How to Become an Automotive Test Driver in the US

Jeremy Clarkson

Before a new car leaves the assembly line for the showroom, it must typically undergo a series of test-drives. Automotive test drivers are the professionals who are tasked with conducting these tests and providing feedback on the vehicle’s performance. If you love hitting the road, and you possess excellent driving skills, this is a career you could enjoy.

See also: How to Become an Auto Mechanic

What do automotive test drivers do?

Their duties include:

  • Driving prototypes or pre-production vehicles (cars, buses, vans and trucks) on test tracks or rolling roads(chassis dyno)
  • Driving fully assembled cars on public streets and highways
  • Listening for unusual vehicle noises
  • Instaling and configuring onboard data loggers and changing tires if necessary
  • Preparing reports detailing the performance of every aspect of the car – This includes reporting on engine performance, braking action, ease of steering (manoeuvrability) comfort, fuel consumption, and general driving experience among other aspects
  • Helping technicians and engineers to identify vehicle behaviours observed during test drives
  • Writing reviews to be published in automotive magazines and other industry publications

Work environment

Full-time automotive test drivers work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Part-time schedules are also common.

Since their job is to test drive, these professionals spend most of their time outdoors on public roads. The job involves a lot of sitting.


According to Indeed, automotive test drivers in the US earn an average annual salary of $47,000.

Entry requirements

Although there are not set educational requirements for becoming an automotive test driver, employers often prefer individuals with superb vehicle knowledge and driving skills.

As such, earning an undergraduate degree in automotive technology will significantly enhance your chances of landing this job. You will learn about basic vehicle manufacturing, automotive quality concepts, mechanical testing and advanced vehicle systems.

Some of the institutions offering this program include:

  • Ferris State University, Michigan
  • Pittsburg State University, Kansas
  • Weber State University, Utah.

While pursuing your degree, undertake driving classes and earn a driving license. Since various states have different classes of driver’s licenses, it is important to ensure you are qualified to drive various classes of vehicles. For more information, consult you state’s department of highway safety and motor vehicles.

Although having vast driving experience is not mandatory, you need a clean driving record. In most cases, you will also be required to pass a criminal background check.

Important qualities

Beyond automotive knowledge, you need:

  • The ability to read and follow maps
  • Excellent communication skills
  • A keen attention to detail
  • Steady eye-hand-leg coordination
  • The ability to concentrate for long periods of time without tiring
  • To be trustworthy and honest
  • Good report writing skills
  • Analytical skills
  • A commitment to quality
  • A sound knowledge of vehicle standards and regulations
  • Reliability
  • Good practical and technical skills
  • A passion for driving

Career development

Early in your career, you will begin as an automotive technician. Here, you will gain hands-on experience handling various types of vehicles, after which you can move into full-time test driving.

Next, focus on gaining vast test driving experience, maintaining a clean driving record and delivering precise vehicle performance reports or reviews.

Although there isn’t (as yet) a professional body for automotive test drivers, you can join a relevant body, such as the International Automotive Technicians Network, to network with industry professionals.

If you are very ambitious, you can pursue a graduate degree in automotive management, like the one offered at Northwood University in Michigan.

Job opportunities

The employers of automotive test drivers include:

  • Automotive manufacturers such as Ford and Chevrolet
  • Automotive magazines
  • Independent vehicle test organizations

With vast test driving experience, you can be hired as the head of automotive test driving in a manufacturing firm. With a graduate degree in automotive management, you can be hired as an automotive sales manager.

While there are no official statistics on the number of test driver jobs available, as more vehicles are being manufactured, more test drivers will be needed to assess their performance and give recommendations.

So if you want to help automobile manufacturers produce quality vehicles that can meet consumer needs, then you could become an automotive test driver.