Buying a Car Without Test-Driving It First Could Make For a Costly Mistake

Have you ever purchased something online, had it arrive at your doorstep, and then realized it wasn’t actually what you wanted? Unfortunately, the same can happen when you buy a car and skip the test drive. Don’t just take our word for it, though.

A side-rear view of a dark-colored 2020 Kia Telluride midsize SUV driving into the sunset
2020 Kia Telluride | Kia

Can you buy a car without going to the dealership first?

As it turns out, you can buy a car without going to the dealership first. In fact, you can buy a car without going to the dealership at all. According to Autotrader, you can do a large portion of the car buying process online. You can search through listings at your local dealership, request a quote via e-mail, secure financing online or over the phone, and even have the car of your choosing delivered to you.

But is buying a car without going to the dealership first actually a good idea? Probably not, reports Autotrader. And for a pretty important reason too. Buy a car without going to the dealership first, and odds are you won’t get the opportunity to test drive it before finalizing your purchase. Unfortunately, Autotrader reports, this could make for a costly mistake.

A group of Ford trucks for sale on a car lot
A salesman talks to to prospective buyers about a Ford 150 pickup truck | Jack Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Is taking a car out for a test drive actually necessary?

Sure, it’s possible to buy a car without ever stepping foot into the dealership. As we mentioned before, though, it’s not really recommended. After all, test driving a car is integral to the car buying process and will give you a good understanding of whether or not the car you’ve got your eye on is a good fit for you.

“While you might read many reviews that say positive things about a car, it’s hard to know how you’ll feel about a certain vehicle until you’ve actually spent some time behind the wheel,” explains Autotrader.

Autotrader isn’t the only one to recommend hitting the road for a test drive before finalizing your purchase, either. Car and Driver reports that when it comes to shopping for a new or used vehicle, test driving it is the best way to determine whether or not it’s the right vehicle for satisfying your daily driving needs.

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Here’s how you properly test drive a car

If you’re considering skipping the test drive simply because you’ve never taken a test drive before, there’s no reason to let your anxiety get the best of you. While taking a test drive can seem daunting, Edmunds has plenty of helpful tips for how to test drive a car properly:

  • Start things off by doing your homework before visiting the dealership. Research new car ratings and find two to three vehicles you would like to test drive. Once you have, consider making an appointment at the dealership. 
  • Once you’ve arrived at the dealership, Edmunds recommends taking a good look at the car before hitting the road. Ask yourself if it looks good in person, isn’t too big for your driveway, parking space, or garage, and whether or not it offers a good amount of interior space.
  • After you’re settled in behind the wheel, consider the seating position. Is the driver’s seat comfortable? What’s the visibility like? Edmunds recommends testing out the car’s infotainment and climate control system too.
  • During the test drive, try to take the car on roads you frequently travel. Test out the car’s acceleration, how well it brakes. Pay close attention to the steering and handling too.

After the test drive, Edmunds suggests giving yourself some time to think things over. While you might be inclined to start negotiations right away, waiting can give you so much-needed perspective on your test drive.

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Skipping the test drive could be a mistake

In the end, skipping a test drive really could be a mistake. Not only could you wind up owning a car that isn’t a good fit for you, but chances are you’ll also have spent a good chunk of change on a car you don’t actually like.