So you've done your research. You know which vehicle you want to test drive. What should you do on a test drive? Are there different types of test drives? Spoilers - yes there are.
The Traditional Test Drive:
The salesperson drives you off the lot to a designated "switching" spot, where you FINALLY get into the driver's seat. You are then instructed to make a series of right hand turns until you arrive back at the dealership, where the salesperson directs your to park in the "sold" spot. This is supposed to give you a sense of ownership in a vehicle in which you've only done one lap around the block, and have thus totally fallen in love with this vehicle.
The Good - Not much for you the buyer. You haven't learned much (other than how the vehicle takes a right hand turn). If you were lucky, you got to experience "stop and go" traffic. For the salesperson and the dealership, they feel they have maintained control of you, and you are now their willing puppet. They have also theoretically kept the vehicle safer while the wheel was in your crazed, madman hands.
The Bad - Boring! Uninformative! It doesn't actually do any of what the salesperson thinks it does! I think the boring part should be pretty self-explanatory. As for uninformative, have you learned how the vehicle corners at speed? How does it accelerate to highway speeds? What about how it does on the highway? What about transitional turns? The answers to all of those questions remain a mystery to you, the potential buyer. As for the other stuff, I doubt you have enough information to make a buying decision. Unless of course, parking in the "sold" spot gave you a sense of ownership. Right...I didn't think so either. So, was the salesperson really in control? In a very literal sense, of course not. Not unless he is selling you one of those driver's ed cars that has two steering wheels, and he can take command at any point. However, you are probably not clay in his grubby little hands just yet.
The Conclusion - Nobody wins with this type of test drive.
The Loner (or Loaner):
This is the one where the salesperson throws you the keys and says "have fun, see you soon!". You go where you want, aren't bothered by the sleazy car salesperson, and can melt the tires off of the vehicle if you want (not really, they'll sue, but you get the point). Sounds great, right?
The Good - As I mentioned, no sleazy salesperson telling you what to do. That's good right? Maybe, but I'll touch on that in a minute. You can drive the vehicle the way you normally drive, which will provide you quite a bit of information.
The Bad - Let's assume you have lucked into a good salesperson that day. They will be able to provide additional information on this vehicle that up until now, you have only been reading about. You read it had Electronic Brakeforce Distribution online, but what is that? How will you know when it is working, or happening? A good salesperson, can answer that for you. Perhaps you didn't take it on the highway. Without a salesperson to suggest different types of driving, you won't know as much about the car's capabilities and features (and how they are a benefit to YOU!).
The Conclusion - Certainly better than the Traditional test drive, but there are still definite deficiencies in this type of test drive.
Goldilock's Test Drive:
Ok, there may be another name for this, but it's my blog so nah nah nahnah nah. This type of test drive has me asking you what type of driving you usually do. Using that information I suggest a route that incorporates all the elements of a test drive that will provide you the answers you seek (cornering at speed, highway speeds, highway driving, transitional turns, stop and go traffic). I have YOU drive off the lot. Why? I trust my customers and allow you the freedom to deviate from any particular route (so you too have some sense of control), and provide valuable information as conditions or questions arise. I also provide directions as needed (not everyone wants to drive about willy nilly).
The Good - You get a true sense of what the capabilities and driving dynamics of the vehicle are. Plus, you get to ask pertinent questions about the car in real time, which I will then answer (brilliantly, of course). I'll politely point out certain features (Blind Spot Monitoring perhaps) to enhance your understanding of your new car (see what I did there).
The Bad - Not as many right hand turns? Actually, this is mostly for me. I'm not in control, since I'm not the one driving. Sure I'm suggesting routes, etc, but you could kidnap me! SIDE NOTE: DON'T KIDNAP ME!!!
The Conclusion - This mix is Just Right. It offers you the most information on the vehicle you are test driving. It allows you to trust me, and for me to trust you in return. We learn about each other during this test drive, which makes other parts of buying a car easier.
As always, I'm hoping that I'll be the one that is test driving a car with you, but you the customer have the right to demand the "Just Right" test drive from any salesperson. However, I guaruntee you'll get it with me. Now where did I leave my porridge....