When there’s a new product in the grocery store, you’re more likely to buy it if you can try a free sample first. When purchases are more than a few dollars apiece, that idea should be even more crucial. You know it’s important to test drive a new car before signing on the dotted line, but even then it can be tough to get a full picture of whether you’ll like the model a week from now. When it comes to putting down serious cash on large investments, it’s a smart idea to get as much information as possible. Thanks to several programs available, there are plenty of ways to do your own thorough product testing before you pay for a new mattress, vehicle, or even a pet.
When it comes to spending hundreds of dollars on an item, it’s worth putting in the extra time to make sure it will be worth what you’ve paid. This might mean a little extra time on your end, but that time should help you avoid any buyer’s remorse you might otherwise have. When it comes to these five items, it’s a good idea to try before you buy.
1. A new car
Let’s get this common-sense item off our checklist right away. Though taking a test drive in your potential new ride is the generally accepted practice for purchasing a new car, many Americans skip this step altogether. A 2014 report from Forbes shows that about 16% of consumers in one study skipped the test drive completely, while another 33% only took one model of car out for a quick drive around the block. Another study suggests that 49% of new car buyers drive one model for less than 30 minutes before signing the paperwork.
With the information available online, it can be much easier to go to the dealership armed with most of the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision. But as Jalopnik author Patrick George points out, there’s still little replacement for test-driving a car several times, to make sure it handles the way you expect and want it to.
If a typical test drive isn’t enough of an experience, rental car companies with car-purchasing programs will often allow you to test out a model before purchasing it. If you don’t like it, you simply pay the rental fee for the days you used the car. With Hertz’s Rent2Buy program, you can take a gently used car out for a spin for free for two hours, and rent the vehicle for three days before deciding on the final purchase. Toyota also offers a Rent a Car program in which you can temporarily rent a car, or use a rental agreement as an extended test drive before purchasing. If and when you do test drive a vehicle, Car and Driver offers an extensive checklist to make sure you’re thinking about every aspect of ownership.
2. A pet
If your plans for pet ownership include a goldfish, you might not need to consider too many costs before diving in. But if you’re planning to adopt or purchase a dog or other animal that requires extensive care, it might be a good idea to consider trying it out before coming home unprepared with Fido.
Dogs, cats, and other furry friends can have extensive costs for veterinary fees, not to mention the weekly costs of food and extraneous costs for care if and when you go out of town, sans pets. Plus, caring for a pet that needs extensive exercise or other attention can alter your personal schedule and living arrangements.
If you’ve never owned a pet before, or even if you’re unsure of how a new pet would affect your life, it might be wise to consider petsitting or fostering an animal before making the complete commitment, consumer site Brad’s Deals suggests.
Petsitting for friends and family would allow you to keep an animal with you for a limited period of time, to see if it’s a good fit for your schedule, wallet, and living situation. If you’re looking to do something a little more true to reality, Petfinder offers extensive information on the fostering pet process, which is most common for dogs and cats. In this case, you would be able to foster a pet in need of a temporary home. In most cases, Petfinder explains, you could choose to adopt that pet if it’s a good fit, or return it if you find you’re not fully prepared.
3. Your mattress
If you’ve ever bought a mattress, it has probably consisted of reading a few customer reviews online, and then visiting a showroom and spending a few awkward moments on some of your choices, trying not to think about the people who have done this before you, or how weird you feel laying down in public. Needless to say, you might not be completely focused on how the mattress makes your back feel, or be able to tell how well you’ll sleep on it once it’s delivered to your door.
Many mattress companies offer a money-back guarantee for up to 60 or 90 days after purchasing, which is a good thing to keep in mind after you get the mattress home. Brad’s List suggests treating this as a true trial period. However, there are some better alternatives if you want to skip the mattress showroom the pushy salespeople altogether. Companies like Novosbed allow you to order your selected mattress online, then try it out in your home for 120 days before you need to choose whether or not its the bed for you. If it’s not, you can return it for a full refund.
Glasses aren’t exactly the thousand-dollar purchase that a car or mattress normally is, but depending on the lenses and frames, they can be several hundred dollars. It’s one thing to try on frames at your eye doctor’s office, but it’s another to test them out while you’re driving, meeting up with friends, and going on a date. Are the comfortable? Do they look the way you want them to?
These aren’t always answers you can get by standing in front of a tiny mirror in an office for five minutes. Now, many companies offer in-home trials that allow you try on frames for several days before being charged for them. Warby Parker is best-known for this, allowing shoppers to choose up to five different frames, which are delivered to the customer’s home for five days. You select the ones you like best, then ship the rest back free of charge.
Classic Specs also allows five frames at a time, for an in-home trial of up to 7 days (it does say the company offers extensions free of charge if you contact them). Glasses.com boasts an In-Home Try-On program as well. They only allow you to try one set of frames at a time, but the trial period is 15 days before you choose to keep them or exchange them (for free) to try another style. What’s more, Glasses.com has a partnership with LensCrafters that allows you visit physical locations for a free adjustment if you need one.
5. Your home
You test drive a new car, try on clothes before you purchase them, and even try out your new glasses before you commit. And yet, in most traditional situations a homebuyer needs to sign away their foreseeable future in a mortgage for a home they’ve never lived in, perhaps even in a neighborhood they know very little about. While this is the status quo for purchasing a home, it doesn’t have to be.
In the summer of 2015, Realtor.com and Airbnb announced a partnership that allowed potential homebuyers the option to stay in their intended neighborhood — perhaps even their intended home — for a rental fee before signing the mortgage and property deeds. This is great for people who are moving into the area from a far distance, or even first-time homebuyers who are trying to get a better gauge on what they like and don’t like about their potential future home.
The program was called Try Before You Buy, and potential homebuyers could find options for Airbnb on Realtor.com once they searched for a certain neighborhood. The program doesn’t have any partnering homes right now, a Realtor.com spokesperson told The Cheat Sheet, but you could likely take a DIY approach even today by renting an Airbnb location in the neighborhood you’d like to move in to. It might not be the exact house that’s up for sale, but you’ll get a better feel for the aesthetics and general feel of the area before a long-term commitment.