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Renting a car for your road test

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    Article Highlights

    So you’re ready to take your road test: congratulations on getting this close to having a valid driver’s license. But there are still challenges ahead, especially if you don’t already have a car to take your driving test. 

    Can you rent a car with a learner’s permit? Does the owner of the car have to be there for a driving test? And what happens if you are borrowing a car for a driving test? Let’s take a look at the ways you can procure a car for your test and what kind of challenges they entail.

    What qualifies a car for road testing?

    Any car that can validly drive on public roads should be fine for your road test. This means the car is capable of passing its annual inspection, has insurance and is in good working order. Here are some of the things you should be aware of:

    • Whether or not the car meets safety requirements for driving — including having working seat belts, mirrors, lights, windows and doors and, if equipped with them, airbags. 
    • Ensure the car has valid license plates that are displayed as indicated by state regulations.
    • Make sure the car is insured. Even if you are not the owner of the auto insurance policy, the car needs to have valid insurance in your state.
    • The car’s registration must be valid and up to date.

    There may be other specific requirements depending on your state — a few states require you to use a car for your driving test that has a hand brake accessible by the examiner, so you may want to make a quick call to your DMV to see if this, or any other stipulations, are in force in your state.

    Where to get a car for your driver’s license road test

    It’s unlikely that you’ll have your own car if you’re still learning to drive, and that leads to a common challenge: where do you get a car for a road test? There’s no need to worry though, because there are several options open to you.

    Borrowing a car for your driving test

    It’s possible that you have a friend or family member with a car who would lend it to you for the test. This is very common if you’re a teen and are taking your first driving test — your parents’ car is the ideal vehicle to use. There are a few caveats, though: the owners of the car should check their auto insurance policy to make sure that the policy applies to the car, not the driver. That way, if there’s an accident while you’re taking the test, you’d be covered. If you’re using your parents’ car, ask them to consider adding you to the policy as a driver; this will simplify matters greatly once you have your license.

    Renting a car from a driver training school

    If you’ve been taking driving lessons from a certified driving school, they may rent cars for driving tests and even bring the car to the DMV for you. You may even be able to get behind the wheel to practice beforehand. Although there will probably be a cost associated with this, it’s worth paying to know that you have a reliable, insured car, and an instructor who stands behind you and may even be available after the test to give you feedback or answer questions.

    Renting a car from a rental company

    This option may be more of a challenge, especially if you are a typical young driver with a permit and no license. Most rental agencies won’t rent a car to someone who only has a learners permit. They may also have an age limit, and require you to have a credit card and carry insurance to rent the car. There is an exception, though. If you are a foreign national with an international license, you may be able to rent a car. Some states require an additional international driving permit, and there may be other requirements. Your local DMV should be able to help you sort out what is needed in your region.

    Steps to get a car for your driver’s license road test

    So what steps should you take to rent a car for a driving test? Depending on your own circumstances, you should consider the following:

    If you’re a new teen driver

    Talk to your parents or guardians first to see if you can use their car for your test. They may even be willing to drive you to the test and wait for you, so that you can legally drive back home afterwards if you live in a state that requires a licensed driver to be with you. 

    If you’re an older learner

    If you’ve taken lessons from a driving school, it should be your first stop to see if they have cars available for your test. If you’ve been learning on your own or with the help of friends or family, find out from your DMV if there are any restrictions on borrowing cars, especially from the point of view of insurance coverage, and see if someone you trust will lend you their car.

    If you’re an international driver

    As an international driver with experience driving in another country, you’re in a unique situation. If you’ve taken driving lessons in the U.S. so you can learn American road rules, you can probably borrow a car from your driving school to take your test. But you may also be able to rent a car from an agency with your international license or permit, and this will be adequate for your driver’s test. 

    Considerations for renting a car for your road test

    Whether you’re renting a car from your driving school or, with the help of a friend or family member, from a car rental agency, there are a few considerations to take into account.

    Car must be in good condition

    Walk around the car before you get behind the wheel. Does it appear to be road-worthy? If you can, get someone to help you check whether the blinkers, brake lights and headlights all work. Take a quick spin around the agency’s parking lot: does the car brake and steer properly? Do all internal elements appear to work? The examiner has the right to refuse you your test if he or she feels the car is unsafe.

    Car must have valid insurance

    Whether you’re borrowing or renting, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the car has a valid insurance policy. Although this is most likely the case if you’re renting, double check with the agent and make sure you’ve got any necessary documentation with you in the car. If you’re borrowing a car from a friend or family member, ask them to check and be sure that their policy covers you when you’re driving their car. 

    Know your state’s rules

    Rules and regulations pertaining to driver tests vary from state to state. Before you go to the expense of renting a car, check and make sure your state allows rental vehicles to be used in driving tests — not all states do. Some states allow you to have a third person in the car while taking the test; others don’t. So if dad came along to keep you company, he may have to wait at the curb until you’re done.

    Consider cost

    While expense should not be your top consideration when you’re taking your drivers test, it never hurts to look for the lowest-cost way to achieve your goals. From that point of view, your best bet is borrowing a car from a friend or family member. Once you are sure that you’re covered under their insurance policy, you should be good to go. At the other end of the spectrum, it may cost you to rent a car from your drivers school, and will probably be even more expensive if you rent a car from an agency.

    The takeaway

    • It may be possible for you to borrow a car for your drivers test from family or friends.
    • Your driving school may have cars to rent for the test.
    • Car agencies, however, won’t rent to you unless you already have a license.
    • The car you use should be in good working condition and have valid insurance.

    Depending on your circumstances, you may have several options for obtaining a car to take your drivers test. The easiest way may be to borrow one from a friend or family member. Always be sure the car is in top condition and has valid insurance. If you have an international driver’s license or permit, you may be able to rent from a car rental agency. Finally, if you are taking driving lessons, your school may have cars you can borrow for your test.

    Mary Van Keuren

    After 30 years as a writer and editor in academia, Mary now writes full-time for the insurance and finance industries. Her work has appeared on Reviews.com, TheSimpleDollar.com and Bankrate.com, as well as other consumer-focused websites.

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