When it comes to test driving a car, it can be confusing to know the rules around whether you’re properly insured to drive another vehicle. Many drivers also wonder if it’s possible to test drive a car alone and for how long you can take a vehicle out on the road.
Whilst some factors are down to the discretion of the car dealership or owner of the vehicle, there are standard practices you need to follow when test driving any car.
With our handy guide, you’ll be armed with all the information you need to take a test drive legally and safely.
When can I test drive a car?
Drivers usually test drive vehicles they’re thinking of buying. So, if you’ve got your eye on a new motor, this is something you should consider.
Whether you’re buying from a car dealership or from a private seller, you should be able to test drive a vehicle beforehand.
There are some instances where you might not be able to take a test drive, depending on the rules of the dealer. For example, you might have to be over the age of 21 and have no more than six points on your licence. Always make sure you check the criteria of the seller before arranging to take the car out.
Should I test drive a car before buying?
It’s important to take any potential new vehicle for a test drive for a number of reasons. You’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable driving any new car and that it fits all your requirements.
Perhaps you’ve had your eye on a certain type of model for a while but have never driven one before. Going for a test drive will ensure it’s definitely the right choice for you.
If you’re buying a used car, it’s especially important to take it for a spin to ensure there are no major running problems before deciding to buy.
Can you test drive a car without buying?
Yes, if you take a car for a test drive it doesn’t mean you’re committed to buying the vehicle. You might decide it’s not right for you based on the test drive and wish to look for something more suitable.
You’re well within your rights not to go ahead with the purchase and it’s important you’re happy with any new vehicle you end up buying.
Do I need to book a test drive?
This depends on where you’re looking at buying your new car and their protocol. Some dealerships allow you to book online or via the phone in advance, whilst others will let you just turn up and take a test drive on the day.
It’s advisable to get in touch beforehand to see what the process is and what paperwork (if any) you’ll need to provide. Many dealers simply ask to see your driving licence but it’s always worth checking.
If you’re buying a used car from a private seller, be sure to ask them about taking a test drive. In this situation, the seller will probably want to accompany you. It’s also important to consider insurance, as you’ll need to arrange your own when buying a car privately.
Do I need insurance to test drive a used car?
Yes! It’s illegal to drive any car for any purpose without the correct insurance and this includes taking a vehicle for a test drive.
Whilst many large dealerships will have their own insurance in place to cover test driving a car, some may only provide third-party cover. If you’re test driving a vehicle for a longer period of time, dealers will often require you to take out your own comprehensive insurance.
Private sellers are unlikely to have insurance in place that allows another driver to test drive a vehicle. In this situation, you’ll need to have your own cover.
Whilst many drivers assume their annual insurance will cover them to drive any vehicle, this is not necessarily the case and you should check the details of your policy. If you are covered, it’s likely it will be on a third-party basis only and you might wish to take out a comprehensive policy for the purpose of your test drive.
How to get insurance to test drive a car
If you don’t have cover already in place, you’ll need to take out suitable insurance to test drive a vehicle. Temporary car insurance allows you to insure a car for a short period of time without affecting your No Claims Bonus on your annual policy.
This flexible option is ideal for test driving a car when you might need fully comprehensive insurance for an hour, a day or even a week.
With Dayinsure, temporary car insurance is quick and easy to arrange – you’ll just need to fill in a few details to get your quote and you can be covered in minutes!
Can I test drive a car without tax?
Any vehicle you drive must be taxed by law and this includes any car you test drive. Taxing a car is the owner’s responsibility and it’s illegal to drive an untaxed vehicle.
Can I test drive a car with a provisional licence?
Perhaps you’ve not yet passed your test but are looking at buying a car to learn or to make use of once you get your full licence. Whilst you won’t be able to take a car for a test drive, you could get someone trustworthy to test it for you.
As long as the other driver meets the right criteria, sellers should allow you to be a passenger in the vehicle that’s being taken for a test drive. Your trusted parent, friend or sibling will be able to tell you how the car drives, whether it feels comfortable and if it ticks your boxes.
If you choose to buy the vehicle, it might be worth looking at taking out temporary learner driver insurance which will cover you to get some experience in your own car, as long as you’re with another driver who meets the legal criteria. Simply fill in your details to get a quote.
Can I test drive a car alone?
This depends on the policy of the car dealership. Whilst many allow potential buyers to take solo test drives, some will insist a salesperson accompany you.
Due to the lockdowns in the past couple of years, the rules around solo test drives were relaxed for health and safety reasons and it’s possible that some retailers have kept these guidelines in place. But it’s best to check before assuming you can take a vehicle out for a spin on your own.
How far can you test drive a car?
Usually, a test drive will last around 20 minutes and will allow you to take a car around the local area, sometimes on a specific route, depending on whether you’re accompanied or not. This will allow you enough time to get a feel for the vehicle and drive it on a variety of roads.
Some dealerships offer extended test drives, with the option of trying out a car for 24-48 hours. If you’re planning on driving another car for a longer period of time, you’ll most likely need to take out your own, comprehensive insurance and show proof of this beforehand. Temporary car insurance is ideal in this situation and it only takes minutes to arrange with Dayinsure.
What to check on a test drive
There are a few basic things to take note of when on a test drive. You’ll want to make sure your seating arrangement is comfortable and all mirrors allow you to see clearly. You should make sure the brakes are working properly, the gears are smooth and there are no unusual engine noises or rattling sounds, particularly if you’re buying a used car.
If you regularly carry passengers or have a large family, ensure there’s enough room for everyone, child seats included. Take a look inside the boot to determine whether the car has enough storage space for your needs.
Following these simple steps will help you get the most out of your test drive, whether you’re looking to buy a new or used vehicle.
For more tips, inspiration, and helpful advice, take a look at our news articles for everything car and driving related.