Much as it somehow seems to elude many, the fact is that when a customer asks to test drive a car they intend to buy, they are being put in charge of not only the capital asset of the car dealer, but a lethal weapon for which they may possess little skill to operate.
A prime example of this has just arrived in this office. It relates to a Range Rover which was offered for a test drive to a potential purchaser. The customer promptly put it in a ditch, causing thousands of pounds in damage to the vehicle and a significant dent in the pride of the salesman.
In seeking our advice on the issue of liability, the salesman revealed that he had not checked the competence of the driver, did not ask to see his licence and made no effort to either add him to the group insurance or check to see if the driver was in fact insured elsewhere. The driver was not asked to sign any indemnity or reveal any motoring convictions.
It is essential that anyone who wishes to offer a car for the purposes of test driving it prior to purchase, should at least :-
1. Take the trouble to find out if the prospect is qualified to drive.
2. Make sure they are fit enough to drive.
3. Ensure they have valid insurance.
4. They should always be asked to sign an indemnity to meet the consequences of any driving errors and be shown the controls before they set out.
5. Sensibly, the sales person should sit in the passenger seat after a first demonstration drive to a lay-by where they can then switch seats with the prospect.
If, after all this, the prospect still puts the car in the ditch, it might be prudent to consider changing the test route!