QOTD: Buying Without Wheel Time?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd buying without wheel time

We’ve all eyeballed a pair of pants in the store, assumed they’d fit just fine, and took them home — only to discover that our waistlines aren’t as svelte as initially thought. Ignore the fitting room at your own peril.

Big-ticket purchases can also backfire, especially if they’re ordered online and come with “some assembly required.” But for the most part, large transactions — houses, cars, furniture — occur only after you’ve parked your ass in it for a little while, given it a once-over, and declared the pending purchase A-OK. For the most part, anyway.

Thanks to the internet, it’s not unusual for collectors or plain-old used car buyers to purchase a cheap, historical, or oddball vehicle without ever slipping behind the wheel, but would you do this with a new car?

The reason I ask is because of this:

Friend tried to buy a Model 3 in Cleveland. Tesla store didn’t want to give him a test drive. “Only buying customers get test drives.”

He would’ve bought that deal. Tesla experiences vary just as much as traditional dealerships.


— Chad Kirchner (@chadkirchner) August 28, 2019

Tesla’s retail stores are not as plentiful as they once were, and it seems there’s a bit of a Wild West thing going on at those that remain open. Anything goes. In this case, a mandate to only offer test drives to those who’ve already signed away their cash on a Model 3?

While this could be an isolated occurrence (certainly, the move to online sales and culling of storefronts makes Tesla test drives more of a rarity these days), it begs the question: would you buy a brand new, full-price vehicle without ever driving it? Without ever sitting in the driver’s seat, adjusting the rake and reach of the steering wheel, fiddling with the switchgear, gauging the front- and rear-seat legroom, or soaking up the driving dynamics?

How would you respond to a retailer that wouldn’t let you take it for a spin?

Weigh in below.

[Image: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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2 of 62 comments
  • IBx1 IBx1 on Aug 30, 2019

    I would have to test drive before buying anything, with the one exception being my '08 M6. Flew to Florida to buy it and drive it back to Texas; one of just 376 manual V10 convertibles ever made and with just 19k miles on it. I knew it was the car I was going to buy and I had never driven one before.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Sep 04, 2019

    Not sure it was a great idea for Tesla to get rid of commissioned salespeople. "You can keep your job but now you just answer questions and look over the customer's shoulder while they use the computer. Also we cut your pay by a third. Remember to keep being nice to customers!" I was just invited by email to a ride and drive event by Tesla. It seems like they're trying to encourage group test drives by appointment. Interesting approach.

  • Arthur Dailey "Check out the used car market." Late model, low mileage vehicles are in many instance selling for more than you would pay if you put a deposit on a new vehicle. The reason? Supply and demand. You can take the used vehicle home now. Whereas you might have to wait up to 24 months for your new vehicle.
  • VoGhost Matt, you say 'overpriced', but don't you mean 'underpriced'? It's when a manufacturer underprices, that dealers add their markup. If they were overpriced, the dealers would discount.
  • Bobbysirhan I'm surprised by the particular Porsches to make the list, and also by the Cadillac. Most of all, I'm shocked that the 2-door Mini Cooper is on here. I didn't even know they still made them, let alone that anyone was still buying them.
  • Ajla I assume the CT5 is on the list due to the Blackwing variant.It would be interesting to take the incentives that existed in October 2019 and include that in an analysis like this as well. The thing about the used market is that while you'll pay less in total dollars, in some cases the percentage increase from 2019 is even worse than with new cars. Buying a Saturn Relay for $6k isn't exactly a winning move.
  • VoGhost Reminder: dealers exist to line the pockets of millionaires who contribute to local politicians.