Why the Test Drive is Dying and Why it Shouldn't

November 19, 2021

We've all been there: a few free hours on a Saturday and we find ourselves at the local car dealership for a test-drive. Undigestible liability waivers, eager salespeople, and an overwhelming number of vehicles are the name of the game.

While there is certainly some nostalgia surrounding the minty fresh smells and soft leather seats that await when you get behind the wheel for a test drive, the fact of the matter is, the test drive may be dying.

Why the Test Drive is Dying

1. Fintech and Mobile Banking Revolution

The mobile revolution of the past decade has changed the way we live, transforming every industry from fashion to grocery shopping. In 2020, demand for contactless delivery and payments led to an 840% increase in weekly sales via online orders. Online grocery shopping grew from 19%-72%. Simply put, e-commerce has become the norm. It's efficient, convenient, and easy. Modern consumers now expect to be able to make any purchase--large or small--from the comfort of their own home.

It's no surprise then, that car buying is trending digital. In the last year, it was reported that some 75% of consumers prefer to car shop online. They're not just researching online, they go on 'virtual test drives', negotiate price, file paperwork, and sign the check-- all without ever stepping foot in the dealership. Companies like Carvana, Vroom, and Car Brevy provide marketplaces where customers are walked through the car buying process from A to Z. Such services offer a variety of delivery options, payment methods, and better transparency regarding vehicle pricing and information: all of which work to create an unparalleled car buying experience that leaves consumers no reason to look further than their fingertips.

2. Dislike of Car Dealerships

30 years ago car buyers drove to their local dealership to start the car buying process. Here's why today's consumers don't:

  • 65% of millennials prefer to negotiate price online
  • 92% of car buyers don't trust the salesperson
  • The average car deal takes 4 hours to complete

Whether it's apathy towards price negotiation, a lack of trust surrounding salespeople, or an all consuming fear surrounding paperwork, today's consumer simply doesn't want to go into the dealership.

3. Instant Access to Information

In the past, Salespeople had the opportunity to sell the customer on the floor of all the best features of a vehicle and why thy should buy it. Today, however, Salespeople are at a significant disadvantage. Buyers won't take the 'elevator pitch.' They already know the make, model, and condition of the vehicle before they even step foot on the lot. They will negotiate a lower price, fully aware of how the vehicle compares to those listed at competing dealers and online vendors. Failure to meet buyer demands will lead to increased churn and decreased profitability among dealerships.

Why the Test Drive Shouldn't Die

Test drive no salesman
Zapmoto Test Drive in Action

To many the dealership, the test drive, the old-fashioned handshake, and everything else that defined the car buying process is dead. Sure, new mediums of car buying eliminate pain points while providing for an efficient, contactless delivery and buying process, but at what cost? Companies like Carvana offer a world class online car buying experience and nearly every service imaginable that was previously provided by dealerships. But there's one key area in which innovators lack: they don't offer a test drive.

1. Test Drives Tell You More About Your Car Than the Internet Will

Unlimited access to information provides millions of reviews that describe a cars performance, unique features, and how it stacks against class competitors. While this is a great alternative to a test drive for those buying new, it's not enough in the used car market. Every used vehicle is different; repair history, mileage, previous owners are all factors one should consider. Test drives provide valuable insights to all of these. They show you how the car really drives, and whether or not it's a good fit for your respective driving style.

Traditionally, test drives were performed on the dealer lot accompanied by a salesperson. Now, many dealers aim to mitigate the sense of pressure surrounding the test drive by allowing potential clients to take a drive near the lot by themselves. Other companies like Zapmoto have taken it a step further, delivering test drives to the doorstep, allowing buyers to test the vehicle on routes they frequent daily.

2. Save Money

It's amazing to think that car shopping can be done completely online--until you see the price tag. Deliver-to-your-door model Auto Marketplaces often require you to purchase a vehicle before ever touching it. Not only is this inconvenient, it's expensive. Customers are required to pay the full price of the vehicle(or register for comparable leasing) before it is delivered to them. This is like buying a house before you ever set foot inside! The test drive provides the ability to have a hands on experience with the vehicle before placing a deposit. It's much cheaper than buying the vehicle online: equivalent to the cost of gas to and from the dealership, or even cheaper through a third-party valet service like Zapmoto. Test drives win because they save your wallet.

3. Unparalleled Efficiency

Ordering a car online is convenient, and when you look at Carvana's 7 day return policy it doesn't seem all that bad. You might reconsider however, when you realize you don't like the car you bought and have to undergo a lengthy return process before shopping again.

Test drives enable you to assess vehicles you are interested in without spending unnecessary cash or time returning the vehicle waiting for a refund. You'd be best off heading to your local dealer for a drive, or better yet, getting it delivered to your front door. While multiple test drives in a day is time consuming and probably a little ambitious at most car dealerships, valet services like Zapmoto make it easy. We'll deliver it straight to you. All you need is your name, phone number, and the VIN of the vehicle you want to drive( can take the test drive without insurance too). Just give us a Zap⚡️


The test drive isn't dead. It provides invaluable insights, saves money, and increases overall efficiency in the car buying process. And though the rise of eCommerce marks the end of many traditional practices in the auto industry, hopping in the drivers seat to test the limits of a whip in the making is one that will surely stay.