Should I Feel Guilty for Test Driving a Car That I Have No Intention of Buying?

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As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are discussing free gifts with test drives, dual-clutch transmission worries, and how much of a hit you would take if you bought and sold a high-demand car.


First up is it wrong to test drive a car just to get the free gift if you have no intention of buying?

I was on my local Subaru dealers website recently(wanted to see average price for BR-Z) and noticed that they had a $65 visa card if you test drive. Is it really that simple? Should I feel guilty that I’m wasting their time as I have no plans to buy an Outback or CrossTrek at the moment?

Now before everyone jumps into the comments to say “screw the dealers, take the gift card!”, let’s put this into perspective. By going to a dealer, engaging a salesperson and driving a car that you have no intent on buying just to score $65 you are, by definition, wasting their time.

But the dealers expect this to a certain degree. It’s why they are offering the program after all; to get people that aren’t really in the market into the showroom with the hopes that some of those folks can be converted to buyers. They also hope that if you aren’t a buyer this time, you have a pleasant enough experience to come back to the dealer down the road when you are in the market.

If you are really hot for that $65 Visa gift card but want to minimize the guilt, I would suggest going to a dealer during a really slow time, like the early morning. That way the salesperson is less likely to be distracted by you when they could be helping a more serious customer.

Next, given the Ford transmission debacle how reliable are DCTs?

I am in the market for a new car, and I have essentially settled on a Hyundai Kona, however I am debating whether or not to go with the SEL trim with the regular automatic transmission vs. the Limited trim with the DCT. I currently own a 2012 Ford Focus, so I am understandably hesitant to go with a DCT, and I am not sure the Kona Limited is worth the extra cost. On the other hand, I realize technology has developed since 2012, and that Hyundai’s DCT is not necessarily the same as Ford’s DCT. Right now, I am thinking that a Kona SEL with the Tech package will get me pretty close to the Limited trim, minus a few niceties, and I won’t risk DCT issues. I was wondering if maybe you could provide any insight, particularly if my DCT fears are justified or not.


I can totally understand about being gun shy on a DCT after Ford’s mess with those gearboxes.


You are right that the technology has changed a lot since 2012 and it seems Ford brought that transmission to the market without really working the issues out. Hyundai, and other brands like Volkswagen, have been selling dual-clutch automatics for years now without many reported issues. Furthermore, Hyundai offers a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, which covers your major components like the engine and the transmission.

So if there was an issue, you’d have a fairly substantial amount of coverage. If the Kona is the car you like and the Limited trim without the DCT is pushing your budget, you should be fine with the DCT.


And finally, since Honda Civic Type Rs are going for serious money—how much of a hit would you take if you bought one then tossed it if you didn’t like it?

I just found a new Civic Type R for $750 less than MSRP ($35780ish + tt&l).

Do you know if the market is such that if I get it home to Dallas and hate it, I could resell it without losing too much money?


That’s hard to say. Remember with a $750 savings you still need to pay taxes, fees and shipping, since the car isn’t in your local market. So let’s call it $39,000 all inclusive.

Suppose you hate the car and want to sell it. On a trade, you won’t get anywhere near that $36,000 because the dealer is going to need to price it lower than the used ones to make a profit, so you might get closer to $28,000 or $29,000. You can sell privately but, again, price it too close to a new model and you won’t get any bites. You could score maybe $30,000 or $31,000 on a private sale. I


n a best case scenario with a private sale you are still facing a potential of a $8,000 to $9,000 loss when you factor your total cost to buy the new car. While that drop is not as bad as some new cars, it’s still a big risk for a car that you aren’t sure about.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at!



What does any of this have to do with the Corvette?