The test drive is far from dead, despite one in ten consumers saying they will buy without trying the car first, research by What Car? suggests.
Of course, for some buyers, the purpose of the test drive is nothing more than validating the choice they’ve made, which is why nearly a fifth (23%) admitted they planned to arrange just a single demonstration.
And for one in ten people who took part in the What Car? survey, the test drive was deemed completely irrelevant. “For this buyer,” What Car? Editor Steve Huntingford said, “they’ve done their research, they’ve validated their decision with friends and family, and they’re comfortable enough with the monthly payments to simply place an order blind.”
However, the magazine’s analysis of 8,500 consumers in the market for a new car found that 45% intended to test drive more cars this time than the last time they bought one. On average, car buyers said they planned to test at least two model – although nearly a fifth said they expected to get behind the wheel of upwards of five.
What Car? expects the rise in choice and popularity of electric vehicles over the next few years to further fuel the trend for more test drives. “Driving an EV or hybrid will be a new experience for millions of drivers and they will want to understand what they are buying,” Steve Huntingford said. “As a result, we predict a surge in demand for test drives. But with it, dealers and manufacturers need to ensure the experience of the test drive itself fits the customer.”
He explained: “Unpressured test drives at shopping centres win hands down over the traditional dealer experience. Consumers tell us they want convenience but, above all, they want to test their fears of choosing one model over another… can I fit my three kids across the back seat, can I park it easily, can I drive an automatic?”
This demand is already being met in some cases, with some brands offering 24 and 48-hour test drives, and others providing a less pressured retail experience at shopping centre locations.