Cars for the Driving Test Explained
Driving tests and test centres within the UK are run and maintained by the driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
There are various ways to obtain a car for the practical driving test although it is important that your vehicle meets the rules set by the DVSA. If your car doesn’t meet these rules, your driving test will be cancelled by the examiner and you will lose the practical driving test booking fee. If this happens, you’ll have to book another test and that make take several weeks ahead.
Discussed are the various methods that a car can be obtained for use on the driving test along with the rules that must be complied with in order to take the test.
Driving instructors car
The most frequent and ideal solution is to use the driving instructor’s car that you have been taking lessons in. When you start a course of driving lessons, it is often the case that you will take the practical test in the same vehicle as the lessons. This is beneficial as all cars feel different to drive and take a little time to get used to. Driving instructors often use many reference markers, especially for the manoeuvres.
These reference markers are usually car specific, so using the same car for the test as you used on your lessons will help with confidence. Occasionally however, an instructor may become ill or their tuition car may breakdown making it necessary for you to source another car for the driving test. Ideally, try and source another driving instructors car.
Book a car for the driving test
Many individuals come to the UK with plenty of driving experience and look to book a car for the driving test. Booking a driving instructors car is ideal as it will have the appropriate car insurance, driving test mirrors, dual controls and L plates.
As soon as you have your driving test booked, find a local instructor to book their car. Driving instructors can get busy and can have diaries fully booked for several weeks ahead, so try and provide as much notice as possible. Ideally take a lesson or two before the day of the test with the instructor that you have booked the car with as this will enable you to get familiar with the car and its controls which you will need to know for the Show Me Tell Me section of the driving test. This will also give you the chance to minimise any bad habits you may have gained over the years.
A driving instructor may not allow you to book a car unless they have seen your ability to drive before the test. A driving instructor’s car is their livelihood and many instructors feel a responsibility in knowing that an individual is at test standard before allowing them to take the car for a test. Certain instructors may allow this however, especially if they have immediate access to another car in the event of any problems. A driving instructor is even less likely to allow you to use their car if it for an extended driving test. Many driving instructor’s car insurance will not cover them for previously disqualified drivers.
Can You Take the Driving test in own car?
Yes, you are permitted to use your own car for the driving test provided your car meets the requirements set out by the DVSA. It makes sense to take the driving test in a car that you’re used to driving. So if you’ve been taking private driving lessons in a family or friends car, you can use that to take the test in. If you take the driving test in an automatic car, you will be licensed to drive only automatics and will need to retake the driving test in a manual if you wish to drive one with manual transmission. See automatic licence to manual for further information.
Driving test car requirements
When you meet the examiner for the first time, they will ask you to sign a declaration form to state that the car is appropriately insured for the driving test. If you are unwilling to sign this form for any reason, the driving test will be cancelled and the test fee will likely be lost. Once at the car, before the driving examiner sits in the passenger seat, they will take a brief look at all four tyres to ensure they are road worthy.
The driving test requirements set out by the DVSA are as follows. Tyres must have at least 1.6 mm of tread depth around the entire circumference of the tyre and at least 3/4 of the breadth of the tyre. Tyres must also not have any significant cuts or bulges. If the examiner feels the car is not road worthy, they may cancel the test and you will likely lose the test fee.
The car you take on the practical driving test must:
- have four wheels
- have a valid tax (if applicable)
- have current and appropriate insurance
- be capable of reaching at least 62.5 miles per hour (mph) or 100 kilometres per hour (km/h)
- be fitted with a speedometer that measures speed in mph
- have no warning or engine management lights showing – for example, the airbag warning light
- display L-plates (‘L’ or ‘D’ plates in Wales) on the front and rear of the vehicle ensuring they do not interfere with yours or the examiners view
- have a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of no more than 3,500 kilograms (kg)
MAM is the maximum weight of the vehicle including the maximum load that can be carried safely while used on the road. This is also known as ‘gross vehicle weight’.
The vehicle must be fitted with:
- a seat belt for the driving examiner
- a passenger head restraint – it’s not necessary to be adjustable, but must be an integral part of the seat as ‘slip on’ types are not permitted
- an interior rear-view mirror for the examiner to use. See driving test mirror for further information
Car hire for driving test
Another common question asked by individuals wishing to take the UK driving test is ‘Can you take the driving test in a rental car?‘ Yes, you are permitted to use rental cars for the driving test. A rental / hire car must be fitted with dual controls if you wish to use it for the driving test. Typical hire cars however do not have dual controls and a specialised hire company may need to be located. Other than the lack of dual controls, it is unlikely that a car hire companies insurance will cover a learner driver taking the driving test. If you are able to find a specialised car hire company, the hire price will likely amount to being significantly higher than an instructors car and may involve further travel. Along with dual controls, a hired car for the driving test must also meet the requirements above.
Driving Test and Electric Cars
Electric cars are becoming more common and will inevitably become increasingly involved with driving tests. Can you use an electric car on the driving test? Yes of course, but be advised that electric cars are classified as automatic, so if you pass the test in an electric car, you’ll only be licensed to drive vehicles with automatic transmission – this includes electric and traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. The rules set out by the DVSA for driving test cars are the same for electric cars.
The driving test and electric car range
Electric cars all come with different size batteries which affect the range of the vehicle. It’s important to ensure that your electric car has sufficient charge for the 40 minute driving test. How many miles you’ll travel during a 40 minute driving test will vary depending on test centre location, type of roads and time of day (congestion). You could roughly estimate this at around 20 miles covered, though best to up this to 30 miles to be on the safe side. You’ll also need to consider the journey getting to the test centre and how far you need to drive once the test is complete.
Cars not permitted on driving test
Certain cars have space saver spare tyre. It is illegal to exceed 50 mph on a space saver tyre and these tyres are designed for temporary use only. The driving test is likely to involve higher speeds of up to 70 mph. Ensure your vehicles space saver tyre is not in use and that the tyres comply with current laws. Convertible cars are problematic due to reduced visibility. If you intend on taking your driving test in a convertible, ensure that it is permitted by the DVSA. DVSA contact details can be found on the How to start learning to drive information page.
- Information regarding taking driving lessons in your own car.