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When you’re ready to leave your learner’s permit in the dust, finding a car for your road test is crucial. If there’s no vehicle in your household, or it’s being used at the time of your test, here’s how you can find a set of wheels for the big day.
Make sure the car qualifies for road testing
First, be aware that your car will be tested, too. Before you’re allowed to take your road test, the examiner will check out the vehicle you plan to use. If the car doesn’t meet the requirements, you could be turned away.
Since you can’t pass your driving test without a car that's acceptable to your state's department of motor vehicles, it’s important to know the rules beforehand. Your DMV will likely require the vehicle you use for a driving test to:
Have car insurance. The auto insurance on the vehicle will cover you during your road test in case you crash.
Have a license plate. Some states require both front and rear plates.
Be registered, in your state or another.
Meet safety requirements, such as having a horn, brake lights, rearview mirrors and seat belts, all in working order. Some states require annual vehicle safety inspections for car owners. You might need to display the sticker showing the car has passed to take your driving test, depending on the state.
» MORE: What does car insurance cover?
Some states also require a brake within reach of the examiner from the front passenger seat. This typically means a car with a hand brake between the front seats — or at least no center console blocking access to the foot brake.
Specific requirements vary by state, so it’s a good idea to check with your DMV before you go.
Borrow a car for your driving test
You may obtain a car from anyone willing to lend it, whether it’s a friend, neighbor, relative or someone else.
It’s simplest if the owner of the vehicle comes with you to provide proof of registration and insurance. If that’s not possible, ask your DMV if it’s all right to come without the car’s owner, and what documents you should get from them beforehand.
Because auto insurance follows the car, the insurance on the vehicle you’re borrowing kicks in if there’s a crash on the way to your test or during the exam, even if the owner isn’t there.
Rent a car from a driver training school
If you can’t borrow a car from someone to take your road test, or nobody’s available to drive you, check with driver training schools in the area to see if they can help.
These schools may offer to pick you up on the day of the test or meet you at the DMV and let you use one of the school’s vehicles for your exam.
If you take driving lessons from the school, you may be able to get behind-the-wheel training in the school’s car, then use that same car for your road test. In some states, you can take your official driving test through the school rather than going to the DMV.
But even if you’re not using the school for training, ask anyway. Some will rent you a car for your driving test even if you didn’t take lessons there. In many cases, you can get familiar with the car by driving it for an hour or two before your road test.
Rental prices from driving schools vary widely, from as little as $25 to over $400, depending on where you live and whether you need transportation to and from your road test.
Rent a car from a rental company
Rental cars may be allowed for the road test in some cases, but it’s wise to double-check before putting down money for a rental.
Rental car companies allow only those with a valid license to drive their cars, so this option won’t work if you hold a learner’s permit only.
In addition, not all states allow rental vehicles for a driving test, and some rental car companies forbid using their vehicles for a test.
Typically, you can rent a vehicle in the U.S. as long as you hold a valid license from another country — plus an international driving permit, depending on your state. You’ll need to present your international license at the rental counter, along with any other documents the rental company requires, such as a passport. Bring the rental contract with you when you take your road test so the DMV can verify you’re an authorized driver.
Rental cars also have to be insured. You can buy coverage for the rental vehicle from the rental company or get insurance through the credit card you use to pay, depending on the card.
» MORE: Compare car insurance rates