components loose in the door panels, an assembly gremlin that isn’t always easy to diagnose and repair. Would you be happy driving a car for five or ten years that sounded like a maraca? We certainly couldn’t live with that.
Even reviewers have Mondays and Wednesdays, and we’ve read reviews from the glossy magazines that left us wondering if we drove the same car. No matter how much you may trust another’s opinion, yours will almost certainly differ and that can lead to long-term disappointment with a particular vehicle.
The Detroit News quotes a new Maritz Research survey showing that 11.4 percent of 2012 model year car buyers didn’t take a test drive. In other words, these buyers are so intimidated by the dealership experience that they’d rather roll the dice and buy a car without a moment of seat time. Worse, these shoppers may view cars as a disposable commodity, much like a toaster oven, and how many of us test-drive toaster ovens before buying?
I suspect our readers are the test-drive type. If you’re not comfortable with the buying process, find a friend who is and take him along on your dealership visit. Like mail order brides, some undriven cars will meet the buyers expectations, but we suspect a lot of new owners will be in for a big disappointment.
Image credit: flickr user Robert Couse-Baker