Road trips into the bizarre: Car salesmen reveal their test drive nightmares

“It was when we arrived in Dover that I genuinely thought I was being kidnapped”

The British public are nothing if not unpredictable, and when it comes to test driving a new car, it can sometimes lead to all manner of strangeness.

That’s the opinion of a nationwide car leasing company, which asked car salesman for their favourite test drive stories, and found accidents, disappearing customers and shopping trips forming part of their workaday lives.

According to the Flexed.co.uk company, whether the drive is accompanied or unaccompanied, for a full day or just a spin around the block, the world of car sales is never short of surprises.

“In fact, anybody who has worked in retail has tales of strange customer behaviour,” says Flexed.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “But when your product is selling for somewhere between 10 to 20 thousand pounds, there’s just that little bit more edge to things.”

Flexed.co.uk asked over 200 car sales people about their most surprising test drive stories, and virtually all of them had a tale to tell. Here are ten of the finest we heard:

  • Dave: “Our dealership does 24 hour test drives for our top-notch ranges, and one guy managed to put 1,200 miles on the clock in that time. We asked where he’d been, and he said ‘Scotland’. We’re based in Essex.”
  • Stefan: “I’m not quite sure what happened. One minute we were at a road junction, the next the customer was out of the car arguing with the driver in front. It was a case of full-on road-rage, and I insisted she sit in the passenger seat on the way back to the dealership.”
  • Amir: “He pulled over at the side of the road, told me he wouldn’t be a minute, and went into a shop. I sat there for three hours, and I never saw him again. We didn’t get a sale.”
  • Jess: “I got in the car with the customer, and he stank. Really stank, like he hadn’t washed in a month. I took him on the shortest route possible with the window down and my head virtually out of the car. I’m pleased to say he bought the car on the spot.”
  • Brian: “I’ve had customers pulled over for speeding a few times, but that’s what you get when you sell sports cars. One chap, a sober-looking middle-aged man in a business suit, actually said ‘I always wanted to do that’, like we’re some sort of Make-A-Wish-Come-True organisation.”
  • Mohammed: “Customer asked if we could stop off ‘to pick something up from a shop’. It turned out it was B&Q, and we ended up driving back to his house where I helped him unload a boot-full of paving slabs he just bought. That explains why he wanted to test drive the estate version, I suppose.”
  • Stacey: “Shortest test drive ever. Off the forecourt, straight into the side of a bus. I didn’t get the sale, either – they said they didn’t like the brakes.”
  • Martin: “Yeah. I suppose it was when the car went into a hedge on its side that I realised that this elderly chap probably wasn’t a very good driver. Nobody hurt, except the customer’s pride, and the demo car was a write-off.”
  • Greg: “What looked like a routine test drive turned very weird when the customer’s two mates got in the back. They both looked like gorillas and that put me on edge from the start. Then the customer kept ignoring my directions, and we ended up miles off my test drive route. It was when we got in the queue for Dover Ferry Terminal that I genuinely thought I was being kidnapped, and thought about quietly calling the police. It turned out he thought my directions were only ‘suggestions’, and he wanted to try a bit of motorway driving. And yes, they bought the car, and I never dialled the third ‘9’ on my mobile phone.”
  • Jane: “I did a test drive for a whole family in an SUV. Dad took us through the drive-thru at McDonald’s ‘too see if it would fit’ and they bought me lunch!”

Flexed.co.uk says that – as in any customer-facing industry – car salesmen need to take the rough with the smooth while retaining good manners, a cool front, and a good sense of humour. But sometimes, Mark Hall says, this can be stretched to the limit.

“Interacting with the public can be at times frustrating, hilarious and incredibly satisfying,” he says, “And while we’ve seen many strange things in our time, we’ve never been kidnapped nor had a burger bought for us.”

“We’re open to offers on the latter.”