Test-drives increase in summer


With supposedly more free time in the summer, college students might consider test-driving a few cars.

Automobile salesmen have a 12-step guide they follow when selling a vehicle. Letting the customer take it for a spin is number six on that list.

Before the salesman will allow a test-drive, they need to find out what it is the customer is looking for in a vehicle, how much money they’re looking to spend and how serious the customer is about buying a vehicle.

Nathan Dyke, 26, is a salesman at the Briggs Nissan Dealership, 2500 Stagg Hill Road. He has been working with Briggs since October, and has had more than 10 people test drive cars every week since, including summertime customers.

Dyke said no one-stereotypical person comes in and buys that stereotypical vehicle. There is, however, an unwritten guide for salesmen to follow on certain vehicles.

“We do pre-qualify test-drives for the specialty high-performance cars,” Dyke said. “For those customers, we’ll run a credit report. If we let just anyone test drive the Z, then it’d have a million miles on it and nothing else would get test-driven.”

The car Dyke is referring to is the Nissan 350Z. It represents Nissan’s sporty top-of-the-line option. He said the car boasts race-inspired engineering, a mixture of performance and technology and a design that shatters all the rules.

Many students and young people assume there is an age requirement for test driving a vehicle.

Bryan Little, 21, senior in construction science management, said he thought someone had to be at least 18 to test drive a car.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it were even 21,” Little said. “A minimum age of 25 would be a stretch, but not impossible to believe since you have to be 25 to rent a car.”

Little said he understands test driving to be a privilege, not a right.

“It’s not your freaking car,” he said. “The dealers do it as an advertising thing to help their customers make decisions.”

Dyke said age is not the important factor in who gets to test-drive a vehicle.

“Anyone with a valid license can come in and test drive a car,” he said. “I’ve had 16 year olds come in with their parents. Now, their parents have to accompany them on the drive, but it makes sense since they are the ones most likely paying for the car.”

However, Dyke stressed the motives necessary to have before the salesman will allow a car to be test-driven.

“Anyone that is serious about buying a vehicle is welcome to test-drive it.” Dyke said. “What matters is setting the stage for the buyer to get interested in a specific model. If they need to test drive four or five cars, then have at it. We want to be able to show the customer a vehicle that will work for them. Our goal is to see our customers walk away satisfied and happy with their new car.”

As a member of the college crowd, Ash Smith, 20, said he used to think that he was too young.

“But when I was 18 and looking to buy a new car, the dealerships proved very helpful,” Smith said. “I got to drive four different vehicles and, though I didn’t buy anything, I walked away with a better idea of what kind of vehicle was best for me.”

Casey Combs, 21, Manhattan resident, said she has never test driven a car.

“I never thought I could,” she said. “It just seems like a parent’s job to do the test driving.”

Combs said now she’ll feel less intimidated when she goes in to buy a car.

“I know they’re worried about kids lying to them about their motives,” Combs said. “But after hearing that what they really care about is getting you a car that you’ll love, I’ll definitely feel more confident walking through those dealership doors.”