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Selling Your Car: Conducting a Test Drive

CARS.COM — Few people would buy a car from a dealer without test-driving it first. The same is true when dealing with a private-party seller: It may seem odd to hand your keys to a stranger, but the process should run smoothly if you follow these tips.

Related: Prepare to Sell

  • It's best to meet potential buyers somewhere other than at your home. When possible, bring along a friend for peace of mind, and make sure family or friends know of your plans.
  • You should accompany prospective buyers on the test drive. This is crucial; it gives you more selling time, and it spares you the distress of watching a stranger drive away in your car. When riding along, point out all the features you love about your car, including things you didn't have room to mention in your ad. You've got a captive audience — make the most of your time.
  • If the buyer makes a special request to go it alone and you feel comfortable with that, make a copy of his or her driver's license (assuming you don't have quick access to a copy machine, simply jot down the name, address and driver's license number). Set a time limit on the test drive and exchange cell phone numbers. Also, confirm that the driver's license information meshes with what you were told when you first made contact.
  • Pre-plan a general route that allows the buyer to experience a variety of driving situations during the test drive. Give the buyer the opportunity to drive on the highway and in local traffic.
  • Liability insurance coverage shouldn't be an issue. Many insurance policies cover other people who drive your car so long as they're doing so with your permission and have a valid driver's license. Verify your policy's details; if it doesn't offer this protection, ask to see proof of the buyer's insurance. Make sure the driver has full coverage, which includes collision, liability and comprehensive.

Should you follow these simple guidelines, the process of handing over the keys to a private-party buyer should run far more smoothly.'s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.