We all have our own driving styles. Some of us are aggressive ‘drive it like you stole’ it types. While others are cautious defensive drivers. The rest of you should have never gotten your license. I would know. I have test driven with you.
I know some of you are taking umbrage right now with this statement. You might fall into the other categories then. However, there are a few out there who have terrified me on test drives, and I would like to highlight their stories.
1) I can’t feel my feet
Before the times of covid we would go on test drives with every single customer we had. It’s a good opportunity to show off the goodies of the car so the customer can see them work in action. I had an elderly gentleman come in saying he was interested in our front-end collision prevention. This is always a hard one to demonstrate because it involves putting yourself in a precarious position and hoping the manufacturer is leaving up to their claims.
No one wants to be in that position, so I explained to the customer that really, we shouldn’t tempt fate on the test drive. He agreed. However, on the test drive he kept getting very close to other cars on the road to the point he was nearly rear-ending them. Thankfully the system did do its job and warned him and stopped him a few times.
On his last attempt to rear-end someone he mashed the gas instead of the break. I pressed my imaginary break and screamed before the car’s safety features kicked in, “Hit the break! You are mashing the gas.” Thankfully the car stopped. I looked over at him terrified and angry. I wasn’t sure if this guy was messing with me, because sometimes assholes will do that on test drives.
He smiled apologetically and explained he had a condition that prevented him from feeling his feet, so he couldn’t tell sometimes if he was pressing the break or the gas. He further disclosed that he had recently been in an accident where he had rear-ended someone. I felt bad for him, but none the less, I had him pull over and drove us back to the dealership. I didn’t sell him a car that day and often wonder if I would be a murder if I had sold him a car. That is just completely unsafe.
2) A screw loose
I went on a test drive once with a woman, who seemed to have given up on life or just didn’t care. This woman must have had a guardian angel with how haphazardly she drove. On the way out of the dealership she hits the curb and laughs like a schoolgirl on a roller coaster. I took a deep breath hoping the worst was over, but deep down I knew. I knew! I just knew it was going to be bad.
She proceeded to blatantly run a red traffic light. I was screaming “red, Red, RED!” We narrowly avoided being tee boned from the front and the back.
She cackled, “Oh honey, don’t be so dramatic.”
I was feeling sick by that point, but it only got better. She would not fallow my directing and crazily weaved in and out of traffic nearly hitting cars as she went. The final straw was when she bounced off a curb. I screamed for her to pull over. She pulled into an alcove and laughed, “you sound just like my friends they hate drive with me too. I don’t see what the big deal is.”
I drove her back to the dealership. She did buy the car, though. Which means she is at largem, so look out!
3) That time I thought I was getting murdered
Communication is key when you are on a test drive. Your salesperson needs to direct you and you need to let them know when you are going to defy their directions. I had one such customer who did not say a word to me! As a woman in the car industry alone on a test drive that is terrifying enough.
I tried everything on this test drive to start some sort of dialog or even the tiniest bit of communication. I talked about the car's safety features and attributes. I talked about mundane polite pleasantries. I even tried to get into the personal bits. I was met all with silence. To top it all off he would not fallow any of my directions when I asked him to turn left or right or asked him if he would like to take it on city streets or the highway.
I was slowly losing track of where we were. I was also alarmed to realize I had left my phone charging at the dealership. We pulled into a seclude neighborhood and my guts start twisting. I am full blown panicking as he pulls into his garage. He closes the garage door. I am quiet by this point, plotting how not to get murdered.
He gets out leaving the keys in the ignition. He goes around the car looking to see how much room he had, I guess. I leaned over the driver’s seat closed the door and locked it. We made eye contact through the windshield, and I could see understanding dawn in his eyes.
He raised his hands in a ‘this is a misunderstanding’ gesture. He opened the garage door and explained to me he wanted to see how it fit in his garage and that he was bad at communicating with people. I believed him and let him drive the car back. He was more talkative and very apologetic on the ride back. Needless to say, I sold him a car. Still, communication is key. Don’t leave you sales person in the dark.
4) A car totaled
I once sold a customer a bright blue car. He was ecstatic about the color and so happy to get the vehicle at the price he wanted. Two days later he calls me and asked to exchange the car. By the way check with your manufacturers about return policies, because sometimes you can do that other times they will only let you exchange the vehicle. In this case the man exchanges it even though he smoked in the car.
He comes in and his wife is with him this time. She yelled at me for selling him the car and she yelled at him for not including her in the decision. I explained to keep the same payment the same we would have to stay in the same trim model. I told her we only had one other one and it was black. She said that would be preferable to bright blue and asked to go on a test drive while I drummed up the paperwork.
This time I was not on the test drive thankfully. They decided to turn left instead of right and if you haven’t noticed dealerships are always on busy roads. At the same time my people were pulling out a woman coming from the opposite side of the road had decided to steal her ex-boyfriend’s car and turn into my customers car. I did see the wreck as it was happening, but a heard it and it was a terrible crash judging by the sound and the destruction to both vehicles. The screaming that ensued also lead me to believe someone had died.
I flew from my desk knowing that had to be my customer. It was, but they were safe and the girl who wrecked into them was well enough to try and run. I thought about quitting that day as I watched everything unfold. The customers had to come back in to pay the insurance deductible. For a bit they still acted like they wanted a different car, so I was scrambling to find another car for them that would meet their needs. Finally, an hour after we had closed, the woman looked at me and said, “I don’t actually mind the color. I was mad he made the decision without me. I guess we can keep the car.”
This customer may not have been a terrible driver, but I was furious enough to wish their license was suspended. Accidents happen, but domestic power struggles need to stay at home. I don’t have time for that shit.
5) People who can’t drive stick but watched fast and the furious
I don’t know how many times I have brought up a car for someone who thinks they are going to be smoking people at car meets and flexing on their peers. Their problem, they have no idea how to drive stick. The first few inches around the lot are jerky stop and goes till they have shifted up to second gear a few times. Then they think they can take it on the road.
I have since learned to tell customers absolutely not, but as a green horn I would reluctantly let them go. As you can imagine the constant grinding of gears, staling and lurching grates on your nerves. It is not safe to have them on the road nor is it safe to sell these people who just can’t get the swing of a stick shift car. Still, it's not illegal for them to buy this car.
This did not happen to me, but it happened to my coworker. He sold a kid a very expensive manual transmission car. I won't name the manufacture. He told the kid he could get the car in automatic, and it would be just as fast, but the kid didn’t care. He had seen something that convinced him stick was the best for racing. He wrecked the hell out of that car not 5 minutes out of the dealership and walked back to say he wanted his money back.
The boy could not get his money back. Dealerships do not take back wrecked cars. Also gap insurance had not kicked in yet. That usually takes a few days for the finance manager to get that all set up, not everything is automatic. To boot, the kid was charged with leaving the scene of an accident.
People don’t be like this kid. Either practice before you come or just admit you can’t drive stick. It is ok. Stick really doesn’t impress anyone anymore.
Most manufactures have that one car that attracts motor heads and speed demons, so understandably you are going to see some speeding tickets on test drives. You don’t have to buy the car you just have to pay the ticket. Occasionally you will get petty traffic tickets like your customer was sticking out in the middle of the intersection or cut off a cop. I have seen it all. There really isn’t much to say here expect it happens. The best I can do is warn them where the speed traps are on our route.
7) sum up
In all I feel like I have seen it all, but that is constantly being challenged. I understand you want to test what your car can do. I have a thick skin and I get it. Some of you out there, though, need to give it up. You can’t drive and you scare me. Stay at home or learn to be more honest with yourself.