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What’s Hot on the Hotline? Use of Dealer Plates for Test Drives

Robert Ebin /
automotive test drive

As I stated in my last article, I wanted to reiterate that we at KPA are here for our clients. Even more so since my article, Californians have seemingly been bombarded with increasing amounts of information on revisions and amendments to various county and city “Shelter in Place,” “Stay at Home,” “Safer at Home,” and other local orders. Not surprisingly, because of these continual changes, dealers have been increasingly curious about how they affect dealers’ ability to sell vehicles.

In response, many dealers have implemented, or are starting to implement, online/telephonic sales and remote delivery policies. While this article will not specifically delve into these policies and their interplay with local orders, many dealers have specifically expressed curiosity about how test drives fit into the mix. Before going any further, I must reiterate that currently, your sales department must close in the traditional sense. Ordinary or traditional test drives (i.e., where your salesman accompanies the customer while he or she drives the vehicle around the block) should also not occur, especially because your dealership employee and the customer cannot maintain proper social distancing.

Use of Dealer Plates for Test Drives

Because of this, many dealers have floated the idea of having salesperson-less test drives. With that said, 13 CCR § 201.00(f)(2) and Vehicle Code § 11715(a) allow for a prospective buyer, so long as he or she is properly licensed, to test drive a dealer-plated vehicle without a salesperson present for up to seven days (i.e., an extended test drive). If the prospective buyer is on such a test drive, he or she must carry a letter of authorization from the dealer identifying the vehicle, the duration of the test drive (i.e., when the car left the dealership and when it is slated for return), and the person(s) authorized to operate the vehicle. This letter should be kept in the vehicle’s glove box at all times while in possession of the prospective buyer. For more of a discussion about the appropriate use of dealer plates, please refer to “Proper Use of Dealer Plates.”

While a salesperson-less test drive is permitted under the Vehicle Code and California Code of Regulations, dealers must be aware of 1) potential insurance implications that involve these types of test drives; 2) potential implications these types of test drives may have on online sales and remote delivery policies; and 3) whether these types of test drives comport with current local orders. Other likely things to consider are:

  • Finding ways to minimize customer-dealer employee interaction when picking up/dropping off the vehicle and upholding proper social distancing protocols. In fact, certain counties in California require adherence to specific Social Distancing Protocols. You can see an example of this at the end of the revised April 10, 2020 LA County Safer at Home Order.
  • Creating sanitization policies for the vehicle before and after customer pickup/drop-off. Things to consider would include a deep cleaning of the vehicle, and possibly bullpenning the vehicle for a set amount of time after a customer returns it. This would also include generalized sanitization and hand-washing policies.
  • Having proper protective equipment for dealership employees, such as gloves, masks, and eyewear. In fact, dealers need to be aware that some local orders in California are being revised to require face coverings while in public.

We highly recommend you contact competent dealer counsel before modifying or creating your test drive policies.


We know that these times are hard, and everyone everywhere has been affected by this global pandemic. We are all in this together, and this too shall pass. Hotline clients are invited to contact us at (800) 785-2880 (then press “4” for hotline) or [email protected]. We are here to answer any questions you may have.  

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