Being a car-magazine test driver is one of the ultimate jobs for anyone who likes cars. Test drivers get to spend plenty of time in pricey all-out performance machines -- Corvettes, Vipers, and Porsches -- not to mention awesome less-expensive cars like WRX, Mustang, and Eclipse. In addition, test drivers get to go on great trips to exotic locations, courtesy of automakers eager for publicity. Sounds great? You bet. I've been doing it since 1999 and I can't honestly imagine a better job for anyone who loves cars.
Do you have what it takes to join this terrific profession? Ask yourself these questions to reveal whether or not you have the personality to become a car-magazine test driver.
- Are you passionate about cars?
Believe it or not, people occasionally stumble into test-driver jobs despite having little or no enthusiasm for cars. But such instances are relatively rare. And those who do generally don't go very far or progress very quickly in their test-driver career. Also, it's not enough to love vintage or collectible cars. Although some publications drive and discuss such wonderful old automobiles, about 99 percent of test-driving opportunities are in new cars. That's also where the greatest perks and privileges are, thanks to the generous public-relations budgets of auto manufacturers.
- Do you like to share your knowledge with others?
Although driving different cars all the time is obviously a lot of fun, the real meat of a test-driver job is sharing your opinion. That's what automotive publications do, and those are the people who hire the most test drivers. Therefore, you need to be the sort who likes to tell others what you think.
- Are you interested in a wide variety of cars?
Most test-driver jobs are at publications that review the full range of cars, minivans, SUVs, and light trucks. In other words, until you reach the top of your career you'll be driving stuff besides exotics and sports cars. Don't get me wrong, even in the lower-level test-driver jobs you'll get behind the wheel of Corvettes, Jaguars, Benzs, and other wonderful stuff -- sometimes on race tracks and other performance settings. It's just that you'll also be balancing your time in those delights with rounds in more basic cars.
- Do you like to improve your skills and learn?
The basic skills you need to become a test driver aren't all that difficult, but many of them have to be learned on your own initiative -- there's no “Test-Driver” school you can sign up for. In addition, you have to keep up with automakers' ever-changing product lines once you get into the profession. Because of these things, test drivers have to be the sort of folks who enjoy learning new things. But hey, how punishing can it be to read about cars and learn how to express your opinion about them?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you probably have the fundamental personality to become a car-magazine test driver. Mix these traits with healthy doses of perseverance, diligent study, and focused practice, and you can learn the specific skills you need and break into this exciting profession.
For more information on how to become a test driver, go to: http://www.autiv.com/
David Bellm is a seasoned test driver and automotive writer. His work has been featured in a wide variety of online and print publications.