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The One Thing You Need To Do When You Test Drive a Car

Buying a car, especially a used car, is a major decision to make. It involves a significant amount of your income, and there is nothing worse than spending a lot of money and then having buyer’s remorse. One way to help avoid buyer’s remorse is to bring someone you trust with you along for the ride—literally! Here are four reasons why bringing a friend can make all the difference in your used car buying experience:

1. Buyer advocate: In the medical field, hospitals and doctors’ offices encourage patients to bring an advocate with them. An advocate looks out for the rights of the patient, is objective enough to ask questions that are in the patient’s interest if the patient is emotionally overwhelmed or unable to think clearly, and is willing to advocate for the patient if the care being given is not addressing the patient’s needs. An individual preparing to buy a car needs similar support. Buying a car is an emotional experience - it is a major purchase and can trigger a cocktail of emotions from excitement to fear. Because the purchaser is riding the wave of emotions, it can be hard to see the potential problems in a used car being test-driven. Another person in the car may be able to point out the dings, flaws, and noises that you may miss or ignore when you are excited about finding a car you like. They can also help you remember what your price range is/the monthly payment your budget can afford while you are walking through the lot and when you are dealing with the salesperson.

2. Oil problems: Have your friend stand behind the car at the tailpipe to watch the color and amount of the exhaust when you start the car. This is the easiest way to avoid buying a car that has an oil problem, which is a repair that can be very costly. If the exhaust is grey or black, it means the car is burning oil. If the exhaust is thick and white, it can also indicate the engine is burning something it shouldn't be. If there are thin white trails on startup but they disappear after the car runs for a few seconds, this is ok- it is just condensation burning off. You can also look at the tailpipe to see if there is residue, but tailpipes can and usually are cleaned before the car is put on the lot, just as engines are cleaned before being put on a lot, so the evidence is wiped away.

3. Passenger test drive. While you are driving and paying attention to how the car steers and how the engine works, your friend has the fun task of being a child—you know, pushing every button to see what happens. Do all the buttons work? Do the windows roll up and down? Does the stereo work? How about the outlets, the doors that hide nooks or glove compartments? Does the rear defogger work? Does the side mirror adjust? Are all the lights working? Are the seats comfortable? How far up and back does the seat go? Is there legroom in the back seat? Is the upholstery in good condition? How about the headliner (the upholstery and underpadding on the interior roof of the car)? Is the car easy to get in and out of? There’s nothing like falling in love with a pick-up truck only to get home and discover that your elderly mother, who you drive around on a regular basis, can’t get into it without assistance!

4. Companionship. One of the worst parts of buying a car, in my opinion, is waiting in the little cubicle at the dealership while all the back-room decisions and wheeling and dealing are being made. It seems to take forever, once you decide to buy a specific car, to drive away with that car. Having someone with you to sit and wait with you can be a great distraction. Your advocate can also provide the support to speak up about what you want to happen with the car before you buy it (such as having a scratch fixed or a repair made).

For more tips on test driving your car, check out these two useful links:

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