How Many Miles Does Consumer Reports Drive a Test Car?

A lot of drivers and car shoppers will turn to Consumer Reports to get info about new and used cars before they commit to buying one. Like many other car critics though, Consumer Reports will write a review on a car based on actually testing them, and the car critics will put those cars through a lot of hurdles. One of those hurdles is simply mileage, so here’s a look at many miles Consumer Reports will drive a test car around.

Front angle view of red 2023 Tesla Model S, only Tesla electric car with driving range over 400 miles
2023 Tesla Model S | Tesla

Here’s how Consumer Reports acquires test cars

Consumer Reports has been testing and reviewing cars since 1936 according to its website. Most car reviewers will acquire their test cars by borrowing them from the automakers themselves. As such, most car reviewers don’t actually own the car that they test and review.

This can be problematic for a couple of reasons. The automaker may want reviewers to test drive a certain trim or version of a car, and thus the automaker only provides that version to reviewers.

On top of that, there’s a power dynamic at play, as car critics may want to play softball with their reviews as they may not want to offend the automakers who are providing them with test cars. 

The good news is, Consumer Reports does not receive test cars from automakers. Instead, Consumer Reports buys every car that it tests straight from the dealership. This way, the car critic can ensure they’re testing the cars that everyone else is driving, and it can keep its reviews as objective and independent as possible.

This is how many miles Consumer Reports will put a test car through

Every year, the car critic buys and test drives about 50 cars. In fact, last year, Consumer Reports said that it spent $2,000,000 on just buying cars to test. One of the most important aspects of the whole testing process is simply putting miles on the odometer.

Consumer Reports wrote that, even before reviewers put their cars through tests, those reviewers will first drive their cars for 2,000 miles to break them in.

After the reviewers drive their test cars for 2,000 miles, that’s when those test cars are put through a variety of other tests, and many of those tests include more driving. For example, the test to evaluate a car’s ride comfort is done on a 30-mile-long loop.

Many of the tests happen in the real world too, and it just involves driving the test cars on roads as a regular driver would. Additionally, a test car’s controls are evaluated over the course of months, as that’s how long the testing process can take. In total, the test cars will likely see thousands of miles on them before the car critic writes its review. 

Other details about these tests

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7 Red Flags When Buying a Used Car According to Consumer Reports

The best way to get to know a car is to simply drive it around, but obviously, it’s important to drive the cars in different terrains and settings as well. That’s exactly what Consumer Reports does. The Consumer Reports Auto Test Center is a 327-acre facility in rural Connecticut, and it’s where the majority of the car tests take place.

There are a variety of test courses in that facility, including a drag strip, a handling course, and an accident avoidance course. There’s also a 33-percent-grade rock hill that will test the off-roading capabilities of a vehicle. Most of the real-life roads are in Connecticut, but Consumer Reports also takes the cars in ice rinks as well as in the plains of western Texas.