Traders’ guide to test drives

car test drive

When selling cars, you need to offer customers test drives. But don’t hand over the keys without making sure the vehicle is insured for them to drive – that could be a costly mistake!

Our guide explains what you need to do for safe test drives to take place, including:

Checking the driver’s details

The first thing to do before letting prospective customers behind the wheel is to complete the following checklist:

  • Inspect their driving licence. Make sure it is original, the photograph matches, and it has not expired.
  • If you have access to DVLA systems, run a licence check to make sure they are not disqualified and verify their details.
  • Take photos or scans of the licence for reference.
  • Make sure any necessary paperwork is completed (electronically if necessary) before allowing the customer into the car.

These steps are vital for covering your car in situations where the driver is involved in an accident, picks up a speeding fine, or even fails to return the vehicle. The more information you have about the customer, the better.

Test drives during Coronavirus

The DVLA has approved solo test drives during the COVID-19 outbreak. The new guidance allows potential buyers to test drive a car by themselves, unaccompanied by the seller, trader, or car dealer representative.

Motor traders and car dealers offering solo test drives need to ensure they have the right level of insurance.

Depending on local restrictions and dealerships, solo test drives may not be possible. If you are conducting accompanied test drives during the pandemic, we recommend taking the following steps:

  • Reduce the number of people in the car – ideally, this should just be the driver and the trader/seller.
  • Wear face coverings during the test drive.
  • Increase the distance between people in the car; for example, sitting in the back seat rather than the passenger seat.
  • Clean your cars thoroughly between test drives.
  • Wash and or sanitise your hands after every test drive.
  • Do not shake hands with buyers, and ensure they maintain good hygiene.

How do test drives work?

Once you’ve completed a driver licence check and any required paperwork, you can move on to the test drive itself. We recommend following these steps before handing over the keys:

  • Give the buyer a timescale. The driver should generally have 30 minutes to an hour to assess the vehicle. You must let the customer know when to return the car if you are allowing an unattended test drive.
  • Plan the route. If you are accompanying the driver, give clear instructions about where you would like them to drive. It’s also wise to ask them about any deviations they want to make. If you are not accompanying the driver, make it clear which places you would like them to take the car, and where they shouldn’t. You don’t want them to test drive a vehicle on an unadopted road, for example.
  • Make sure there’s enough fuel or charge. You don’t want the car to run out of fuel while out for a test drive. Worse still would be for an electric vehicle to run out of charge, where charging stations are not available. Be sure to check this before the test drive begins.
  • Fit trade plates. You must fit trade plates to the car for your policy to cover demonstrations.
  • Disinfect the car. Before you send out the vehicle for a test drive, make sure to clean all exposed surfaces. This should include the switches, the steering wheel, the handbrake, internal mirrors, door handles (inside and outside), the gear lever, and the car keys. When the vehicle returns, disinfect it again.
  • Make clear what you expect from the driver. The customer should remain safe and ensure the safety of others. If you would like the driver to wear gloves or a mask (as is a good practice during the coronavirus pandemic), make them aware of this. Good dealers will expect a test driver to be listening for knocks and noises, so the radio should be switched off while out for a test drive.
  • Explain the features of the car. If it’s safe to accompany the test driver, you can do this while on the road. If not, it’s your chance to offer a sales pitch before they set off, making sure they are comfortable with the car as they go.

By following the above checklist, your test driver will have the best opportunity to assess the vehicle while staying safe and protecting others. What’s more, it will increase the chances of a sale.

If you are unhappy with a prospective purchaser, don’t be afraid to turn them away or offer an ‘online’ viewing before they arrive.

Demonstration cover – insurance for test drives

There are two types of demonstration cover:

Accompanied demonstration cover

Accompanied demo cover allows test drives to take place with the dealer present. This situation gives you the security that the car is less likely to be stolen, and means you can talk to the driver about the car while they are test driving it.

Unaccompanied demonstration cover

Unaccompanied demo cover means the customer can drive alone. This has proved invaluable during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing motor traders to continue to offer test drives without being present.

In all cases, you need to fit trade plates to the car for demonstration cover to be valid.

Most insurers now offer both types of demonstration insurance. Check with your insurer that this cover is in place, and, if not, speak to ChoiceQuote for a quote to include this in your road risks policy.


  • How long should I let someone test drive the car?

This is up to you as a trader, but it makes sense to give them at least half an hour, or up to an hour. Anything longer than this is unnecessary, whereas anything less won’t provide them with enough time to weigh up the car.

  • How far can a buyer test drive a car?

Again, there are no rules on this, but we would suggest no further than the driver can go to a place and back within an hour!

  • Do I need additional insurance for test drives?

Yes – you need demonstration cover. If you are safe to travel as a passenger, accompanied demonstration cover will suffice. Otherwise, you need unaccompanied demonstration cover.

  • What happens if the buyer steals the car when test driving?

Reduce the chances of this happening by carrying out thorough checks first. As long as you can document that you have done this, you should be able to claim on your insurance.