The importance of the test drive in consumers' car buying decisions has been highlighted in new research which shows dealers can influence buying choice behind the wheel.
In the online survey of 1,054 users of AM-sister brand Parkers.co.uk, 61% of respondents said a test drive can change their mind on the car they were planning to purchase, with most prepared to take the test drive during the critical period when they had narrowed down their selection to a few cars (56%) or were certain of what they wanted (38%).
And to reinforce the point, more than half of respondents (56%) test drive just two cars - with the average across the sample being 2.3.
Reasons given for taking one include the need to enhance knowledge picked up through other research online or in print and videos - a form of reassurance and to ensure the vehicle drives well and is comfortable.
The reasons why consumers don't test drive a car saw criticism levelled at the process and the dealers.
"I still struggle to decide after a 20 min test drive. I would rather be able to have the car for a couple of hours or even a day as they used to years ago so that you can drive on familiar roads and have a good chance to discuss things with partner/wife.’
"I would prefer to take a car on approval for 2-3 days as a short spin in a car is not enough time to make sure that spending a large sum of money on something that depreciates so much.’
"Some are to short and feel pressurised but when we test drove my partners Citroen it was great as they let us go on our own for up to an hour, plus we got a cracking trade in price.’
"Dealerships need to be 'open' to you testing a car and walking away to reflect! They must also be interested in me as a customer as opposed to me being a bother to them’
"I prefer test driving alone without a pushy sales pitch. I can then drive the car on different roads"
Kieren Puffett, Parkers' editor, said: "Parkers' research reveals why a test drive is so important to a consumer when deciding which car to buy.
"This means there is a golden opportunity for dealers to ensure that customers have the best possible test drive experience and are on hand to answer any questions. It’s also clear from Parkers' research that not all dealers get this right and are missing out on sales."
Key points of the Parkers' research:
- The majority of respondents still take test drives and find them an important part of the buying process
- Before taking a test drive respondents do online research to decide which cars to they would like test drive and 29% use online reviews to do this research
- The majority of respondents suggested that they contact the dealer directly to book a test drive and only 40% of respondents would request a test drive online
- Not all respondents take test drives at the point of purchase, some take it as they start their research
- 16% aren’t sure what to check for when taking a test drive
- Women and younger respondents were less likely to know what to look for in a test drive
- 61% said that a test drive has changed their mind
- The average number of test drives taken is 2.3
- Respondents looking to buy a used car between £2,000-£10,000 are most likely to use the customer phone line to book a test drive.
* Survey carried out in March and April 2014. 686 online surveys were complete by those in the buying process, of which 490 respondents said they had taken or were planning to take a test drive.