How To Test-Drive Car Technology Without Dealer Interference

Tips for Getting the Time You Need To Test a Car's Technology

  • Car Salesman and Customer Picture

    Car Salesman and Customer Picture

    Don't let a car salesman sway you with sweeping generalizations about a car's technology offerings. Test it yourself. | August 03, 2011

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To make the most of a test-drive of a new car's technology systems, you want time alone with the car, its electronics, your portable devices and your checklist. But what you want is very different from what the average car salesman wants.

With your tech test-drive, you're checking ease of use and compatibility. The salesman takes you on a test-drive to get you excited about the vehicle so you can be lured into the dealership's sales office and will agree to a lucrative deal. Here's how to avoid the salesman's scenario and get the time you need.

  • Call or e-mail the dealership's Internet sales department and schedule a tech test-drive ahead of time. The Internet staff will be less likely to try the hard sell on you, and you'll have a less pressured environment for your test.
  • Ask for an appointment to drive exactly the car you want to buy, not a vehicle of a similar trim level or model. Make it clear that you want to make sure you're comfortable and familiar with the car's electronics before making a decision on whether to buy it. Also explain that you have concerns about whether you will be able to connect your phone and music player and want to resolve those worries before you buy the car.
  • Be sure you have the owner's manuals. These aren't always at hand in cars on the dealer's lot, so make sure the car you test has a manual for reference. Read through it with an eye toward the connectivity issues you care about.
  • Take the car overnight, if possible. If you can't get that, at least get it for a couple of hours. A longer test-drive will let you relax and concentrate on becoming familiar with the car's technology and connecting your phone or music player to the vehicle without having to watch the clock or fend off salespeople. If you can get an overnight visit, you will be better able to experiment with the car's infotainment displays in day and night conditions.
  • If you are limited to a couple hours for testing, ask to be left alone. It may be hard to make the average car salesman disappear while you test a vehicle's electronics and connect your phone or music player. Car salesmen are paranoid about other salesmen stealing their customers and are under pressure from their managers to stick close to potential buyers. Nevertheless, you should press your request to drive the car several blocks away so you can do your tech testing in peace.
  • Don't buy the hype. At some point, a traditional car salesman might make sweeping statements about the car's technology and connectivity prowess. He might even say, "This car's navigation system is the easiest to use among our competitors." Or, "I had another customer with one of those phones — it was a snap to connect it." Don't believe these assurances. Insist on your right to test the car's technology and your devices' integration and functionality for yourself.
  • See if there's a tech specialist on hand. Some dealerships have a designated tech consultant to help customers with connectivity issues. Many of these consultants are quite knowledgeable and might be able to answer your questions and show you how to connect and use your portable devices. However, it's important to have them use your phone or music player for the demonstration, rather than just answering questions or showing you how their devices work.
  • Go over the pushy salesman's head to get the test time you need. If you wind up with a salesman who won't give you the room or time you need for a tech test-drive, and won't let you take the car off the lot alone, you can always go to the sales manager and ask for a different salesman. This may be too confrontational for many people. Your recourse then is to leave the dealership and return later, or reenter through the Internet department.

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