In school, there are two main types of tests: a written exam and an oral exam. At the car dealership, we encourage people to administer two types of tests before buying a new car. The first, of course, is the test drive. The importance of actually driving the car you’re about to buy can’t be underestimated. The other type of test—an oral exam—is a test within the test drive. This oral exam is made up of the questions you ask the sales representative during the test drive. Unlike the tests you took during school, we can give you the questions before the test begins:

What’s going to surprise me as I drive this car?

Sales representatives at car dealerships have been on many test drives, probably including dozens in the very car you’re about to drive. They have learned about the unique points of the specific car and have identified the points of surprise for unsuspecting car buyers. Maybe a car has a slight shake during acceleration or a wide turning radius. Your sales representative will often know the reason behind these characteristics. By knowing about those things ahead of time, you can make a more informed judgment about them when they come up.

How many of these do you sell?

Of course, sales volume isn’t everything. It can, however, tell you some valuable things about your potential new vehicle. First, purchasing a car that is popular with the masses can give you some form of crowd-sourced assurance that the car is a good one. A car that rarely sells can be an indication of problems or perceptions that you haven’t yet discovered. Perhaps less importantly, knowing a car’s sales volume can give you a feel for how unique you’ll feel when driving out on the roads.

What problems does the service department frequently see with this car?

Sales representatives, understandably, are generally positive in their assessments of cars. They are sometimes hesitant to discuss the negative attributes of the cars they sell. But, if asked in this specific way, you may get them to discuss some of the common problems with a specific make and model. Asking about common service requests can be a great way to illicit useful information.

What is something that people don’t discover until a few weeks into ownership?

Because car dealers and their sales reps are so familiar with every car, they often forget that the rest of us don’t know everything that they know. Sometimes they assume that you are already aware of features, benefits, or problems associated with the car you’re driving. By asking this question, you may learn about the side-view mirror defrost, the side-curtain airbags or some other neat-but-hidden feature.

What do you drive?

Less direct than the others, this question has the ability to really get the sales representative talking. The goal of this question is to discover what features they value in a car and to get them to open up and provide additional information.

Test driving a car is an important part of the car selection and buying process. A second type of test—an oral exam given to the sales representative during the test drive—can be just as useful. Administer these two types of tests and you’ll be the one that ends up learning something useful.


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