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Why Getting Paid $50 to Test Drive a New Car Is Easier Than It Looks

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 4 days ago John Pearley Huffman
a close up of a map: What's the deal with cash giveaways for new-car test drives? We tried it and here's how it turned out.© Michael Byers What's the deal with cash giveaways for new-car test drives? We tried it and here's how it turned out.

"Hyundai is giving away $50 gift cards for taking a test drive!" C/D senior editor Tony Quiroga blurted out in a rare moment of human interaction. "You've got to go get one." So, after registering online and printing out a certificate, I trekked to Winn Hyundai of Santa Maria in California on a Friday afternoon to take a test drive and claim my fifty bucks.

I wandered among the Sonatas a bit, and finally a salesman approached. "Can I help you?" he asked, looking as if he didn't want to. "Yeah, I've got this certificate for a gift card . . ." He interrupted: "Oh, come with me; I'll get that signed off for you." He escorted me to the sales manager, who said it was unnecessary to take a test drive. I left a few minutes later with an email in my inbox alerting me to activate my virtual Visa card. No one had tried to sell me anything. Odd.

"There are 19-, 18-, 17-year-old kids coming in here that have no desire to drive a car at all," Winn's general sales manager George Nordquist said in a later phone call. "They're coming in here just because they got that offer."

a screenshot of a cell phone: Get Paid $50 to Test Drive a New Car Get Paid $50 to Test Drive a New Car

Gift-card offers encouraging test drives are common. A quick search reveals opportunities from Ford, Honda, Kia, Toyota, and Volvo, to name a few. Many of the offers are from the manufacturers, others are from the dealers themselves. And you don't always have to do much to cash in. Heck, in Maryland, a test drive can't legally be required. But to get a card, you'll have to let the dealership put your name into its marketing system.

Dean Evans, Hyundai Motor America's chief marketing officer, says the gift-card offer has driven about 175,000 people to Hyundai dealerships. "We have been doing the program now nationally for about a year and a half. [It has] sold 76,000 cars. And we've had 500,000 people fill out the forms on in-market websites. "

"You do have pockets sometimes where dealers get beat up," explains Evans. "In those cases, I don't blame them. They get jaded."

Hyundai, however, isn't about to back away from the program. "If you're spending $4500 or some high-level number to get the customer into the showroom," Evans continues, "and then you're putting in $4000 to $5000 a car on incentives, our logic is simple. Why would you not pay $50 to keep people moving through the funnel? Consumers are only going to an average of 1.5 dealers before they buy." If the gift-card offer makes Hyundai a shopper's first stop, it's well worth the money.

And it's obviously worth it to the customer. That Saturday night, my wife and I had dinner on Hyundai.

From the December 2018 issue

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