Yes or No: Test Drives with a Car Salesperson Present

Should a salesperson accompany you on a test drive? We've got the scoop - and some tips on how to get the most satisfaction during your time behind the wheel.

Test Drive, Test Drives Acura
2022 Acura RDX driver's seat. Photo: Annika Carter

Test Drives with Car Salespeople: Is this Really Necessary?

You’re considering purchasing a new car, your research is done, and now you have an idea of what you want. You head to the dealership and want to take the car for a test drive, but you find out the sales rep has to be in the car with you. As a woman, how does this make you feel?

I contacted a few of my colleagues here at A Girls Guide to Cars and also visited a few dealerships in Michigan to compile some valuable tips to help you navigate your next test drive.

I feel that Holly Fourniquet said it best: “More women need to be in the room when deciding these sales tactics.”

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We always want to feel empowered when we test drive a car – not unsafe or pressured. Photo: Kim S.

Solo Test Drives: It’s a Personal Safety Thing

As women, our safety is our number one priority, and in my research, many ladies responded that they bring their dads or husbands along to test drives. Somewhere along the line, we, as women, were made to feel as though we couldn’t make car buying decisions without a male present and that having a male present with us adds an extra safety feature for us.

Sara Lacey said,At one dealership, the sales guy came with my husband and me. At another one, the guy didn’t. If I were alone, I would not have liked to be in the car with the salesperson.”

As women, we should feel confident, comfortable, and capable of making decisions like this on our own without a male figure present because not all women have a male figure in their life that can come with them to test drive a car.

When I went to various dealerships to test drive vehicles and then returned with a male, the experience was completely different. I learned a lot, and here is what I have to share with you.

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Many people prefer the salespeople to stay at the dealership while test driving cars. Photo: Grappone Automotive

Does a Salesperson Have to be Present During a Test Drive?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Typically this depends on the dealership’s insurance and company policies, and sometimes the dealership wants someone along with you to “sell” you on the car. Ironically, this tactic backfires for the sales rep more often than not, because who wants a strange person talking to you about the car and making you feel uncomfortable when you are simply trying to find a vehicle that makes YOU feel comfortable?

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No need for stress behind the wheel when you take a solo test drive. Photo: Martine Foreman

Pro Tips to Obtain a Solo Test Drive

As a customer, there are a few things you can do to try and get that solo test drive:

If you are at the dealership already, “I can make a better decision if I take the vehicle out on my own” is a great response when they want to come with you.

If you can plan in advance, we recommend calling the dealership to verify the car you want is available for a test drive, and if so, ask to schedule a test drive. During this conversation, this is your opportunity as the consumer to ask if you can take the test drive without a salesperson. If they say that’s against their policy, let them know you will be calling a different dealership. If they want to make the sale and are a good dealership, they’ll ask more about why the solo test drive is important to you, and this is where you can explain your concerns.

 Sometimes, if you ask the dealership if you could have a rundown of the car so you know how things function before hitting the road with it, they’re more willing to allow you to take it out solo.

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When you are taking a car for a test drive, sometimes no passengers and no distractions are best. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What Should I Do if the Salesperson Insists on Coming Along?

If the salesperson insists on coming with you for a test drive, make it clear that you want to drive the vehicle on your terms and experience it on multiple road surfaces and at varying speeds. Stand your ground, and don’t be coerced into a quick trip around the dealership on ultra-smooth roads.

While I was at one car dealership, the sales manager told me they (the sales reps) feel they have more control over the car purchasing situation when they ride with you. I pushed back and said I was uncomfortable having someone ride with me while I made a very important and expensive decision. The sales manager looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.

At that moment, another sales rep approached me and asked if I would be more comfortable with a female in the car and if they could call another dealership and see if they had a female salesperson available to ride along with me. While I appreciated the acknowledgment of bringing me more comfort, I just wanted to try the car independently to avoid distractions and test it out on my terms.

Regarding ride-alongs, Patrick Anderson made a great point: “When I was younger, the salesperson always insisted on riding with me. Now, I get to do drives without them. It makes a huge difference in the test drive process. When you are solo, you can check out the car at your own pace and focus on what is important to you, not the dealer.”

Probably One Of The Top Driver-Friendly Cars I'Ve Test Driven. Photo: Jill Robbins

If you want a solo test driving experience, the first thing to do is ask. Photo: Jill Robbins

5 Tips to Get a Solo Test Drive

After all this talk with my A Girls Guide to Cars contemporaries, paired with my dealership experiences, I have come up with five tips that will help you get a solo test drive.

  1. Ask for a solo test drive. Sometimes it is as simple as that.
  2. Call different dealerships, and find out if they offer solo test drives. If they don’t, ask them if there is any way you can get one. After going to different dealerships, I was told that some can call their insurance company to get clearance for a solo test drive. Scotty Reiss has been on solo test-drives at dealerships after signing a waiver and presenting her driver’s license and a copy of her car insurance. Clearly, different dealerships have different policies.
  3. One dealership told me that they’re more likely to let someone test drive a car solo if the female brings someone with her. For instance, the female could bring her brother or her dad to help her car shop. When I questioned it, the sales rep said just having a male with the female will get her a test drive over going on her own. While this is NOT what I wanted to put in as a tip, unfortunately, I thought it was an important one that might help you.
  4. How you present yourself matters. If you show up to the dealership looking like a hot mess, more often than not, the salesperson will want to be the driver of your test drive. If you are a female and show up with a nice outfit, hair done, and proper shoes (sneakers are best), you’ll have a great chance of scoring a solo test drive.
  5. If you absolutely can’t get a solo test drive, make it clear to the salesperson that you want to drive the vehicle at various speeds, on different surfaces, and not just the path they’d like you to be on.
A Girls Guide To Cars | Yes Or No: Test Drives With A Car Salesperson Present - Porsche Subscription

When it comes to solo test drives, stand your ground: you have the right to feel safe. Photo: Connie Peters

Final Thoughts about Solo Test Drives

As a female, you should feel safe and confident when it comes to car buying, and from reading this article, you know that going for a test drive is not the same experience for everyone. Be strong, stand your ground. If one dealership says you can’t have a solo ride, go to another one. Because you know what? Eventually, one is going to let you have that solo test drive.

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A foodie, adventurer, Michigander and marketing manager, Erica Terry blogs at Fashion Meets Food when not traveling, hiking, backpacking... More about Erica Terry