I have just received an instructional permit in the state of California after passing my written test at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I am currently trying to find opportunities to use this instructional permit for the very purpose it was issued to me, namely to practice driving with an individual holding a valid driver's license before the real deal.

At the DMV, I was advised to find a "friend" who could allow me to use their car to practice and then bring this "friend" as well as their vehicle to the DMV. The DMV does not provide vehicles on test day. I have two major problems with this:

1) "Bring a friend" is not very professional or rigorous legal jargon. What if none of my friends have cars? What if I have no friends?

2) It so happens that some of my friends do have cars. However they all have the same legitimate reaction when I ask for help.There reaction is unanimously "What about insurance?" Their name is on the insurance, so if something happens to the car during our practice or even during the driving test at the DMV, they are ultimately responsible. Is the challenge of finding someone who is willing to jump in head first to a possible legal entanglement part of the driving test?

Someone please help as this makes no legal sense to me.

  • 3
    AAA and other organizations will provide you with an insured car and driver instructor if your pool of friends is indeed as shallow as you assert. They are not your "friend" so do expect to pay cash.
    – user662852
    Jan 3, 2016 at 5:27
  • 2
    If "bring a friend" is insufficiently professional then try "hire a driving instructor" for a much more professional experience.
    – phoog
    Jan 3, 2016 at 6:02
  • 1
    Another point: if you had to take the test in a vehicle you've never driven before, your performance on the test would be strongly dependent on how similar your practice vehicle is to the test vehicle. With the bring-your-own-car approach, the test vehicle is your practice vehicle, so the playing field is more level, so to speak.
    – phoog
    Jan 3, 2016 at 7:36
  • After thinking it over further, this is a political question. This is a minor example of how US laws in general and transportation policy in specific privilege wealth and the upper middle class (see also laws against jaywalking, in some states that a pedestrian on the public land of an interstate highway shoulder is "trespassing", Alabama closing DMV offices in poor counties, the career of urban planner Robert Moses, etc). This class bias is baked into a lot of US law, going back to the Constitution, and changes are an ongoing political project.
    – user662852
    Jan 3, 2016 at 15:19
  • @user662852 Lol, Thanks! That was good.
    – paulj
    Nov 30, 2020 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


As far as I know in the United States, no DMV provides test vehicles.

You need a vehicle to take the driving test.

Since you are not currently licensed, you can not legally drive yourself to the test alone...

So logically, you must bring someone... anyone... willing to drive you to the test and provide a vehicle for you to test in. As others have stated in the comments above, worse case scenario is the hiring of a driving instructor.

If you read the written instructions (and I remember correctly), it does state something along the lines of "must be accompanied by a licensed driver and provide an insured, registered, vehicle". Which is a bit more formal than the "bring a friend". Most people just naturally use more casual terms when speaking. I don't know your age, but it's probably more common to hear "bring a parent" than "bring a friend" when speaking face to face with the DMV staff.

Also, not all insurance policies are driver limited. Some policies are on the vehicle regardless of driver. Typically Liability-only insurance is vehicle specific, not driver specific. [*1] You'd have to review the policies or call the insurance agents to confirm this.

You may even do something as simple as add you to the current insurance for a month or two while you're practicing and testing. Just reimburse your friend for any increase in premiums during this time. Contact the insurance company/agent. The cost may be minimal.

In addition, there are non-owner insurance policies which cover you even if you do not own a vehicle. This would provide insurance if none of your friends has a policy which would work.

Realize that most people taking the test for the first time have probably already been added to a policy owned by their parents. So, your situation is a bit more unique. It's not meant to be inherently confusing but if you're "outside the norm" you have to do some deductive reasoning on your own.

And finally, if an accident or damage were to happen during your practicing or testing, it would still be your responsibility. If you are in control of the vehicle, you are responsible for any damage to it or damage caused by the vehicle due to any negligence on your part, regardless of any insurance policy. You'd be a pretty bad "friend" if you caused damage and didn't financially make restitution leaving your "friend" holding the bag, so to speak. Restitution could be something as simple as paying the deductible on your friend's policy. Of course, if you are not covered by insurance any claim may be denied -- leaving you responsible for everything. The mindset that just because your friend owns the car they are totally responsible for anything that happens while your driving seem very, very self-serving and, well, I'd be apprehensive about loaning you my vehicle as well. In fact, I absolutely would not.

  • 1
    Relevant quote from your "non-owner policies" link: "When you drive someone else’s car, the owner’s auto insurance policy should cover you, assuming you are using the car with the owner’s permission." Jul 18, 2016 at 16:17

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