For the best test-drive of a new car's technology systems, you want ample time with the car, its electronics and the smartphones you want to connect. You want to make decisions in a quiet, relaxed environment. While the right car salesperson can be a great asset in making technology choices, you want to avoid uninformed or overly intrusive dealership staff.
On your tech test-drive, your top priority will be checking to see if the features are easy to use and compatible with your smartphone. The salesperson's top priority, however, is to get you excited about the vehicle so you will buy it. Here's how to get the time you need, and the right conditions, to evaluate a car's technology.
- Call or e-mail the dealership's Internet sales department and schedule a tech test-drive. The Internet staff is used to dealing with more informed shoppers and will be more likely to offer a relaxed sales environment for your test-drive. Also, when it comes to making a deal, the Internet department usually offers lower prices and less need for negotiation.
- 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 verify that you're comfortable and familiar with the car's electronics before making a decision on whether to buy the car. Also explain that you want to be sure you will be able to connect your phone and want to know that for sure before you buy the car.
- Be sure you have access to the car's owner's manuals. These aren't always at hand in cars on the dealer's lot, so make sure the car you test-drive has a manual for reference. With some cars, you might be able to figure everything out without manuals, but they're good to have just in case. Read through it with an eye toward the connectivity issues you care about. You also might be able to find the manuals online.
- Take the car overnight, if the dealership allows this. If you can get an overnight test-drive, you will be better able to experiment with the car's infotainment displays in day and night conditions. If an overnight test-drive isn't possible, at least get access to the car 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. Furthermore, you won't have to watch the clock or run the risk of getting a salesperson in hot water with his boss.
- If you are limited to a couple hours for testing, politely tell the salesperson to give you some time alone in the car. This may be hard to do since car salespeople are often told by their managers to stick close to potential buyers. Sometimes they're fearful about other salespeople stealing their customers. Nevertheless, seek out a quiet corner of the car lot and assure the salesperson you will be in contact as soon as you are done.
- For a very detailed review, look at Edmunds checklists prior to your test-drive. The checklists will help you note key features of the car's audio, Bluetooth and telematics systems.
- Verify sweeping statements. When salespeople are eager to close a sale, they might make general promises about the car's technology and connectivity. It's wise to verify the car's technology and your devices' integration and functionality for yourself.
- If the salesperson doesn't seem particularly informed, or is uninterested in car technology, ask if there's a tech specialist on hand. Increasingly, dealerships have a designated tech consultant or delivery team member to help customers with connectivity issues. Many of these specialists 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 for the demonstration, rather than just answering questions or showing you how their devices work.
- Don't be afraid to ask the salesperson to "check with the boss" if he denies your requests. If you wind up with a salesperson 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 salesperson. However, 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. And, of course, you are always free to take your business elsewhere.