More tips for driving test success: get your car ready!

Time-lapsed image of car reversing in 4 stages around left hand bend, day.

Published 8 April 2021
Last updated 12 April 2021

An ex-driving instructor and examiner provides tips on getting your car ready for the driving test. Also covers the role of the driving examiner.

I spent 18 years as a driving instructor, but moved over to the ‘dark side’ to become an examiner 8 years ago. As an instructor, one question I was frequently asked by my learners was, ‘What will the test instructor’s car be like?’

First, I’d tell the learner that there’s no such thing as a ‘test instructor’; there are driving instructors (those who teach) and there are driving examiners (those who test). One person cannot be both.

In fact, one of the first things that happened to me when I began my training as an examiner was that my instructor’s licence was taken away. This was so that I couldn’t teach people to drive and then test them. I’m now only allowed to teach friends or family, without financial reward, and only after gaining permission from my employer, DVSA.

Second, I’d tell the learner about the examiner’s vehicle. I’d say: ‘One has a Ford Focus, one has a BMW and another has a Yamaha 650, but you won’t be allowed to drive any of them.’

‘What will I be driving, then?’ they’d ask, confused.

‘This one, of course!’ I’d reply.

I’d see the look of relief appear on their face. They thought they’d have to learn in my car and then take their test in another. Surprisingly, around 40% of my learners would ask me this question.

I once heard of a candidate who caught a train to a test centre about 100 miles away, where there was no waiting list, to take a short-notice test. Imagine his dismay when the examiner asked him to lead the way to his car! It was a costly mistake and I bet the candidate felt a bit daft. As an examiner, I’ve encountered this on three occasions. Sadly, I had no option but to turn the candidates away.

While we’re on the subject of the car you use for your test, here are a few pointers to make sure your test runs smoothly. You should make sure that

  • the car is insured for you to use for your driving test. If you use your driving instructor’s car, it will be covered but, if you decide to hire a car, it’s very unlikely to be insured for you to use for the test
  • the car is roadworthy. If the examiner becomes aware of a serious defect, such as a faulty seat belt, a blown bulb, a tyre without enough tread, and so on, your test will be stopped. If the fault cannot be corrected quickly, the test will end and you will not get your money back. You’ll have to apply and pay for another test
  • the car has enough fuel and there are no warning lights showing on the instrument panel, especially the red ones that warn of things like brake-system failure
  • there’s a head restraint on the front passenger seat for the examiner and also an additional rear-view mirror for the examiner to use
  • if the car you want to use has been the subject of a manufacturer’s recall, you bring along the paperwork from the garage showing that the fault has been put right.

You should also be able to open the bonnet of the car (for the safety questions) and know how to use the main controls of the car, such as the indicators, lights, windscreen wipers, and how to demist the windows.

So, remember: your test will be carried out by a driving examiner, and you should take a car that’s as ready for the test as you are!

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