Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

2018 Ford Escape vs. 2018 Toyota RAV4

Comparing Different Off-Roading Vehicles

How do you know which SUV is going to give you the performance and capability that you want out of your primary mode of transportation? On paper, an SUV is a great type of vehicle to choose for versatility. Being able to drive around in the city, go out to the countryside, or adventure off-road in a single vehicle has many advantages. For one thing, you don’t have to spend a hundred thousand dollars buying multiple vehicles for different purposes. With one platform capable of many things, you save time, money, and the frustration of finding the garage space for a small collection of cars.

With that said, it only takes a couple of minutes behind the wheels of different SUVs to know each model is distinct. Beyond just the basic differences in performance specifications and features, each SUV feels different from the others. These differences are what really makes a model stand out over others. Since driving a vehicle is a deeply personal and unique experience, to find the right SUV for yourself, you need to find the one that you connect with the most.

This starts with simply comparing different SUV options before taking a test drive. When you compare something like the 2018 Ford Escape vs. 2018 Toyota RAV4, for example, you’ll begin to see the minor differences between such vehicles. If a certain model has the specifications and features that you’re looking for, it may be tempting to think that this is the final step before buying the vehicle.

This thinking is wrong. The only way to truly know if a particular SUV is right for you is to get behind the wheel. A test drive is the most efficient way to truly understand the unique characteristics of a specific model. Beyond what exists on paper, the way an SUV handles in different driving conditions for different purposes is the most important thing to discover.

To see this for yourself, you need a test drive.


Getting Behind The Wheel

Remember back to a time you got behind the wheel of a new vehicle for the first time. Chances are, it seemed a bit strange and foreign at first. Yes, the basic setup of the vehicle was the same: you had a steering wheel, pedals, levers, buttons, etc. But the exact arrangement, size, feel, comfort, and other intangible qualities were all different.

As you got used to the new feel, however, things probably started to become more familiar. Adjusting to the feel of the car and location of all the controls is a common experience many people go through with a new vehicle. On the rare occasion this adjustment doesn’t happen. However, this can leave new SUV owners feeling stuck and regretful with their latest purchase.

This is one of the finer points of taking a test drive. Firsthand experience with a car gives you more than just an idea of the true capabilities and performance that exist under the hood. While you get a good sense of how the vehicle sounds at speed, you get an even better sense of how it feels in your hands.

When possible, the best type of test drive is one that gives you experience with the vehicle in a variety of conditions and situations. Unfortunately, most dealerships like to stick with a particular route that usually consists of a few urban streets around the dealership itself. This type of route is okay for getting a basic idea of the vehicle, but if you have the opportunity, take the SUV somewhere more challenging and diverse than this route. This will give you a greater sense of how the vehicle handles in different conditions without having to travel too far.


Getting The Most Out Of A Test Drive

The best way to make the test driving experience beneficial for you is to tailor it to your own personal preferences. First and foremost, think about what you actually need from the test drive. What don’t you already know about the SUV you are considering? What types of information are important to know before you make that final decision? Is there anything you feel like the dealership or salesperson you’re working with isn’t sharing with you that you could get from a test drive?

Next, think about the local roads that may give you a better test drive experience with a specific model. In general, the more diverse of a test drive you can have, the better. This means finding roads that represent different types of driving conditions you will likely experience in real life. For example, try to mix a little bit of urban driving with more rural settings if possible. Getting out onto the highway, back streets, county roads, and more will give you a better sense of how the SUV handles at higher speeds as well.

Finally, try to take as much time as you need with the car during the test drive. While some dealerships try to limit you and the amount of time you can take, be insistent on spending as much time as you need. It is difficult to get the best idea of an SUV in a short amount of time. If you feel rushed to get back to the dealership, you may even begin to notice less since your attention will be elsewhere. The best way to get the time you need is either find a dealership that is already cooperative or to be firm with the salesperson.


Getting The Test Drive

When it comes time to actually take a test drive, try to be in the moment as much as possible. Put aside all the concerns about financing, performance specifications, safety, and anything else that is floating in your head. A good test drive is almost like a meditative experience. If you are present in the moment, paying attention to what is in front of you and around you, you’ll begin to experience the true capabilities and offerings an SUV can give you well before you have to make that final choice.