Last Updated on July 1, 2023 by Kristin
It’s a classic Catch-22 situation: You need a car to learn how to drive and take your road test. But you can’t drive a rental car because you haven’t got a driver’s license. Borrowing a car from friends or family is one option. Using a rental car for a driving road test is off the table, with one exception.
Why You Can’t Rent a Car for Your Road Test
There are basic rental rules that make it impossible to use a rental car for a driving road test. Certain states may allow it for the road test itself, but rental car companies don’t. Rental car companies require primary and additional drivers to have valid driver’s licenses. A learner’s permit is not good enough. Some rental car companies have specific clauses that specifically prohibit using a rental vehicle for a road test.
Here’s an example of how this situation might get very messy. Washington, DC’s DMV allows rental cars for driving tests if the test-taker is listed on the contract as an authorized driver. But Budget specifically states in its contract that student drivers can’t rent a car for their tests. Enterprise and Alamo also don’t allow student drivers with learner’s permits to drive their vehicles. So a state or jurisdiction may technically allow you to use a rental car for the test. But you’ll have to find a car company willing to let you drive with only a learner’s permit. Based on the major brands’ policies, the chances are slim to none.
Secondly, there is always a minimum age for renting a car. Depending on how old you are when you take your road test, this might be an additional hurdle to using a rental car for a road test.
Rental car companies require drivers to be anywhere from 18 to 21 to rent a car, and they typically charge anyone under 25 a young renter fee. But again, even if you do meet the rental company’s age requirements, you’ll still run into the above-mentioned issue of needing a full driver’s license.
Car Rental Policies About Driving Tests
All the major car rental companies spell out their basic rental rules on their websites, and some brands explicitly discourage student drivers from trying to use a rental car for a road test.
For example, Budget says: “No, you cannot rent a car for your driving test because only licensed drivers are able to rent vehicles. You’re not quite there yet! Additionally, you need to be at least 21 to rent a vehicle at most Budget locations, which disqualifies many new drivers…Budget requires all renters hold both a valid driver’s license and a working credit card. Additionally, if you’re looking to rent a car from Budget, you must be 21 or older in most states. Because of these requirements, you can’t take a DMV driving test with a rental car. These requirements help reduce the liabilities, like accidents or misuse of a rental vehicle, associated with renting to unlicensed or underage drivers…If you do qualify to rent from Budget, you are financially responsible for the car, so you should not allow an unauthorized driver to operate the vehicle or to use the car for a DMV driving test. Budget does allow you to add a second driver to the rental agreement. However, the second driver must be over the age of 25 and present a valid driver’s license.”
There’s An Exception for International Drivers
While using a rental car for a driving test is generally not possible, there is one exception. If you are taking a driving test in the U.S. but already have a valid license from another country, then you can rent a car using your international license for your driving test.
Rental car companies may have differing policies on whether you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to rent, but it may be a good idea to avoid any hassles. An IDP may be required if your home country’s license is written in any language other than English, especially for licenses that do not use the Latin alphabet.