Test Drive Etiquette for Selling a Car

When selling a car, most potential buyers will request a test drive. This step will ensure that the vehicle you're selling is in good working order and operates as described in your listing or advertisement.

Since the test drive is ultimately about making the buyer feel safe and comfortable with the purchase, etiquette for the seller is important in order to make the transaction as seamless as possible.

Test-Drive Preparations

Before potential buyers begin to contact you, you'll want to have a plan for the test drive. This will help you avoid any surprises or concerns that might come up.

As a seller, you'll want to prepare for a test drive by:

  • Getting a friend to test drive the car first.
    • Ask him or her to put themselves in the shoes of the potential buyer. What concerns would he or she have?
    • Listen for any rattling sounds or other noises that can be easily fixed.
    • Pay attention to the operation of the vehicle. If something doesn't seem to be in good working order, have it checked out before the test drive.
  • Deciding on a test drive location.
  • Planning a route.
    • The route should be long enough to give the potential buyer a feel for how the car operates.
    • To give the driver a complete experience, try to plan a route that allows for driving on both the highway and surface streets.
    • If possible, look for an area where there's low in traffic to minimize the risk of an accident.
  • Making sure your car insurance covers other drivers.
    • Read your policy beforehand to make sure it will cover other drivers in an accident.
    • If not, be sure to ask the potential driver to bring along a copy of their own insurance policy for the test drive.
  • Setting up who will join you on the test drive.
    • If you have safety concerns, ask a friend or family member to join you on the test drive.
  • Giving the car a final cleaning.
    • While you've probably cleaned the vehicle prior to posting pictures online, it's still a good idea to tidy things up before the test drive—particularly if you're still driving the car.
    • Make sure to remove all personal items, including paperwork that may be in the glove box.
  • Anticipating questions the buyer may have, such as:
    • What included upgrades or modifications have been done?
    • Do you have maintenance records?
    • Do you have a vehicle history report?
    • Is there any existing warranty information?

Meeting for the Test Drive

To ease safety concerns and make the test drive experience as pleasant as possible, be sure to follow these tips when you meet a potential driver.

  • Get the buyer's information.
    • Before you hand over the keys, you'll want to verify the buyer's identity by asking for:
      • A driver's license.
        • Make sure the name and address match with the information given to you during the pre-call screening process.
        • Take a photo of the driver's license, if the buyer allows it.
      • A home or cell phone number.
      • His or her insurance card.
        • Jot down the company and policy number.
  • Make sure others know the route.
    • If you are accompanying the buyer on the test drive alone:
      • Tell anyone staying behind of the exact route you plan to take for safety.
      • Give him or her the approximate time you can expect to be gone.
      • Provide the pertinent information provided by the buyer, such as the information on the driver's license and cell phone number.
  • Be prepared for different driving habits.
    • Acceleration, braking, and cornering habits can differ from driver to driver.
    • Since the buyer has never driven your car before, be prepared for a jerkier ride until they're used to your vehicle's handling.
  • Have a planned sales pitch.
    • Making the buyer excited about a potential purchase is always a good idea.
    • Be sure to take the opportunity during a test drive to:
      • Note any special features the vehicle includes.
      • Discuss key selling points, such as low mileage, fuel efficiency, or performance of the engine.
      • Provide vehicle maintenance records to prove that the car has been properly cared for.

Inspection Requests

If all goes well during the meeting, a buyer may request an inspection from a mechanic prior to finalizing the purchase.

In this situation, be sure to:

  • Accompany the buyer to the mechanic.
    • Letting them take your car alone isn't the safest or wisest option.
  • Make sure the inspection is completed by a reputable mechanic.
  • Avoid unusual requests.
    • If the buyer lives in a different town or city and wants to take the car to his local mechanic, compromise by finding a mechanic in an area between the two of you.
  • Look for alternative solutions.
    • If possible, get an inspection yourself prior to the test drive and provide the paperwork to the buyer.
    • Providing recent maintenance paperwork beforehand can often reassure the buyer that an inspection isn't needed.
    • Obtain a vehicle history report to ease many concerns.

For more information on selling your car, including tips to finalize paperwork and avoid fraud, check out our Guide to Selling Your Car.

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