Everyone is eager to drive as soon as they can. So much so that a few people will begin the car-buying process as soon as they receive their learner’s permit. However, that means taking a test drive or two to ensure they get the right vehicle for their needs.
Generally speaking, you can test drive any car with a learner’s permit in most states. However, there are a few states that prohibit test driving for permit holders. Even in those states that allow it, you may find that test driving is impractical due to other restrictions.
Fortunately, there are ways to work around test-driving restrictions. By reading further, you will learn about these workarounds along with their pros and cons.
Are You Allowed to Test Drive a Car with Just a Learner’s Permit?
Buying a car is a major investment. As such, you want to test drive any vehicle you are thinking of purchasing. However, if you are a new driver with only a permit, you might be wondering how early you can begin the process before your license arrives.
Fortunately, most new drivers can test drive any vehicle with just a learner’s permit. You just need to be at least 18 years old and obey the normal new driver restrictions for your state. However, this is not true for all states.
- Some states, such as Virginia, prohibit learner’s permit holders from all forms of test driving.
- Other states, such as New York, require the new driver to be accompanied by a fully licensed adult.
- Some states allow it but restrict test driving to even a single type of vehicle.
In either case, these restrictions come as extensions to the local, new driver prohibitions.
Learner’s Permit Test Driving Restrictions Per State
No car dealer will help you if permit holders are prohibited from test driving in your area. Therefore, you must consult with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) before you do anything else. To help you get started, here is a quick guide to the various test-driving restrictions around the nation.
- Alabama – no restrictions on test driving.
- Alaska – allows student drivers 18 and older to test drive.
- Arizona – no restrictions on test driving.
- Arkansas – allows student drivers 18 and old to test drive.
- California – no restrictions on test driving.
- Colorado – no restrictions on test driving.
- Connecticut – student drivers prohibited from test-driving vehicles.
- Delaware – allows learner’s permit holders to test drive vehicles after 6 months.
- Florida – no restrictions on test driving.
- Georgia – student drivers can test drive vehicles after 6 months.
- Hawaii – no restriction on test driving.
- Idaho – no restrictions on test driving.
- Illinois – no restrictions on test driving.
- Indiana – no restrictions on test driving for student drivers 18 years old or older.
- Iowa – no test-driving restrictions for learner’s permit holders 18 years or older.
- Kansas – no restrictions on test driving.
- Kentucky – no restrictions on test driving.
- Louisiana – no restrictions on test driving.
- Maine – only permit holders 21 and older can test drive.
- Maryland – no restrictions on test driving.
- Massachusetts – no restrictions on test driving.
- Michigan – student drivers cannot test-drive vehicles.
- Minnesota – no restrictions on test driving.
- Mississippi – no test-driving restrictions for student drivers 18 years old or older.
- Missouri – no test-driving restrictions for student drivers 16 years old or older.
- Montana – no restrictions on test driving.
- Nebraska – no restrictions on test driving.
- Nevada – no restrictions on test driving.
- New Hampshire – no restrictions on test driving.
- New Jersey – no restrictions on test driving for student drivers after 6 months.
- New Mexico – student drivers are prohibited from test driving.
- New York – student drivers are prohibited from test driving in NYC; elsewhere, they must be accompanied by a licensed driver.
- North Carolina – must be at least 16 years old to test drive a car.
- North Dakota – Must be accompanied by a licensed driver to test drive.
- Ohio – must be at least 16 years old to test drive a car.
- Oklahoma – no restrictions on test driving.
- Oregon – Student drivers mu be accompanied by a licensed driver to test drive.
- Pennsylvania – student drivers are prohibited from test-driving cars.
- Rhode Island – no restrictions on test driving.
- South Carolina – no restrictions on test driving.
- South Dakota – no restriction on test driving.
- Tennessee – student drivers are prohibited from test driving.
- Texas – Must be accompanied by a licensed driver to test drive.
- Utah – student drivers are prohibited from test driving.
- Vermont – no restrictions on test driving.
- Virginia – must be at least 16 years old to test drive a car.
- Washington – Must be accompanied by a licensed driver to test drive.
- West Virginia – Must be accompanied by a licensed driver to test drive.
- Wisconsin – must be at least 18 years old to test drive a car.
- Wyoming – must be accompanied by a licensed driver to test drive.
Disadvantages of Test-Driving Cars with a Learner’s Permit
Even if your state allows you to test drive cars with a learner’s permit, you may not want to wait until you get your license. Most permits only last around 6 months before you must renew or upgrade to a license. That alone might a good reason to wait, but it is far from the only one.
Most states have strict age policies on when someone can apply for a license and get a permit. These restrictions will vary between states, but most of them are switching over to a “gradual driver’s license (GDL) program.
Under most GDLs, you must be at least 18 before you can apply for an actual learner’s permit. Before then, you can only drive under very controlled instructional circumstances. Most dealers recognize this and will not work with an underage driver.
