Are your customers doing their shopping on a test drive?

The test drive process is a vital element of the customer purchase journey and substantially increases the chance of securing a sale. Well, that’s the perceived wisdom among dealers, at least. The idea is that once a customer is behind the wheel, the benefits of the vehicle speak for themselves, especially when it comes to considering an upgrade.

We conducted a survey of 200 used car buyers and the results show just how important extended and unaccompanied test drives are. In fact, 49% of respondents said they would feel more positively about a dealer if they were offered an extended or unaccompanied test drive and would welcome the opportunity to make a more informed purchase decision.

Whilst 43% said they would use the opportunity to show the car to friends and family to gauge their opinion, the vast majority (89%) admitted that a positive response would likely swing a sale. A further 15% would take it to show off to colleagues at work, for that all important second opinion, with more men (18%) than women (13%) saying they would do this. Nearly a third (32%) said an extended test drive would increase the chances of them ‘falling in love’ with the car they were test driving and 20% said it would increase the probability of them buying that make and model of vehicle.

Women (25%) are more likely to do day-to-day errands in an unaccompanied test drive car, compared to 23% of men. However, it’s clear that both genders like to test a car to make sure it fits their lifestyle, whether it’s doing the supermarket shop, packing for a trip or fitting in the golf clubs and yoga mat.

When it comes to testing the driving of the vehicle itself, overall performance was rated the most important factor, closely followed by visibility and ease of parking. Whilst 42% of men tested a car for motorway driving, women were more likely (38%) to make sure there’s enough space in the boot.

That time alone in a car allows potential buyers to test a car for comfort, equipment and handling, as well as lifestyle features, such as space and in-car gadgets. It also takes the pressure off customers, without the salesperson accompanying them. However, our survey suggests that some customers may be tempted to take liberties with a test drive, when it comes to speeding or driving on a motorway. Dealers need to consider both quality short term insurance cover, in the event of an incident, as well as the tracking of traffic offences or charges, enabling them to offer unaccompanied test drives with confidence. Crucially, this means dealers can enhance the customer experience and boost their bottom line, by making the most of new sales opportunities.