When purchasing a used car in a private-party sale, it is especially important to take the vehicle for a test drive. This is the best way to see how the car handles and whether it runs smoothly. During a test drive, however, you don't want to leave yourself uninsured. Few drivers stop to consider whether they are insured when test-driving a used car, but everyone should take the time to make sure they will be protected while behind the wheel.
Dealerships' Insurance Policies
When shopping for a car at a dealership like Auto Max, insurance is usually not a concern. Most dealers have commercial auto insurance policies that cover their cars while customers test-drive them. Maintaining insurance coverage during test drives is part of doing business as a dealer, and they treat this as one of their operating expenses.
Individuals selling their cars, however, are not in the business of selling cars. Therefore, they do not maintain the same type of commercial auto insurance. Whether you are insured when test-driving a used car being sold through a private-party sale will depend on your and the seller's personal auto insurance policy.
The Private Seller's Insurance Policy
As Esurance explains, car insurance policies typically follow the car, not the driver. Generally, any licensed driver who operates the seller's car with their permission is insured by the seller's policy. As long as you are given permission to test-drive their car, you will likely be considered a permissive driver and be insured through their policy.
In a few cases, the seller's policy may not extend coverage to you, even if you are given permission to take the car for a test drive. For instance, some car insurance policies exclude drivers with DUIs or lots of accidents from being permissive drivers. If the seller's policy excludes drivers with DUIs and you have a DUI, then you won't be covered by their insurer when test-driving the car.
Other car insurance policies only insure specifically named drivers. If the seller has a named-driver-only policy and you aren't on the list of named drivers, then the policy may:
- not cover you
- lower its limits to the state minimums if you're behind the wheel
- double the deductibles when you're driving the car
Your Insurance Policy
If the limits of the seller's policy are lower than yours, then your car insurance may extend some coverage. The limits of the seller's policy may be lower if you are excluded by their policy, they have a named-driver-only policy or they simply have less coverage.
Most policies don't extend all coverages, though. According to Car Insurance Comparison, your insurance's liability, medical payments and uninsured motorist coverage will still apply when you are driving someone else's car. Comprehensive and collision coverage often do not transfer, however. Thus, even if your insurance policy is protecting you during the test drive, your coverage may be different from what you usually have.
A Seller's Responsibility
Before test-driving a used car that you are thinking of purchasing in a private-party sale, ask the seller about their insurance policy and read over your own. As long as they have a standard auto insurance policy without any odd exclusions and your policy lets you drive others' cars, you'll be all set to go.
If their policy excludes you as a driver, however, don't be afraid to ask if they will adjust their policy. If they want to sell their car, they should be willing to insure it so that interested parties can test-drive it. Extending coverage to you for a day will only cost them a few dollars.
You likely won't be in an accident while test-driving a car. If you are, though, you will want adequate insurance coverage. Be sure to ask the seller about their auto insurance policy -- and ask them to adjust their policy if it excludes you -- before going for a test drive.