Malcolm Gladwell says this is the 'most ridiculous thing' about buying a car

Malcolm Gladwell attends the 'David and Goliath' book signing at the Barnes and Noble Union Square in New York City
Lars Niki | Getty Images

Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell is not a fan of the way test drives are done when you're trying to buy a car. He calls the current set up "the most ridiculous thing in the world."

"I happen to be a big car nut and one thing I have found is you can't size up a car on a test drive," he tells organizational psychologist Adam Grant in the latest TED podcast episode of "WorkLife with Adam Grant."

"You're about to spend an enormous sum of money on the car," Gladwell says. "The test drive is, basically, they go around the block with you. It's nonsense, right?"

When prospective car shoppers visit a dealership, only 55 percent of those people bother test driving one vehicle, a 2017 survey by Cox Automotive finds. That one vehicle also winds up being the vehicle they purchase.

Gladwell's biggest gripe with test drives is how shoppers have to make a decision based on too little knowledge of or experience with the car itself. "It's almost as if they're afraid of you actually driving the car before purchasing it, which is a very odd position for an automobile salesman to take," he says. "They are anxious about having too much experience with their product before you buy it."

Jay Leno says this is the No. 1 mistake people make when buying a car

Gladwell also notes that people are often forced to make the same type of snap decisions when sizing up a new organization, a new culture, a new workplace or a new boss. "I think that we under-sample new situations, we make up our minds far too quickly and we're pressured to make up our minds far too quickly," he says.

"I don't know why we would logically expect someone to be able to size up a new organization over the course of a bunch of lunches with managers there who are interviewing you. That seems silly to me," the author says. The same, he argues, can be said for choosing a car.

Jay Leno, car connoisseur and host of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage," has his own advice for those shopping for cars: He says the biggest mistake you can make is letting other people sway your decision.

Given that owning a car only gets more expensive as time goes on, thanks to insurance, gas and maintenance costs, it's important to look for the best deal when buying a new car. If you're planning to buy one soon, here are some tips that can pay off during your trip to the dealership.

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