The Test Drive

I am amazed at how many people part with cash or sign on dotted lines without taking a test drive. They just take the seller’s word that it’s all OK. The test drive can reveal so much and must be carried out before you buy. Some dealers will make it sound so unnecessary, they will say they have personally driven it and it drives like a dream. They might mention that they have to move 14 other motorhomes to get that one out! Have none of it. That said, I am equally amazed at how many dealers do not push the test drive a little more. Car dealers can’t wait to get you out on a test drive, this is because you start to “see yourself” in it, it’s really easy to imagine the joy of owning.

During the test drive try not to grin like a Cheshire cat. Treat the drive objectively. If you say how wonderful it is, or show it in your body language then don’t be surprised if you find the seller gets tough during negotiations because he knows your in love! If they insist that you cannot drive it now, then make an appointment for when they can extricate it from the sales area and get it ready for a test drive. Arrive at least 45minutes before the appointment and this should let you know if they have had to “warm her up” before you arrive. Your test should include a mixture of roads. Your drive should if possible take in some winding town and country roads, and a dual carriageway or motorway that will allow you to get to the speeds that you might use when heading down to the South of France or the South Downs. Chances are, the motorhome will be unpacked so any rattles you hear are from the vehicle and not the crockery cupboard. Listen to the engine, how does it sound? Does it accelerate smoothly? Are there any unusual noises emanating? How are the brakes? Try a hill start; how is the clutch? What is the steering like, positive, too much play etc.? None of this can be ascertained without a test drive, and unfortunately some sellers are much less likely to put things right after they have your cash. Anything that the test drive throws up can and should be discussed with the seller. Problems might be able to assist you in your negotiations, but with serious issues, such as poor brakes, you can insist are put right before you pay.

Take the family on the test drive, this will add weight but will also perform additional tests for you. Such as are the kid’s seat belts in place, do they work with your booster seats. Do tables need to be stowed for travel with passengers; is the heater or air-conditioner powerful enough to keep the rear travelling area comfortable? Etc. If it’s an older motorhome you want to try, ask if you can start it yourself (if the engine is warm when you arrive, be suspicious, it may have been pre-warmed to disguise any starting difficulties). Look at where the clutch bites if it’s at the top of the pedal’s travel, then there is a good chance that it is worn, ask for a replacement if they assure you that it’s OK and ‘normal’ tell them that you would like it covered in the guarantee as you are not so sure. Check how much play is in the steering wheel, if you think there is too much, ask about it.

Worn steering linkage can be very dangerous. What about the tracking? Does it pull to one side when you relax your grip? This is easily sorted but should be put right before you take delivery. Maybe your test drive can answer some of your other questions like; exactly how heavy is this motorhome? How about driving to a weighbridge; this will give you a very real idea about your usable payload. I wonder if it really will fit on the drive. You would not be the first to discover that yes it does just about fit on the drive, but your European A-Class only has one door and this is just one inch from the wall and cannot open! Unless you are certain it will fit, popping home during the test drive is a good idea, you might be surprised and find that tree branch is lower than you think!
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