Should I Let A Dealer Check My Credit Before A Test Drive?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time already: time for “Letters to Doug,” a popular column I churn out every Friday because I can’t think of anything else to write about.


If you aren’t already aware of the Letters to Doug format, here’s how it goes: you send me a letter – either via e-mail to, or via Twitter to @DougDeMuro – and I casually ignore it. Then I post someone else’s letter instead.

This week’s someone else’s letter comes to us from a woman (yes, a woman!) named Cynthia, who has not provided me with a location. However, since she states in her letter that she is looking to purchase a Volkswagen, I suspect she is located somewhere without a high-quality education system. Anyway, Cynthia writes:

Dear Doug,

My husband and I are shopping for a new car, and are looking at the Golf R. We’d signed up for the preorder waitlist a while back, but I guess dealers don’t want to make money because nobody contacted us after the initial follow-up email from VW.

I noticed Golf R inventory start to pop up on CarGurus, and contacted the closest dealership. We decided my husband would head down to the dealership that day to give it a test drive. They responded by saying that the sales manager does not allow test drives of the Golf R, as it’s limited production. Other dealerships want to run our credit before giving a test drive, which seems like a bit too much information to give when we haven’t settled on a specific car yet (how can we... we haven’t driven it).

Now, we’re not some tire-kicking teenagers. We’re both highly paid tech-industry workers and homeowners who actually want to buy a car. Is “buying without test driving” actually a thing? What’s the best way to find a dealership that isn’t surrounded by an aura of smug, or should we just give up on getting a Golf R without giving up all of our personal information?



To answer your question, Cynthia, I am going to provide a little personal experience. When I was a lad of merely 18 years of age, I worked at a Ferrari dealership, where I was paid to drive exotic cars – and occasionally a short-bed Chevrolet Colorado covered in Ferrari dealership logos – to customers’ houses. This was a dream job, and there are still days when I wake up in utter shock that I chose a college degree over driving around all day in Ferraris.

Anyway: we would often have people come into the dealership to look at cars, particularly used ones. As I recall, we had a wide range of cool used cars on the lot: Porsches, Aston-Martins, Bentleys, Lotuses, and the like. And do you know what would happen when a serious buyer would come in for a test drive? We would give it to them. Bentley, Aston-Martin, Lotus, whatever. It didn’t matter They would get a test drive. Because test driving sells cars, and we were a reputable business trying to make money.

And now we return to your own experience with the Volkswagen dealership. Here’s the situation, as I understand it: you walked into a Volkswagen dealership, attempting to test drive a hatchback. The Volkswagen dealership said no one drives this hatchback without a credit check. If this is a correct assessment of the situation, then I will present you with the reaction I would’ve given the sales manager:


And then I would’ve spit on the floor and asked him how the Routan business is going.


Here’s the deal: although I completely understand a Porsche dealer not wanting to give joyrides to questionable buyers, or a Ferrari dealer not wanting a high-schooler to sit in a sold car, there is absolutely no excuse for a Volkswagen dealership not to let people test-drive a freaking Golf. The idea of it is laughable, and it kind of makes you wonder if the dealership’s insurance policy has lapsed, and they aren’t allowing any test drives, unless of course someone stupid enough to buy a Routan walks through the door.

Now, I do understand that the Golf R is a high-performance Volkswagen, and a special little snowflake of a car, and sometimes they cost a whopping forty grand. But here’s the deal: if dealerships stopped allowing cars that cost more than $40,000 to be test driven, then no one would ever be able to test drive a Mercedes. People would just walk into the dealership, stare at the GL-Class for a while, then drive it home, only later realizing that it’s the size of a low-income housing project.


And so, Cynthia, here’s the advice I have for you: tell these idiots that they will let you drive the Golf R, or else you will go to one of the ten million other Volkswagen dealerships in your area, all of whom are undoubtedly so desperate for business that they may start to offer the Tiguan at competitive prices.

And if there aren’t any other Volkswagen dealers nearby, then for God’s sake, just wait for the Focus RS. It’ll be just as fast. It’ll be just as fun. And there’s another benefit: you won’t have to return to the Volkswagen dealership for service.


@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.



If you were in your early 20’s like me, how would you get a dealer to take you serous when you are car shopping?