What happens if you get into an accident during a test drive?

Test drives are fun – you get to feel the acceleration of your dream car, listen to the beautiful roar of the 4,000 cc engine of the car of your dreams, and test out its 0-60 mph timing. That is, until you get into a car crash during the test drive.

The scenario couldn’t be more embarrassing and even surreal test drive insurance– one moment you’re chatting with the sales representative about the power of their vehicle, and the next moment you’re staggering out of a car wreck after an unfortunate misjudgment of distance.

Embarrassment and the awkward atmosphere with the sales representative aside, a more serious, down-to-earth question comes into play: so, what happens next after you’ve crashed in a test drive?

Crashing during a test drive – So, what happens next?

The driver has to take responsibility for the accident, which goes without saying. Even though the driver may argue that the vehicle is the dealership’s property and thus is under their jurisdiction, the fact remains that transferred temporary responsibility has been transferred to the test driver during the test drive. That means that the test driver must deal with the consequences of the accident through the dealer’s policy and bear any ancillary costs.

Depending on the nature of the accident, the dealer might suggest for the offending customer to purchase the vehicle, even though they are not legally obliged to do so. By doing so, the repairs for the vehicle will be your responsibility – you are now the owner of the car!

Generally, accidents that occur during a test drive are usually fairly minor. If the damages are pretty substantial then the right thing to do will be to absorb the damages and purchase the car. If the damage is too great, however, it would be unwise to purchase the car (or what’s left of the car) – do not let the dealership coerce you into making this one-sided deal.

What about the dealership’s insurance coverage?

Any dealer worth his or her weight in salt who sends a potential customer on a test drive will compel the test driver to sign forms, which transfers responsibility of all damages to the vehicle to the driver.

If the car is involved in a serious accident, or if the test-driver refuses to purchase the vehicle, the dealership will invoke their insurance’s coverage. However, the test-driver will still be required to pay a set amount for the damages he caused, usually calculated by the amount of deductibles that was set aside for the test-driven vehicle.

Using the test-driver’s own insurance coverage

Often, the dealership will suggest for the test driver to make a claim from their own policy rather than from of the dealers. This move is not unprecedented, especially if the test-driver was alone in the test-driven vehicle at the time of the accident.

However, the test-driver should think this through very carefully and consult with their insurance company before making any commitments. They will have to ensure that their insurance coverage extends to vehicles that are not owned by them. A baseless claim may even be viewed by insurance companies as fraudulent claims, and will result in even more trouble for the test-driver.

Still, there are many smaller dealers that do not purchase insurance for their vehicles, because of the hefty premiums and deductibles they will have to shoulder. This is where you should think twice before even entering this dealership – if the dealership cannot even spend to protect its fleet of vehicles, what makes it reliable?

Even if it means walking away from your dream car, you should not take the risk of driving a car that is completely uninsured – if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to use your own insurance coverage in the case of a test-drive accident. Even then, such measures are unnecessary if the dealer has coverage for its fleet of vehicles.

The Final Word On Crashing During A Test Drive

Being involved in an accident during a test drive must be everyone’s nightmare, but this nightmare can be cut short if you’re dealing with an honest, reputable dealer. However, there are always a few black sheeps in any industry who will force you into the purchase of the damaged vehicle because of the lack of insurance coverage on their fleet of vehicles.

As such, when test-driving the vehicle of your choice, the test driver must insist in finding out whether the dealer has purchased insurance coverage for the test-driven car.

Car insurance that covers potential owners in the event of a test-drive accident is the least of what car dealerships can do to protect their own vehicles. Dealerships who attempt to put the onus on potential buyers during a test drive show lack of professionalism – this may reflect bad work ethics or bad management, and you will do well to stay clear of these dodgy car dealerships


  Comments: 7

  1. A friend had a “for sale sign” on his personal lot and was selling for another person. My son-in-law worked for the man showing the car. He let he and his wife test dirive the vehicle. They hit a dog while test driving this vehicle. He and the owner are saying that it’s $500 damage. Who’s responsible for this?

    • When you let someone else drive your car, you will take full responsibility. It’s like when you teach someone driving, and you sit on side with a full license. Now with that side, you have a unique case. The person who hit the dog obviously did the action, insurance companies can usually settle those fault by percentage. Morally speaking she should take the responsibility but if not you can also file a civil law suit. Given that, because I was not there with you guys, the real fault can still be hard to determine. For example, if you are driving straight on a highway under speed limit and a dog runs out from nowhere because the owner is too busy texting on his phone instead of holding the leashes… so many possibilities.

    • Andrew@4AutoInsuranceQuote

      Hi Maria,
      Your son-in-law is likely responsible since he was the driver who caused the damage to the car. However, it’s also possible that the dog’s owner would share some of the responsibility, depending on the situation. It seems unlikely that there are paperwork and documentation showing who is responsible for what during a test drive. If your son-in-law refuses to pay, then it’s possible he would get sued by the owner and seller, although financially it doesn’t make much sense to sue for $500. The right thing to do would be to ask the dog’s owner for partial compensation, and then your son-in-law would need to pay the rest of the $500.

  2. What happens if I test drive a private persons motorcycle and it falls over while I’m sitting on it?

    • I’ve just had a similar experience, Mary. Only I actually was encouraged by the man to drive his unlicensed and uninsured high powered scooter. I denied because I really just want a low powered scooter to drive around town. He again encouraged me to drive it but again warned me of the “power” and lack of license and insurance. Like an idiot, I said ok and got on the scooter. I turned the throttle, literally took off so fast I had no control! I went across the street and wiped out in a neighbors yard. Thank goodness there wasn’t anything there to smash into. I only ended up with bruises and an ankle sprain. NOW, he is making me take all of the blame and wanting my insurance company to pay him. In fact, he made the statement that I likely totaled it. I’ve filed a claim and if my insurance approves it I’ll be responsible for my 500$ deductible. I feel I was placed in a situation I didn’t understand (the power of the bike….holy cow! And, how do I know there wasn’t something wrong with it in the first place!) Of course, it was my stupid decision to drive it but I do not believe I am totally to blame. Does anyone have any advice or answer to this issue? I would sure appreciate it!

      • Andrew@4AutoInsuranceQuote

        Hi Angel,
        Unfortunately, the fact that you accepted his offer to drive the scooter, when it wasn’t insured and the owner didn’t accept responsibility, means there isn’t much else that you can do. Oftentimes in liability situations, the legal liability aspect is different than the “social” part of it, where you feel like you don’t deserve 100% of the blame. That might be true, but legally speaking, there isn’t anything the owner of the scooter has against him. From the eyes of the law, you willingly drove the scooter and were responsible for the accident, that is it. It might not be fair in all situations, but that’s how it works.

    • Andrew@4AutoInsuranceQuote

      Hi Mary,
      In these private buy/sell situations, it’s all dependent on the circumstances and people involved. If you agreed to a test-drive and caused damage to the motorcycle while doing so, then you are likely responsible for most, if not all, of the damages from a moral standpoint. From a legal standpoint, there isn’t much there, but if this was being settled in a court of law, it’s likely the judge would order you to pay for 70-80% of the damages, and the other person 20-30% for not having better safeguards in place. Your insurance company won’t have much in this, because of the low dollar amount involved and you would have a deductible, but you could file this as a liability claim and they would pay it.

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