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Ontario man told he's on the hook for $7,000 after Tesla damaged during test drive

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A normal part of buying a new or used car is to take it for a test drive to see how it feels and handles on the road, but what if during the test drive you get in an accident?

“‘It caught me completely by surprise, I was shocked,” said Rick Garel of Orillia, Ont.

Garel and his wife Bisa Mitrovski own a new Tesla Model 3 now, but last year while waiting for their car to be delivered, they took several extended test drives and during one of them they were involved in a hit-and-run.

“We were hit on the passenger side from behind causing about $6,800 damage, according to Tesla,” Garel said.

They reported the accident to police, contacted Tesla and dropped off the car believing the damage would be covered.

“Both of us assumed our insurance would take care of it or Tesla's insurance would take care of it,” Garel explained.

Before taking the car for the test drive, Garel signed an agreement form that said: “You will be responsible for any losses that result from a breach of the terms of this agreement.”

Garel originally thought his insurance might cover the damage, but he was told he did not have additional coverage on his policy that extended to rental cars, even though this was a test drive, and his claim was denied.

That’s when Tesla told him he owed $6, 845 for the collision damage.

“You don't expect to go to a dealership and find out that you are liable if something happens. They are always offering test drives, so you think nothing of it," Mitrovski said.

Lawyer David Levy, a partner with Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP in Toronto said, generally speaking, a dealership should cover the cost of any damage that occurs during a test drive.

“The dealership absolutely has a responsibility to carry insurance on the vehicle, a vehicle that someone would go out and test drive as the adage goes - when you lend someone your car you lend them your insurance too," Levy said.

But to keep insurance costs down, more dealerships are introducing waivers for test drives – like the one Garel signed -- and Levy said if you sign one, you can be held responsible for damages.

“What it specifically says is you the driver are assuming responsibility if something happens to the vehicle, even if you’re not at fault, in the event that something goes wrong," he said.

CTV News Toronto reached out to the Tesla dealership and Tesla Canada but did not receive a response.

However, the couple said after CTV News Toronto called Tesla, they were told the $6,845 for the damage was forgiven and their case was closed, which was great news for them.

“We are extremely relieved and we are extremely grateful to have this dealt with,” Garel said.

If you go for a test drive, ask the dealership if their insurance will cover the cost of a collision. If you're asked to sign a waiver, check with your insurance company to make sure you're covered.

If you're not, you could be on the hook if the car gets damaged. 

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