Where to Test Drive Electric Cars: Find the Best Electric Cars For You

Where to Test Drive Electric Cars: Find the Best Electric Cars For You

Posted 7.16.2012 in Articles by Neil-Denny

You've read the reviews, you've made up your mind, and have now narrowed your search down to a few electric cars that are just right. Your first impulse no doubt is to hurry down to your local dealer and take that baby for a spin. If you're looking to test the waters before taking the plunge, it's good to know there are more places to fish than your local water hole. Manufacturer Demo Days and Car Rental Shops are two other great ways to test drive the electric car you've had your eye on. Here's a rundown of the different places to visit when looking to test drive a new electric car, and the advantages of each unique experience.

Manufacturer Demo Days get you a more informative and more involved learning experience than visiting a dealership. At a Demo Day, you will have the distinct opportunity to see these cars in action before they're even released into the market. The events are held by the actual manufacturers themselves, so you can expect a more in-depth look at the electric cars they have to offer, straight from the engineers who built them. In many cases, even the Senior Executive of the company will be on hand during the event. Considering the food, the games, and the excitement that comes with attending any major event, you can bet a Demo Day is simply a helluva lot more fun than being hassled by a car salesman. A little known fact about Demo Days, is that you can test drive their latest models, either around the event, or in a test drive course set up inside the stadium or arena. Tesla Motors, for example, is currently holding a nationwide tour to show off their new Tesla Model S, with stops all across the country including Palo Alto, Denver, New York, Chicago, and Dallas. The first 5,000 customers who already reserved a Tesla S are all invited to the event. If you aren’t a reservation holder, you can sign up for a test drive and view the scheduled tour dates on their website. 

Like Manufacturer Demo Days, auto shows are a more fun and exciting way to test drive an electric car without the added pressure of a sales environment. Though you won’t get the same level of expertise as you would attending an event specific to the manufacturer, auto shows allow you to see a variety of electric cars from different makes, all in one shot. Many major U.S. cities holds their own auto show, from San Diego, San Francisco, and LA to Chicago, Philly, and New York City.  The 2012 San Diego International Auto Show held "Ride and Drive" dates for the Chevy Volt and the CODA all-electric sedan, along with other eco-friendly vehicles including the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the Ford Edge with EcoBoost, the Kia Optima Hybrid, and the next generation Toyota Camry. If you’re looking to check out the latest electric cars and hybrids in the market, it’s a good idea to check online for the dates of upcoming auto shows at a major city near you.

Another great alternative to visiting the dealer is to rent the car yourself. You don’t have to be in an accident or on a road trip to rent a car. You can rent a car just for the fun of it, too! More and more car rental companies are including electric cars in their inventory. Enterprise, for one, has the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf available at around 50 of their locations, while Hertz is now starting to include the Nissan Leaf and the smart EV in their inventory. If you’ve never owned an electric car and would like to see if it would make a great fit to your lifestyle, all you have to do is pay the flat per day or hourly rate, and keep the car for as long as you need to. By renting a car for a day or more, you can get a better feel for its everyday use than you would on a ten-minute test drive at an auto show or with your dealer.

Demo Days offer a more fun and more informative environment when it comes to test driving an electric car, while car rental stores like Enterprise and Hertz allow you to get more intimately acquainted with your vehicle of choice. When test driving a car at a dealership, you must endure the stress that comes with a sales environment, but at the end of the day, you have the potential to own and drive it right off the lot. 

Don’t settle on one specific dealer or manufacturer. Keep your options open and I guarantee sparks will fly when you test drive the electric car that’s right for you. 

Image (CC) NRMA New Cars

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