Would you pay to test drive a car?

another amusing tail from Yorkshire

We don’t normally read the Yorkshire Evening Post, probably because none of us live in Yorkshire, but this story about a car dealer charging an 83 year old for a test drive really caught our eye.

The pensioner in question, John Sykes, wanted to test drive a used Renault Megane car, so the Renault dealer in Otley agreed, on the proviso that he paid them £500 upfront, a sum that would be credited against his eventual car purchase. In the end, the octogenarian decided against purchasing the car, and they kept his money.

Of course, there is more to the story than that- the dealer offered him half of his money back, or the full £500 against another car, and insinuated that this wasn’t the first time Mr Sykes had changed his mind, but the wider issue is this- why on Earth would you pay for a test drive?

According to the Leeds office of Consumer Direct, this practice is not illegal and is not unheard of if a dealer is getting a car in for you from somewhere else. However, the statutory rights attaching to the payment would only cover you if the car was faulty or not as described, meaning the dealer can legitimately keep your money to cover their ‘costs’ if you change your mind or just don't like it. And surely the point of a test drive is to see if you like it?

However, as I understand the business of buying cars, they are supposed to sell you the car- you are not supposed to pay them for the privilege of offering you one? Why would anyone risk any amount of money on a car they had never even seen in the metal, let alone sat in or drove round. Is this charge for testing only levied on the old and/or daft? After all, as our Consumer Direct manager friend says, you wouldn’t pay to go and view a potential house purchase would you? Avid Bitterwallet readers would never forget that they are the customer and the dealer wants (a lot more of) your money far more than you want to give it to them.

So what do you think? Have you ever been asked to pay for a test drive? Would you? Is this just a Yorkshire thing, along with flat caps and pudding you eat with your dinner?


  • Mad H.
    Just covering the petrol costs maybe?
  • br04dyz
    there is/was a dealer in [im not that silly] that sold Ferrari's, lambo's and Zondas he would charge for a test drive to keep the riff raff out what actually happened was a few students merrily had a really cheap spin in a supercar for the afternoon. Ahhh, student loans
  • Petrol H.
    I can understand supercar dealers being a little picky about who gets a test drive, but this was a secondhand Renault FFS! I doubt the car was worth £500.
  • Chris
    If it's a known time waster this makes sense - after all the car dealer could have been putting brut on in that time or checking his sovvies.
  • tin
    Obviously no! I test drove a car once, it had the worst brakes on it I have ever experienced. I said I might buy if he got the brakes fixed and we test-drove again, the dealer said he would only be able to get the brakes fixed if I bought the car first!
  • Car b.
    At The M0t0rh0use in cannock you have to commit to buying the car before they will let you try it. Since they started this policy they reckon that they sell more cars. Locals avoid the place like the plague, but they keep on going...
  • Grant
    When I turned 18 I was looking at getting my second car when the nice old prick at arnold clark kindly offered to charge me £100 to bring the car down and let me test drive it. He also said when buying i would have to take out a warentee and all this crap on top of the car - and wouldn't budge on the price of the car either... he got a rather upfront 'fuck off mate, do you think i was born yesterday'
  • Mike H.
    That's the French for you.
  • Frank P.
    I once took a pensioner for a test drive and also had to pay the money upfront first. I think it cost me £27 and a packet of Werthers.
  • Mike g.
    @"Ponch" Did you have to pay extra for him to take his teeth out?

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