If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, there’s no substitute for getting behind the wheel and taking a test drive. But how does that work amid concerns about social distancing and strict hygiene in today’s COVID-19 reality? Here are six practical tips to help you make a sound decision.

Start by doing your homework. No one knows what vehicle will best fit your needs the way you do. Is safety your concern? Gas mileage? Cargo space? Also keep in mind what sorts of features are attractive to you. Carefully consider these needs, and use online resources to come up with a selection of models for test-driving. Narrowing your picks beforehand helps limit your time on the lot.

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Check before you visit. Don’t waste a trip to a dealership that’s missing some or all the vehicles you want to drive. Call or email first to confirm they have the vehicle(s) you’re considering, to get an up-front price offer and to ask any questions you may have about the process. You can also ask what sanitation protocols are in place at the dealership.

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Know what you can afford. Getting prequalified for an auto loan can help you secure the best interest rate and set a realistic budget while limiting your exposure to others. Also, consider going through the process with multiple lenders. You’ll see which one is the most willing to offer the right loan, rate and other terms.

Consider test drive alternatives. If you decide now is not the time to take a test drive, ask about alternatives. With video calling services, you may be able to set up time with the dealer to remotely check out a vehicle.

Make the most of the test drive. Get a feel for the vehicle before driving it. For example, if you have a big family, test the seating in the front and back. Do you have sufficient storage space? Do you have enough head room and leg room? Once on the road, follow a route that closely resembles your regular driving routine. You should also drive in both freeway traffic and stop-and-go scenarios to see how smoothly the engine delivers power and how responsively the brakes engage.

Ask about vehicle delivery. Don’t feel pressured by salespeople to buy the car right after you take it for a spin. Test other models you’ve been considering and, once you come to a decision, talk to the dealer about delivery options. If you are purchasing a vehicle through the AAA Auto Buying Program, look for the Buy From Home badge to see which dealerships offer vehicle delivery and remote paperwork processing.

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The AAA Auto Buying Program helps members save time and money when purchasing a vehicle.

Loan products offered through Auto Club Trust, FSB, a subsidiary of The Auto Club Group (ACG). Equal Credit Opportunity Lender.

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