Test driving new cars has become a simple way to earn nice incentives. In the past 2 years, it has become normal to earn $50 gift cards from Visa or gas companies as rewards.
Since 1999, I've earned $630 in Visa prepaid cards and gas cards! I've also scored a craftsman tool kit, a portable pressure washer, various small appliances and tons of free dinners.
- What's the catch?
Absolutely none for a legit test drive offer. You simply take the offer to the appropriate dealership, drive the car model stated and get your paperwork properly signed. You mail in the paperwork and receive your reward by mail. Occasionally, you'll receive your reward on the spot.
- Is it really free?
Yes. If you ever are required to pay for an offer 1st, don't bother.
- Why do car companies offer these incentives?
Bluntly, they want to put your butt physically in their new car. They want you to smell, feel, hear, drive the new car. They are hoping your present car will pale in comparison to their new car. Test drive offers are also some of the cheapest advertising available -- far cheaper than TV commercials and other advertising.
- What if I'm not interested in buying a new car? Should I only do test drives if I plan to buy a car?
This is up to you personally. I consider it window shopping. I'm also a huge advocate for word-of-mouth advertising. You can bet your bippy I talk about the cars I like. Ex: Toyota continues to impress, while Suzuki is, well, further down the list. :o
- How do I get started?
The best way is to request an actual mailed brochure (not email info) from every car company you can find. I've found the best success with Toyota, Ford (which includes Mazda et al -- request brochures from each different company separately from this website), Hyundai and Suzuki. These 4 have continually sent offers. I've received 2 offers from Mazda and 2 from Mercury. Every 6 - 8 months, request a brochure again to stay current on their lists. I simply jot a note on my calendar to have a brochure request day. Test drive incentive offers generally come in separate mailings or via email. So be sure to 1) look through every piece of info received and 2) use an email address in your brochure request that you can check regularly.
- Do I have to actually drive the vehicles?
My experience is about 50/50. It really depends on the salesperson. If you get a seasoned one, often they'll take one look at your paper/postcard and ask if you're here for a test drive offer. Next question is something along the lines of shopping for a car or just want me to get this signed for ya? If you get a newbie, you'll most likely end up driving.
Suzuki always, 100% of the time has asked me to drive. I think personally it's a company directive. Hyundai has asked me to drive 85%. Toyota has been about 15% and the only Ford I ever drove was a Fusion. YMMV.
Approach the experience prepared to drive and be happy when you get a break.
While there's no need to give a salesperson false hope you'll be buying the car (this is ill advised, because you'll get a hard sell) -- I also do not advocate a "I'm just here for the freebie so let's get this over with" attitude. Noncomittal window shopping is best. Answer questions politely and repeat that this car is one of a couple others you plan to drive today.
Don't give your phone number unless you want to get calls.
Be sure to read the offer details carefully and follow them exactly. Suzuki often requires a business card submitted with your offer paperwork. Some offers are for specific models.
Make copies of everything you send and keep a simple log book. Check off the incentives once you receive them.
Please recycle the brochures you get if you can. I often use the slick and cool stuff for making cards and the paint color chips for punching shapes. I've gotten some great tyvec envies that I turn inside out and reuse for eBay shipping, and some excellent vellum from Cadillac once.