So you want to test drive all the hot new cars but you're not an auto journalist and you don't want to deal with dealer sales pressure? There's a way you can test drive dozens of different models each year with no cost or obligation and automakers want you to participate. Every year most of the major car companies sponsor ride & drive events where they invite the public to test drive their wares and also get some free goodies. Some recent and ongoing ride & drive events include Chevrolet's “Main Street in Motion”, Nissan's “Drive Electric Tour”, Ford's “F-150 Round Up”, and Hyundai's “Sonata Uncensored”.
At these events you get to drive the featured cars in a city setting or on a track created from an empty parking lot. Often the carmakers bring competitive models as well as their own. When you go, you'll need to bring your driver's license and meet other conditions they might have regarding age and driving history. You'll probably have fill out a legal waiver and maybe take a Breathalyzer before you start driving. Afterward, you'll likely be asked to take an exit survey.
These events seem like a win-win for manufacturers and enthusiasts, but for whatever reason they aren't widely promoted. However, you can get a piece of the ride & drive action. Here's how:
Attend Auto Shows
In recent years carmakers have set up ride and drive events right outside auto shows. You can find out about these from the auto show programs or on placards near the show entrance. Also, while at the show, make sure to fill out the cards or online surveys where you request more information about the cars. That way you'll get on mailing lists where the car companies announce future events.
Check Social Media
For many ride and drive events, especially the smaller ones, social media is the main way of getting the word out. So follow your favorite automakers and individual car makes on Twitter and Facebook and check the updates regularly, especially when a model you're interested in is on a tour.
Keep Tabs on Popular Gathering Places
Ride and drive events tend to take place in two types of locations, sports stadiums (especially ones with large parking lots) and busy shopping malls. If you live near one of either of those, check in on it during weekends in the spring and fall. Alternatively, the mall or stadium's website might have a calendar of events you can reference.
Respond to Surveys you Get About Cars
Automakers are always looking for feedback on their products. If you recently bought a new car you may get surveys in the mail from the manufacturer or an independent marketing firm asking your opinions about it. If you fill them out completely and promptly you may get more surveys and eventually invitations to events known as clinics, where you can view and sometimes drive new and upcoming cars and provide your opinions on them.