test drive

What Do You Need To Test Drive A Car

Test driving a car is an absolutely vital part of the process. Test driving can not only let you know about any issues the car may have, but it also lets you know if it offers the driving experience you’re after. You shouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, and you absolutely shouldn’t purchase a car without testing it, whether it’s a used car or a new one. And in many cases, all you need to test drive a car is available driver’s license.

But test driving a car isn’t as simple as showing up. If you’re planning to take a test drive, there are a few things you need to prepare to make sure you can head out on the road.

And part of preparation for test driving a car, especially a used car, is knowing the car’s full history. Don’t forget to use our free VIN check tool to get all the facts on any car you’re thinking of buying so that you can make the best decision possible.





What Do You Need To Test Drive A Car?

A valid driver’s license

The most important thing you need before you head out on the road on a test drive is a driver’s license. Driving any vehicle on a public road in Canada without a license is illegal.

If you’re currently enrolled in a Graduated Licensing Program and are driving on a learner’s license, you need to take a test drive with someone who passes the qualifications to be a supervisor. These vary from province to province, but generally, they will need to have been driving for at least four years. They will also need a blood alcohol level of less than 0.5. This isn’t really something you can test a seller for, but you could bring a supervising driver with you to make sure they fit the requirements.

However, if you’re thinking of buying a car, it’s generally better to wait until you have a full driver’s license of your own.


Even on a short test drive, accidents can happen. If you get into an accident on your test drive, especially if you damage somebody else’s car, you need to know that you’ll be covered by insurance.

This can be a tricky thing to determine. If you’re buying from a commercial dealership, they should have insurance covering the vehicle, and they will be liable for any damages. Be warned, though, that some dealerships may ask you to sign a liability waiver which states that you will be responsible for any damages incurred during a test drive.

When buying from a private seller, things get a little trickier. If the seller has insurance on the car, you should be covered for any test drive. But it’s perfectly legal to sell an uninsured car in Canada. It’s just not legal to drive one on public roads.

If buying from a private seller, make sure you inquire about the insurance status of the vehicle before you get behind the wheel. If this isn’t your first car, you could also inquire with your own insurance broker to see if they will provide coverage for a test drive.

what do you need to test drive a car

Why Do You Need A Test Drive?

Performing a test drive is the best way to get a feel for how the car handles and responds when driving it. Even a car you think you like may turn out to handle strangely or drive in a way you don’t enjoy. Additionally, taking a car for a test drive can alert you to any issues the car may have. Don’t be one of the 16% of people who don’t test drive a car before buying it, or you could end up regretting your purchase decision down the line.

Some problems cars can have aren’t immediately apparent until the engine has been running for a little while and the car has driven at least a few kilometers. Getting the engine warmed up gets the fluids circulating so you can check for any leaks. Also, test driving the car will give you a feel for how the steering and brakes are working, potentially alerting you to any issues with those important parts of a car.

How To Take A Test Drive

  1. Plan your route

When test driving a car, you want to test as many of its capabilities as possible. Before you even go to look at the car, research a route that will allow you to test the car on a variety of different road conditions. If possible, you want to take the car on both smooth and bumpy roads, through heavy traffic, and onto a highway to get it up to high speeds. Don’t take the route the dealer suggests, but choose your own route, and try if possible to test it on roads that you regularly drive, such as to your work or to the grocery store.

  • Research the car’s history

When looking into a car’s history, it’s possible you may find something that will put you off the purchase, so there’s no need to take a test drive at all. Ask the seller for the VIN of the car before you go to look at it and run it through our free VIN checker tool. This will let you know if there are any car safety recalls, accident history, odometer rollbacks, or airbag deployments.

  • Inspect the car

Before taking any car out on a test drive, give it a good look over. Make sure there are no leaking fluids, and that the tires have a decent amount of tread. Check that all the lights work before leaving the lot, as this can be a safety hazard.

You should also check to make sure the car works for you. Try getting in and out of the driver’s seat a few times to make sure it’s comfortable. Adjust the seat and the mirrors to check the blind spots on the car. Try out the radio controls to make sure they are comfortable to reach and easy to operate without taking your eyes off the road. Start the engine and test both the heating and air conditioning.

If you’re satisfied with all these aspects of the vehicle, it’s time to head out on your test drive.

What To Look For On A Test Drive

  1. Drive as you normally would

There’s no need to speed or overstrain the engine. Besides, if you pick up a speeding ticket, the seller will expect you to pay it! Instead, drive the way you normally do to see how the car responds.

  • Test the car’s features as you drive

Use the radio and adjust the heating and cooling controls while driving to see if it’s comfortable.

  • Test the steering

Pay attention to how the steering feels any time you take a turn. Make sure you choose a route that has a variety of both left and right hand turns. Watch out for any vibration, resistance, or pulling to either side, as these can indicate problems with the steering.

  • Test the brakes

For this, you’ll want to find an area away from other people. Empty parking lots and quiet side roads are good for this. There’s no need to race, but you’ll want to get the car up to a decent speed, at least 30 km an hour, then use the brakes to slow it down.

Pay attention to how long it takes for the brakes to slow the car down. Pay attention to whether the brakes shudder or vibrate, or whether the pedals are loose.

  • Try out the suspension

Try to take the car on bumpy or uneven roads to see how the suspension handles it. Does the car vibrate, bounce, or shake when you go over bumps? Bouncing a little is normal, but excessive bouncing or shaking indicates a problem with the car’s suspension.

Test Drives Can Tell You A Lot About A Car

Ultimately, what matters most about a car is not how it looks or how much it will impress your friends, but how it drives. Taking any car you’re thinking of buying on a test drive is always a good idea, but it’s especially important with a used car, since these often have more issues. A driver’s license is usually all you need to test drive a car, so it’s something you should always bring with you.

If there’s anything that worries you about the car after the test drive, consider bringing it to an experienced mechanic for a prepurchase vehicle inspection. This will give you much more detail on any issues with the vehicle and can help you make a more informed decision.

And as always, don’t forget to get a full vehicle history report on any vehicle you’re thinking of buying by using our free VIN checker tool. There’s no better way to protect yourself from a bad vehicle purchase than knowing the car’s full history.






What documents do you need to test drive a car?

You’ll need a valid driving license to test drive any car. If you’re buying from a dealership, their insurance will cover the test drive, but it’s also a good idea to bring a secondary piece of photo ID in case you decide to purchase the car.

If you’re buying from a private seller, you should check that their insurance covers you. If you decide to insure the car through your own insurance for the test drive, make sure you bring proof of that insurance.

How do you test drive a car from a private seller?

Any reputable private seller should allow you to test drive a car. Make sure they have insurance or provide your own temporary insurance for the test drive. The seller will probably want to accompany you on your test drive to make sure you don’t steal the car.

How long does a test drive take?

Usually, around 15 to 30 minutes is enough time to get a feel for the car and test it in a variety of driving conditions. However, make sure you take the time to test the car fully on a variety of roads. This may take longer depending on where you live.

Are test drives free?

Yes. A test drive should always be free, whether you’re buying from a dealership or a private seller. Some dealerships may require a refundable deposit before you take a test drive, but this is simply a sales tactic and not in any way a legal requirement.