Can You Buy a Car Without Test Driving It First? Yes!

 In Auto Grades, Vehicle Safety

Car buying can be a complicated, frustrating and tedious process. The initial excitement quickly wears off once you’re at the dealership going back and forth with the salesperson to simply get a price. It’s no wonder that car buyers are looking for a better way. Some folks even want to buy a car without test driving.

According to Think with Google, 73% of consumers are comfortable negotiating their auto-purchase online.

And that got us thinking, how do consumers feel about buying a car without test driving? As an increasing number of consumers choose to buy a car entirely online, that means that more and more people will buy a car without test driving. Both are trends that will likely increase in the future. And they beg the question, “Can you buy a quality, reliable and safe car without ever test driving it?” Absolutely. Here’s a look at how.

Test Drive? Plenty of Car Buyers Don’t Even Bother

According to DMEautomotive, it’s estimated that 16% of car buyers surveyed (from a 2,000 person sample) don’t bother test driving a vehicle before purchasing it. Furthermore, of those who did a test drive, 33% drove only one car. According to a separate survey performed by Cox Automotive, about 1/3 of all car buyers know the exact vehicle that they want before they even begin the process. With such a large number of undecided buyers, it seems it isn’t possible to buy a car without test driving. But it’s already happening. And with the information and technology available, buying a car without test driving will only get easier. To do it successfully, you must do your homework and use the tools that are available.

What Are You Looking for in a Car?

The first step in the car buying process (whether you’re doing it in person or online) is to set the criteria for purchase. Here’s a look at some of the factors that you’ll want to consider prior to beginning the process:

How Much?

How much can you afford to spend on a car? A good rule of thumb to follow is to spend no more than 15% of your monthly paycheck on your car payment(s). Before you start shopping, set a budget.

What Are My Needs?

Think about the things you do in a car on a daily basis. Would a compact car save you gas on a long commute, but is it safe? Or do you need something larger for driving your kids? Or do you need transport big items and need a vehicle with payload and towing capacity? Use your needs to determine what types of vehicles will suit you best.

Pick Your Make and Model(s)

Once you’ve determined the type of vehicle you’re looking for (compact sedan, mid-size sedan, crossover SUV, SUV, truck, etc.), then hop online to research on what makes and models are the best in their class. Some of the things you’ll want to consider:

  • Fuel economy
  • Details and special features
  • Price and payment options
  • And last but never least, SAFETY Rating

Finding the Right Car?

Pack Your Patience

Browsing online car listings can be overwhelming especially if you your looking for a user vehicle. Don’t rush to make a decision especially if you’re buying without a test drive. Take the time to find the car, truck or SUV that checks all the boxes that are important to you. Remember, you’re already saving time by not test driving, so take the time to find the right listing — don’t settle. Here’s a few tips:

Look at Photos

If it’s a quality vehicle, then the seller should have plenty of photos or even better a virtual walk around. The best listings will include shots of the engine and other major mechanical components. Listings with just one or two strategically shot photos could be a warning sign that there’s body damage or worse flaws.

Check the Reputation

Reputation is everything, especially in the automotive industry. Make sure that whomever you’re working with checks out. If it’s a dealership, be sure to read up on online reviews. If it’s an independent seller, look for a site with a rating assigned to the individual. If you’re looking to buy at an auction, make sure you know the vehicle’s history.

Consider the Factors that Will Affect You the Most

While you should have an understanding of any special features that a vehicle you’re eyeing has, you also want to keep an eye on critical important factors.

  • How many miles does the vehicle have on it? Ask for the maintenance history so you’re aware of any pending repairs or manufacturer recalls.
  • Understand the fuel efficiency to help you estimate the total cost of ownership beyond just what’s on the window sticker.
  • Determine what safety features it has. And check the Auto Grade to see how it fares in real-life crashes to make sure that you’re comfortable with its safety.

How to “Test” a Car Without Test Driving It

Like we’ve noted throughout this article, it’s absolutely possible to purchase a quality vehicle without test driving it. Along with the tips noted above, here are a few other things you can do to “test” your prospective car without driving it:

Ask the seller to take you on a virtual tour.

If the seller is motivated to sell, they’ll be happy to accommodate any type of virtual tour request. Using Face Time or a video chatting software, most will be happy to take you on a virtual tour of the vehicle exterior and interior. You can even request to see under the hood.

Check the report.

We’ll say it again. Make sure you’re doing a thorough check for the history check, quality and safety of any vehicle that you’re considering. We recommend CarFax for checking the history of car. And Auto Grades to check its safety rating. (Learn why Auto Grades are better than other car safety ratings.)

Call a mechanic.

If you’re shopping for a used car, see if the seller will let you bring in a mechanic to provide you with an accurate check-up on the vehicle. Often times, an opinion from an independent mechanic can help you determine overall vehicle health and what repairs may be necessary in the near-term.  

The At-Home Test Drive

If your seller is local, and you’re not comfortable buying a car without test driving it, then ask for an at-home test drive as a last step before closing the deal. This consists of a dealership or seller essentially bringing the vehicle to your home so that you can take it out for a spin before making your final decision on it. While not critical to the process, the test drive does allow you the opportunity to experience your potential ride first-hand. Bottom line: if you ask for an at-home test drive, make sure you’re serious about the vehicle.

Buy Without a Test Drive, But Not Without an Auto Grade

As you can see, it’s totally possible to purchase a vehicle without a test drive. You just need to do your homework and use the tools (like Auto Grades) available to ensure you’re getting the right car for you.


Want to find the safety rating of an automobile that you are thinking about buying? We’d love to help! Try out the easy to use search bar below. First you’ll get an overall Auto Grade for your make, model and year. In the cases where enough data has been collected on that car, you will get the option to search for a personalized Auto Grade. If you want to see how this is done, then please watch this video.

Working together to create a world where everyone walks away from a crash.