Which car should you use for the Washington driving test?

When you take the Washington state driving test to get your driver’s license, you can choose which car you want to take the test in. You can bring a car to the test, or you can rent a car from the driving school where you take your test at.

The following tips will help you choose the right car to take the drive test in, so that you can avoid losing points for simple mistakes.

Take the test in a car you have driven before

Whenever possible, you should take the test in a car that you’ve driven before. This will be tremendously helpful. Taking the driving test can be stressful, and you don’t want to add to the stress by learning an unfamiliar vehicle while trying to perform the maneuvers correctly. You’ll do better on the test if you are comfortable and relaxed, and it’s a lot easier to be relaxed when you’re in a car that you are familiar with and have driven before.

There are many benefits to knowing how to control the car. During the test, you have to be able to keep the car under control at all times. When you’re driving an unfamiliar car, it is easier to make mistakes that can cost you some points on the test.

By using a car you have driven before, you will know:

  • Where the controls are, so that you can use the turn signals, defroster, windshield wipers, etc. without taking your eyes off the road to search for them
  • How touchy the brakes are, and how hard or softly you have to press the brake pedal without jerking the car or locking up the brakes
  • How to steer the car without oversteering or overcorrecting
  • How to accelerate smoothly and maintain good speed control
  • Where and how big are the car’s blind spots

Know the reference points of the car

It is also important to be familiar with the car’s reference points. Reference points are when you use physical parts of the car, such as the hood, headlights, etc, to help you know where the car is located in relation to other objects. This helps you be able to, for example, keep the car the required distance from the curb during the maneuvers. Reference points can be different on each car, so it is good to be familiar with the reference points of the car you use on the test.

The car should have an automatic transmission

Vehicles with an automatic transmission are much easier to drive than those with a manual transmission. The manual transmission, or “stick shift”, requires extra skill and coordination to drive well.

You don’t want to be messing around with gears and a clutch during the test. Do yourself a huge favor and use a car with an automatic transmission. Taking the drive test with a stick shift can increase your stress level, and it also gives you more opportunities to lose points and fail your test.

Good visibility is a must

You have to see and react to what is around you, and that starts with using a car with good visibility. In order to successfully perform the maneuvers, you have to be able to see where you are and what you’re doing.

Good visibility means that:

  • You have all your mirrors, and they are properly adjusted
  • Your rear window is not blocked or obstructed
  • You can see how far the car is from the curb or other objects

Avoid big bulky vehicles that have huge blind spots and no way to see what is behind you.

The car must be in good working order

During the pre-trip inspection, the examiner will inspect the vehicle and make sure it is safe to drive on the test. If your car has mechanical or other problems, you won’t be able to use it on the test.

Check this list to see if your car is in good working order:

  • No obvious mechanical problems
  • Brake lights work
  • Turn signals work
  • Headlights work
  • Tires have tread and are not bald
  • Parking brake can be engaged and disengaged properly
  • Windshield wipers and defroster work
  • Seat belts operate correctly
  • Windshield is not cracked or chipped

When in doubt, use the driving school’s car for the test

Most drive test locations in Washington state are driving schools, and most driving schools will let you use their car for the test for an additional fee.

If you take your test at the same location that you took driving lessons, then you are probably already familiar with their car. If so, then this is a good option for you.

If you haven’t driven their car before, you might be able to request a single lesson or warm-up drive before the test. This allows you to familiarize yourself with their car, and also get in some practice before the test. Prices for this service vary between locations.