If you don’t own a car, getting your first driver’s license can feel like a chicken and egg situation; you need a driver’s license to rent a car, but you need a car to get your driver’s license. If you’re gearing up for your road test but don’t own a vehicle, don’t panic — there are still options, like borrowing from a friend or renting from your driving school. We cover the basics below.
Taking a Driving Test If You Don’t Own a Car
Taking a driving test without a personal vehicle is still possible, but it’s important to be aware of insurance requirements or state-specific laws for each option before making your trip to the DMV.
Borrow from a friend or family member
If you’re a teenager taking your driver’s test for the first time, the most common solution is to borrow your parent’s car for your road test — ideally the same one used for practice drives leading up to your test. Older first-time drivers can reach out to friends and family to see if anyone will lend them a car for a few hours. However, it’s not as simple as picking up the keys and promising to return the vehicle after the test is completed.
Before agreeing to let you take their vehicle, the car’s owner should check their auto insurance policy; insurance policies follow the car, not the driver, which means that if you get in a crash in their vehicle, the car’s owner is financially liable. Additionally, if you live in the same household as the car’s owner or borrow the car frequently, the insurance provider may decline coverage. In this case, the car’s owner should check their policy details — or even consider adding you to their policy.
Before borrowing a car, it’s also important to make sure that the vehicle is safe; the DMV requires it for road tests. While your state’s requirements could vary, generally all lights, turn signals, windows, and doors must be operable. Check out your state’s Department of Licensing site and make sure that you’ve performed all required safety checks, or you could be turned away from your driver’s test.
Rent a car from a driving school
If borrowing a vehicle from a friend or family member isn’t an option, ask your driving school if they offer a rental service. Many driving schools are aware of the limitations placed by traditional car rental agencies and have made options available.
Depending on your driving school, they may offer to meet you with a car at the DMV or pick you up on the test date. Some schools will even meet you at the DMV early and help you practice before taking the test. These rental cars are usually only available to students who have completed their program.
Still looking for a place to learn how to drive? Read our tips on finding the best driving school.
Rent a car from a car rental agency
Most rental agencies won’t let you rent a car for a road test unless you already have a valid U.S. driver’s license. The one exception? International drivers testing for their U.S. license can usually rent from an agency using an international license.
Your international license is likely enough to rent a car for your road test; however, some states require an additional International Driving Permit (IDP), so check your state’s requirements online. Since you have to obtain an IDP in your home country, you’ll want to know if you need it before arriving in the U.S.
The car rental company will check your driving history; if you have blemishes on your record, they may cancel your reservation. Typically, you must be at least 25 years old, have a credit card, and carry insurance to rent a car.
If you’re looking to rent a car for your road test, you can find our top picks for car rental sites here; before selecting one, make sure to check the terms and conditions for international drivers.
Road Test FAQ
Can you rent a car with a permit?
Car rental agencies do not allow you to rent a car with a permit; in order to rent a car, you must present a valid U.S. or international license. However, if you took lessons at a driving school, they may have cars available to rent for the purposes of a driving test.
Do I need insurance to borrow a car from a friend?
No, you don’t need auto insurance to borrow a car from a friend. However, they should check that their policy will cover you when driving their car. Insurance requirements vary by state, and many policies will not cover a frequent borrower unless they are listed on the policy.
Will the DMV really turn me away from my road test if my vehicle looks unsafe?
Yes, DMV employees have the right to refuse to get in a car that looks unsafe to them. If the car you’ve borrowed or rented for your driving test doesn’t meet the DMV’s safety standards, they will ask you to reschedule and return with another vehicle.
- If you’re looking to rent a car for your driving test, find a driving school in your area that rents cars to students. Read more about picking the best driving school in our guide to driving schools.
- Talk to car rental agencies about how to rent a car for your road test if you’re an international resident looking to get a U.S. driver’s license.
- Read more about adding a teen driver to your auto insurance policy once they ace their driving test.