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How to make your most telling test drive ever


Trying out a used car? Even The Stig might learn something from these top test-drive tips supplied by car buying experts at ACF Car Finance, says the companyís divisional manger of operations, Mark Jones.

Looking just a little bit sheepish, Chris shuffled up to the ACF Car Finance sales executive in our Leeds showroom. ďLook, Iím sorry about this, but would you mind if I had another run out in that Vauxhall I test drove yesterday?Ē he asked. Our man was delighted to oblige, but wondered if there was something about the car which had worried him.

ďNo, not at all,Ē said Chris. ďBut when I was describing it to my mates last night, one asked if it had a trip computer and another wondered whether the brakes were ABS. I hadnít noticed, and neither had I checked the legroom in the back, or even tried reverse gear,Ē he admitted.

Itís so easy to completely forget about the details when you take a test drive, and just to focus on what the car feels like and whether there are any odd rattles or tell-tale whines. Of course, getting out on the road is a great improvement on just kicking the tyres, but why not take a few tips from those in the trade about how to get the most out of your time behind the wheel?

These suggestions come direct from our expert car buying team at ACF Car Finance who spend literally millions of pounds each year on vehicles for our showrooms. Needless to say, they only buy in line with our strict criteria, but at the end of the day itís your opinion as a customer which matters most.

Hereís their top ten pointers for ensuring that you return from your test drive a lot wiser:

+ Donít just take a spin around the block. Try and include a variety of roads and traffic conditions to judge how the car handles in different situations, from a straight A road to a crawl through the town centre with plenty of stops and starts.

+ Make a mental list of what aspects of the carís performance you need to be assured about, including the efficiency of the brakes, how the steering feels, the ease of changing gear, and the acceleration both from a standing start and while on the move.

+ Ensure your seat is properly adjusted before you set off as this will help you to judge the legroom and all-round comfort of the car as you motor along. How does it feel compared with your current vehicle?

+ And it might not be just you who needs to be satisfied about comfort. If your children or partner will regularly be in the car with you, it might be an idea to take them along for the ride and to hear any doubts just once rather than on every journey afterwards.

+ Talking of children, make sure you bring along to the test drive any child seats you intent to use. Not all seats will fit easily in all cars.

+ What about the noise level? It can be difficult to judge this in isolation, so try listening to the radio or chatting with someone else in the car to ascertain its relative volume.

+ Look around as you drive, and assess the visibility. Any blind spots, or door pillars partially obstructing your vision? These factors neednít be deal breakers, but like the other aspects in this list, itís best to be aware of them before you sign on the dotted line.

+ A clear view of your instruments is also important, so check that out - and whether the carís controls and switches are easy to reach and operate.

+ Storage space can vary greatly, even between similar size models of car. Is there enough room for shopping, or any sports equipment or other gear you carry regularly? Does it make any difference if the bootís sill is higher than that on your present car?

+ Finally, when driving the car do resist the temptation to play with the accessories. You can test the heating, air-con, stereo, and all those other buttons when the vehicle has stopped. Concentrate on your mental checklist of performance, comfort and safety factors.

If you follow these test-drive tips, I can guarantee that you will confidently step out of the car with a pretty good idea of whether the vehicle is right for you. But like Chris at the start of this article, itís still possible to walk away and realise only later that there were a few details you forgot to ascertain.

Thatís why I suggest you also just jot down in advance the points youíll want to be assured about - for example, whether your golf clubs will fit in the boot - and the inventory of equipment, such as whether itís a standard or space-saving tyre.

Donít hesitate either to draw on the expertise of the showroom adviser. Members of the ACF Car Finance team, for example, are extremely knowledgeable about the vehicles they supply, and will gladly talk you through any points you wish to discuss. Whatever questions you have, now is the time to fire away.

Just as an aside, when preparing this article I asked Chrisís car adviser if he could think of any really silly questions which customers had come up with. He thought for a moment, and said: ďYes, the silliest questions are always the ones which are left unasked.Ē I think heís got a point, because if you donít ask, youíll never know. Happy hunting!

About ACF Car Finance

ACF Car Finance Limited ( is Britainís leading supplier of high-quality used cars to people whose credit status might otherwise prevent them from obtaining vehicle finance. There is a huge choice of makes and models on display at the seven ACF Car Finance showrooms in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Bristol, Maidstone and Dunstable - and each car comes with the benefit of a full 136 point vehicle quality inspection and interior/exterior valet. ACF Car Finance has earned a strong reputation within the finance and motor industry for its standards of customer care, and the quality of the friendly, professional advice provided by members of its fully-trained team. 44.9% APR Typical.

ACF Car Finance gratefully acknowledges the help of What Car magazine ( and the Royal Automobile Club ( in the preparation of parts of this article.



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 ACF Car Finance
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