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Buying a car is undoubtedly a major decision, requiring a significant amount of research. While a test drive can give you a feel for a certain car, a short drive often doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. Next time you are in the market for a new car, consider this car buying secret: once you have a shortlist of preferred cars, rent each model for a thorough comparison.

While it might take a bit more work and money, you are more likely to get a car that is the right fit. At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on that.

Why rent a car?

While it might not seem intuitive, renting car models that have made your shortlist of preferred vehicles will give you the true perspective on how the car will fit in your everyday life. There are a number of scenarios that a test drive can’t illustrate, including:

  • How the car handles in heavy traffic
  • If car seats will fit comfortably
  • Gas mileage based on your driving style
  • Whether the vehicle can make tight turns or fit in tight parking spaces
  • How the model handles the weather conditions in your area, including snow and rain
  • Whether it has sufficient storage

It would be impossible to tell how a car will truly fit in your life from a ten-minute test drive. Renting a car will give you a comprehensive view of how a car handles the demands of you and your family. Renting the car is also more likely to help you determine the intangible – whether you and the car connect.

Concerns about renting

The benefits of renting the cars you are considering purchasing are obvious, but this process does have some drawbacks. Things to consider before moving forward with renting include:

Depending on the area you live in and how expensive your proposed models are, renting will definitely come with a cost. The average cost is $33 to $60 per day. Be sure you have your list narrowed down as much as possible to avoid unnecessary costs.

Spending sufficient time with each rental model will certainly take more time than a simple test drive. A car, however, is a big decision and worth a time investment.

Rental cars tend to be basic models that don’t include any upgrades. Keep this in mind as you are driving and don’t let it overly influence your decision. In fact, renting may show you which upgrades will be truly meaningful.

There might be a lack of foreign models available. Historically, rental car companies primarily kept American models on hand. Rental car companies have, however, been expanding fleets to include more foreign-made cars.

Often rental car companies won’t guarantee a certain make or model. You may need to call daily until your preferred model is available.

Make sure your insurance policy covers your use of the rental cars or considering investing in the supplemental insurance from the rental company.

Using this car buying secret: where to rent

The good news is that there are a number of rental car companies to choose from. This will help ensure you are able to get your hands on your preferred model. Some of the major players include:

If cost is an issue, consider searching for your rental car through a discount site like Expedia or Orbitz. If you have a membership to a warehouse like Costco, you could check for deals there as well.

If you decide to try a rental car, you are likely to learn much more about your preferred vehicles than you would through a test drive. With a little time and dedication to the process, you just might end up with the car of your dreams that also fits perfectly into your life.