Today I tested a car.I have no idea why or what my conclusions are. I have that knowledge of cars that most men do these days – none. I feel intimidated by the whole dealership experience. Talk of brake horse power and torque leaves me cold. It’s a real man-thing to pretend we know about these things though…or to at least show an interest to keep the salesman on his toes. We then plough ahead in spending an unfeasably large amount of money on scarce information.
There are other experiences in life which elicit the same response. When I went to watch cricket as a child you used to be allowed to walk on the field during the intervals and many men chose to go and have a look at the wicket. There would be a group of grown men stood with their arms behind their back looking at the finely-trimmed ground and repeating phrases they had heard on the TV commentary; nodding and discussing knowing they would soon disappear back into the anonymity of the crowd. The same is true of car breakdown. Sure we can all get the bonnet up but then we all go and look at the engine. I wonder what the successful fix rate of your average car failure is these days. Unless there is a massive wire which has obviously broken away from its anchorage or a small fire to be extinguished it’s a job for the roadside recovery specialists. Hi-fi too (why is it always men?) is a fruitless shopping pursuit. The headphones are on or the speakers are turned up to mid-level in a sonically perfect setting playing the equivalent of the old LPs with stunning stereo train noises. They all sound fantastic and yet the listeners will pretend there are fine differences to justify the more expensive purchase. When I think about it, when have I ever thought that any ad hoc food or drink tasting experience was any sort of basis to justify buying 20 sausages, half a cow, a case of cheeky Albanian rioja, or – more likely – the Wensleydale on offer at the moment.
So I went on my test drive. All I proved was that I am a competent enough driver to not crash a car – terrified of crashing the gears or stalling or in any way damaging the beautiful, clean machine. I can’t possibly tell from a 20 minute test drive:
- how reliable it is going to be over four years,
- the true cost of servicing,
- how comfortable the seats are after long journeys
- what performance is like on the acceleration or speeds I really drive at
- how quickly it warms up and de-ices on a cold morning
- what other people really thing about your choice of colour
- what it is like in snow
- how much luggage you can fit in when you go on holiday
On the positive side I did learn where the controls were and the dealership salesman assured me everything else is going to be OK. So I bought it.
Postscript: When I looked online subsequently it seems I’m not alone and there is advice for the occasional amateur http://www.carbuzz.co.uk/blog/10-Tips-for-Test-Driving-a-New-Car