The car test drive is alive and kicking… despite 1 in 10 saying they won’t bother

  • Rise in electric vehicles on the market will only fuel test-drive demand

The car test drive is far from dead, despite 1 in 10 consumers saying they will buy without trying, according to research by the What Car? New Car Buying service.

Analysis of 8,500 consumers ‘in the market’ for a new car found that 45% intend to test drive more cars this time compared with the last time they bought.

On average, the data suggests that buyers plan to test at least two cars – although nearly a fifth said they expect to get behind the wheel of upwards of five different models.

What Car? expects the rise in choice and popularity of electric vehicles over the next few years will only serve to fuel this trend. “Driving an EV or hybrid will be a new experience for millions of drivers and they will want to understand what they are buying,” said Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?.

“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.”

For some, the purpose of the test drive is nothing more than validating the choice they’ve made which is why nearly a fifth (23%) admit they plan to arrange only one test drive.

Yet for one in 10, the test-drive is deemed completely irrelevant as they will buy without trying their next car at all.

Huntingford said: “For this buyer, 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.”

Studies by What Car? show that 62% of buyers still find contact with dealers difficult and that the test drive experience is usually the most vocal complaint.

“The unpressured test drives at shopping centres win hands down over the traditional dealer experience,” explained Huntingford. “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 by some, with manufacturers such as Volvo and BMW offering 24 and 48-hour test drives, and Seat and DS providing a less pressured retail experience at Westfield shopping centre.

The What Car? New Car Buying service has more than 90,000 discounted new car deals and allows car buyers to compare these with the What Car? Target Price, which is the most buyers should pay for their new car.

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