How to create the best test drive experience for your customers


Some car buyers come into the showroom knowing that they’re going to walk back out with a new set of car keys. Other buyers want to do a test drive before making their mind up.

It’s crucial, then, that car dealers get their test drive experience just right. Those that do will shift more cars on the forecourt and shake hands with happy customers, who will be more likely to return the next time they’re in the market for a new vehicle.

Perhaps you haven’t given the test drive experience much thought before? There’s more to it than just handing over the keys, you know…
So, let’s look at the ways you can optimise your test drive experience and rise above the competition.

1.       Offer an incentive

As any car salesperson knows, the hardest bit can sometimes be to get customers to the showroom in the first place. Customers have busy lives and finding the time to test drive all the cars they’d like to can be difficult. As a result, they might draw up a shortlist and test drive just a select few.

To increase the chances of your dealership being somewhere they deem a must-visit, consider offering an incentive to every customer that comes to test drive one of your cars. And we’re not talking free pens…

That said, the incentive shouldn’t be too costly as then it wouldn’t make business sense. How about a complimentary gift card or a free oil change? The latter can be undertaken whilst the customer is out on their test drive.

Not only is a freebie a good way of getting customers through the door, it gets the relationship off to a great start. As long as the car they’re testing lives up to expectations, you could well be on your way to a sale.
A person test driving a car at sunset

2.       Let them go for a solo drive

Your instincts might tell you that you should accompany each customer on their test drive – for reasons of motor trade insurance, if nothing else. But research suggests that customers prefer to take a car for a spin without having a salesperson in their ear the whole time.

According to a survey by dealer software solutions provider Cooper Solutions, customers have a closer affinity with a vehicle when they get the chance to try it out by themselves because they can fully immerse themselves in the driving experience.

Some dealers have taken to letting customers test drive a car over the space of a couple of days, which allows buyers to go beyond trying out the comfort and the way the vehicle handles in terms of performance, and instead focusing on how the car can satisfy their daily needs.

A weekend test drive also plays into a person’s desire to be seen driving the latest motor. Nearly half (43%) of the car buyers quizzed by Cooper Solutions said they would use the time to “show off”, while nine out of 10 said a positive response from their loved ones would have a big impact on whether they made a purchase or not.

3.       Don’t put pressure on them

There’s nothing more off-putting for a customer than to feel like they’re under pressure to make a decision. The only decision they’re likely to make is to walk away from the engagement.

Instead of putting pressure on customers to make a decision on the day – as nice as that would be – reassure them that they can go away and think about it for a few days. If car availability is limited, then by all means make that known – but don’t make it sound like you’re forcing them into a hasty decision.

Customers will appreciate being given that extra bit of time. The same applies during a test drive. Rather than asking them to return in 15 minutes because you have another customer booked in for a test drive, ensure that appointments are appropriately spaced out.

Perhaps you could offer test drives in 30-minute and one-hour slots? That way, customers know what to expect and can factor the appointment into their day.
A woman test driving a car on a motorway

4.       Make negotiation as easy as possible

With a bit of luck, the concluding part of any test drive experience is done at the negotiation table.

Brits are notoriously bad hagglers. According to research conducted by Gumtree, buyers miss out on a collective £6.5bn each year because they’re simply too British to barter. The classifieds platform found that 41% of people don’t haggle because they are worried it would be rude, while 35% felt it would be inappropriate.

You might be reading this thinking that this resistance to haggle means you can expect the asking price. But some car buyers might prefer to walk away from a deal than try to negotiate. So, you need to make it clear that there could be a bit of wiggle room in the price, if the test drive goes well.

You might need to be the one who blinks first, if you’re keen to get a deal across the line.

Demand for test drives set to increase

What Car? Magazine predicts the rise of electric vehicles and hybrids may fuel an increase in demand for test drives.

The test drive is “far from dead” as 45% say they intend to test more cars, compared to the last time they bought. On average, buyers will test at least two cars while nearly a fifth of the 8,500 consumers analysed, said they would test upwards of five models.

But What Car? expects that as EV and hybrid market availability increases, test drives become even more important for buyers – underlining the importance of getting the test drive experience just right.

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