When you’re ready to leave your learner’s permit in the dust, finding a car for your road test is crucial. But if there’s no vehicle in your household, or it’s being used at the time of your test, you’re probably wondering where you can find a set of wheels for the big day.
Getting a car for your road test: options at a glance
|Borrow a car from someone||All drivers|
|Rent a car from a driver training school||All drivers|
|Rent a car from a rental company||Drivers licensed in another country|
If you don’t have a valid license in any country, you can’t drive unaccompanied to the road test. You’ll need a licensed driver to ride along or to meet you at the test site with a vehicle if you’re getting there another way.
If you have a valid international license (and in some states both a license and a valid International Driving Permit), you can drive yourself unaccompanied to the site.
Borrowing a car from someone else
You may obtain a car from anyone willing to lend it, whether it’s a friend, neighbor, relative or someone else.
Any vehicle you borrow for your road test must:
- Have car insurance (the insurance on the vehicle will cover you during your road test)
- Have a license plate (some states require both front and rear plates)
- Be registered in your state or another
- Meet safety requirements (working brake lights and horn, mirrors intact, etc.). Some states require annual vehicle-safety inspections for car owners. You might need to display the sticker showing the car has passed, depending on the state.
It’s simplest if the owner of the vehicle comes with you to provide proof of registration and insurance. If that’s not possible, contact your department of motor vehicles and ask if it’s all right to come without the car’s owner, and what documents you should get from him or her beforehand.
Because car 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.
Renting a car from a driver training school
If you can’t borrow a car from anyone, 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.
Prices vary but could run $80 or higher, depending on where you live.
Renting a car from a rental company
Rental cars may be allowed for the road test, but it’s wise to double-check with your DMV before putting down money for a rental.
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. Rental car companies allow only those with a valid license to drive their cars, so this option won’t work if you hold only a learner’s permit.
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. If your license doesn’t use the Roman alphabet, you’ll probably need an International Driving Permit as well. 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: Rental car insurance explained
Alex Glenn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a consumer finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.