You’ve excitedly got your learner’s permit and want to look at vehicles as soon as possible. You bring a licensed driver with you to the dealership, and after they find out your age and experience, tell you that your licensed person is the only one that can drive the vehicle.
You can test drive a car with a learner’s permit. However, most car dealerships will not allow people with learner’s permits to test drive cars due to age and lack of experience since dealerships’ insurance policies rarely cover these people.
So, let’s discuss dealerships’ requirements for test-driving vehicles and discuss what you’ll need to test and purchase a car. I’ll also cover some of the other restrictions for people with learner’s permits, so let’s get into it!
Test driving a car gives the driver an excellent opportunity to see if it is the right one for them, especially since it is a big financial decision. It’s always critical to test-drive a vehicle before purchasing it to ensure you like how it handles on the road and how you fit into the car.
However, you may have to be a qualified fully-licensed driver to test out a vehicle since a crash could result in a total loss for the dealership.
Dealerships generally desire drivers to have a valid license and be at least 18 years old before trying out a car from their lots. Some will ask that test drivers be at least 21 years old. It would be best to call ahead and inquire since this may not be the case for you to test drive a vehicle.
Dealerships may also require that young drivers have an adult, parent, or guardian that is licensed present and in the car with them.
Insurance, liability, and costs are significant reasons for minimum age requirements. Young people are still learning to drive or have less experience on the road, which brings risk to the car and the lives of others on the road and inside the vehicle.
Dealerships have insurance coverage policies on every vehicle on their lot, and insurance policies typically also have age requirements. If a dealership lowers the age for test driving, their insurance premiums will likely increase.
However, if you are test driving a vehicle from a private sale, the owner may let you drive the car, but at the risk of what their insurance policy may or may not cover due to your age and experience. It would be best if you still had a licensed driver with you in the car and evidence that you have personal car insurance.
A Sales Representative May Need to Be in the Vehicle With You
Dealerships also have varying policies on whether or not they let anyone drive a vehicle without a sales representative in the car with them as well. That can be even more true for high-end and expensive cars such as a Mustang or a Tesla, along with a request for your income status to see if you can genuinely afford the vehicle and are just not testing it out for a joy-ride.
You Need Proof of Insurance and a Licensed Driver to Purchase a Car
Generally, you cannot purchase a car without a valid license and insurance, so someone with a driver’s license will need to take on this responsibility with you. Those owning a vehicle with a learner’s permit are likely to have higher insurance costs and strict conditions, as indicated by the insurance policy.
Financing from a dealership for someone with a learner’s permit may also have hurdles depending on your banking institution. Often you need proof of income and proof that you do not have a previously suspended license.
Importance of Test Driving a Car
The age and licensing restrictions for test driving a car may put some barriers in place, making you wonder if it is necessary to do it at all. There are benefits to testing out a car before purchase. Even if you need to ride along with a licensed driver, you can still have the opportunity to notice and feel things as a passenger.
So, let’s look at some of the fundamental reasons you should test drive a vehicle:
- Used cars may show warning lights on the dash, and you will be able to hear any troubling sounds as it runs. If it runs fine, it likely has been maintained and will have an excellent overall performance.
- A new car will run and feel fine, of course, but a test drive will allow you to see how you fit inside the vehicle. (This is true for a used car as well.) Small cars tend to be lower to the ground, and you may have less head and leg space. Large vehicles can be difficult to manage or park. Front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive cars handle differently on the road.
- Driving a car also allows you to see if there are any blind spots. If you are not permitted to drive, you could still sit in the seat with the car turned off and check out the angles.
- Test-driving on the road (and not the parking lot) will let you sense how it accelerates and brakes. You should drive or ride in the car for at least fifteen minutes to test out all the features and feel how it operates.
- You could also consider test driving a car that belongs to a friend to get a feel for the kind of vehicle you wish to purchase. Again, they may be taking a risk with their insurance if you are young and inexperienced, so keep this in perspective if they are hesitant to let you drive.
Other Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Car
You may want to ask yourself some other questions before test driving and purchasing a vehicle. These will help you to narrow down your focus to help you shop around efficiently:
- Are you using the car for commuting, towing, camping, etc.? Knowing how you drive and where you do it will help you determine towing power and off-roading capabilities.
- What is the fuel efficiency for the mileage?
- If you qualify for financing, what is your monthly payment threshold?
- If you buy a used car, what is the vehicle’s history, and have there been any accidents?
- Will you buy or lease?
Before purchasing a used vehicle, it is critical to look up its history. You can input the vehicle identification number into an online website for a used car history (like BeenVerified).
In addition, you should always try to find the best financing option before purchasing a vehicle. Leasing allows you to potentially have lower monthly payments, a better overall car, lower maintenance costs, lower sales tax, and the opportunity to try out a vehicle for a few years before getting a new one to lease.
However, there may be stipulations for learning permit only drivers, and leased cars are limited in their mileage usage. There can be resulting mileage overage fees and unexpected charges when the lease is over for wear-and-tear costs.
Buying a car means you own it (even if you had to finance it), so you can modify and drive it however you want. Purchasing your vehicle outright also allows you to sell or trade in the car in the future. However, the down payment and monthly costs are likely to be larger than a leased vehicle, and the warranties will eventually expire, leaving you to pay the maintenance bills.
Everyone that wants to learn to drive, regardless of age, will need a learner’s permit before obtaining a license in the United States. The minimum age can be from 14 to 18 years old, and you can click here to see a chart for your specific state.
You will need to scroll down about midway down the website page to see the chart listing each state. You will also be able to see the age a permit-holding driver can apply for a full license.
A learner’s permit may also be called a driver’s permit or learner’s license, but regardless it places restrictions on driving. That includes the following:
- You must have a licensed driver supervising you when you are behind the wheel.
- To obtain the learner’s permit, you will have had to pass a vision test and a written exam successfully at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Your local DMV will also provide you with study materials and practice tests for your written exam. You will also need documents proving your age, identity, and address.
- Some states do not allow people with learning permits to drive at night or with passengers other than the licensed supervisor.
- Most learning permits need parental or guardian approval and signature, and there is a fee for obtaining the permit.
- Many new drivers are also required to take a driver’s education course. For added safety when learning, you can affix one of these WZCNDIDI Magnetic Bumper Stickers that say, “Please Be Patient Student Driver.” This 3-piece set is reflective and bright yellow to alert other drivers of your learning status.
- The learner’s permit allows you to get enough hours of practice driving to eventually take a driving test with an official from the DMV to obtain a permanent license. The required practice hours may vary from state to state, so it is essential to call and find out precisely what you need to do.
Typically, only people that are 18 or 21 years old with a valid license can test drive a car. If you only have a learner’s permit, then you will need to call ahead to the dealership to see if you can test drive yourself or need to bring a licensed driver with you.