You Cannot Drive Alone with Just a Permit
Every state demands that student drivers drive with a licensed adult driver as a passenger unless they are in very specific unusual circumstances. Not only must this licensed driver be in the car, but they also must be in the front passenger seat. This arrangement is for the safety, guidance, and supervision of the student driver.
However, it can put a wrench in your attempts to test drive a new car. Most dealers insist that one of their representatives sit in the passenger seat. This rep exists to prevent you from stealing the vehicle while continuing the same pitch for the car. But many states often restrict this seat to approved driving instructors and family members.
Luckily, most states lift this restriction after six months of driving. At this point, you likely already have enough training to apply for a full license. So, it may still be worth it to just wait until your license arrives, freeing you from all of these restrictions.
You Can Lose Your Permit if You Get Caught Breaking the Law
As a student driver, you face severe penalties if you ever get caught breaking the rules or the road. You could lose your learner’s permit or be banned from driving, for starters. While you could conceivably reapply, most states require that you wait a few years before you can do so. Even that is not guaranteed.
Beyond your permit, there is a potential impact on your finances and credit. Most states prohibit learner’s permit holders from having automobile insurance under their name. As a result, you might be liable for any financial compensation or repairs that result from your reckless driving.
Because of this, most auto dealers and sellers will refuse to allow student drivers to test drive their stock. Their insurance may not cover it either, and they may not want to risk you ruining their inventory.
Permit Holders Cannot Own or Register Vehicles
Most states also prohibit learner’s permit holders from registering their vehicles. Sure, you can buy your new ride, but you cannot take possession of it. As a result, no dealer will let you test drive their cars since they know they cannot complete the sale. They would have to retain the ownership title until you get your license, making them liable for any problems you may cause before then.
Rent to Avoid Test Driving Restrictions
Test driving brings numerous benefits to the table. It lets you find the right car for you. It also lets you check these cars for defects and other issues before you buy them. Luckily, there are ways to test drive regardless of the driving restrictions that come with your learner’s permit.
You Can Drive Some Vehicles without a License
Some states allow you to operate some vehicles without a license. They are usually ATVs or farm equipment. Also, some states allow certain professions, such as taxi drivers, to drive without a license. You will only have a few test-driving options under these freebies, but they are there if you need them.
Borrow Your Family’s or Friend’s Car
With a learner’s permit, you must drive with a licensed adult driver in the passenger seat. You can take advantage of that to test drive the vehicles your family and friends own. Ask around to see if someone will lend you their car, and then come along for the ride.
As long as they have a clean driving record and fit within your state’s restrictions for you, you can even use the opportunity to gather some practice driving and advice.
Take a Driving Course
All licensed driving courses will provide a vehicle for you to drive as a part of the course. Your instructor will usually come along for the ride as well, ensuring that you remain in compliance with local laws. Some courses may let you take the car for your driving test or use it outside of class times.
Rent a Car
For a more realistic test-driving experience with a learner’s permit, you can try renting your rides. Most states will allow you to rent vehicles with just a permit. So, the only things holding you back are the price, convincing a rental shop to work with you, and finding someone to ride with you.
Still, renting your car may be cheaper and more advantageous than taking a driving course. That is because most rental companies offer short-term rentals. These rentals all you to rent a car without the usual requirements for a full-time rental. As a result, you can rent a new car every day, especially if you bring a friend for extra safety.
Please note that some states do put restrictions on who can rent a car. Even if your state does not, your rental company certainly will. Luckily, this restriction usually just means you must be at least 18 or 21. You can get around these restrictions by lettering your parent or guardian to rent the car for you. From there, you just have to concern yourself with the local driving laws.
Pros and Cons of Renting with a Permit
Renting cars with just a permit is not for everyone. It does come with risks traditional test driving does not have. Still, it does have its fair share of advantages as well.
Pros of Renting
A few of the benefits of renting with a permit include:
- Test drive multiple types of cars without the pressure to buy.
- Allows you to try out different car features with comfort and ease.
- Helps find a car best suited for your climate and driving conditions.
- Fewer restrictions than in traditional test driving.
- Easier and simpler to manage and budget, especially for young drivers.
- No maintenance or repair costs.
Cons of Renting
The downsides of renting with a permit include:
- More expensive for them to test drive or own a car, with rates as high as $40 per day.
- Requires insurance coverage which might be difficult to obtain with just a permit.
- You might need a cosigner with a valid license to rent a car with a permit.
- You must ensure that you meet all local requirements and restrictions each time you drive.
- Not all rental companies allow permit holders to rent their vehicles.
- You must be at least 18 or 21, depending on your state.
Test driving lets you try out cars before you buy them. However, you might have issues scheduling them with just a learner’s permit. Depending on your state, you might have workarounds, though. They might not be ideal, but they can help student drivers learn to drive.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!