Learning to drive is expensive – but can you drive down the costs without cutting corners?
First, the facts; the DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) recommends that pupils spend 47 hours behind the wheel with an instructor while research by MoneySupermarket reveals that it can cost £2,741 on average to qualify with the average cost of lessons alone weighing in at a whopping £1,128.
That’s a whole lot of money and you’ll be looking for practical ways to bring down the cost without harming your actual training. To help, here’s a round-up of the best ways to get the very most for your money, all while still getting the best learning experience possible.
Getting the Right Driving Instructor
You should go with the cheapest instructor, right? Well, maybe not as it turns out. Yes, great instructors can choose to drum up business via special introductory offers but we’d recommend that you judge an instructor on more than just price alone. Choosing the wrong instructor could mean it takes you longer to learn, costing you more money in the longterm:
• Compare lesson prices in your area, draw up a shortlist of your preferred instructors and then talk to them on the phone – see the boxout below for the qualities you should look for in an ideal instructor.
• Check the potential instructor’s Facebook page and website for feedback from previous learners – if there is no feedback, you should ask why. If you can get a referral from a trusted friend who rates an instructor, even better.
• Ask if referring friends yourself to the instructor could land you a discount or even free lessons. Plus confirm that the instructor won’t be putting their prices up in the near future.
• Find out about cancellation fees; in case you can’t make a booked lesson, you need to know how much notice you should give to ensure you don’t lose money.
• Book lessons in blocks; for instance, signing for ten in advance could see overall savings of up to 25%. Choosing two-hour lessons instead of one-hour ones can also get you a discount but ensure spending so much time behind the wheel in one sitting suits your concentration levels.
• Apply that rule to intensive driving courses too; these are typically held over one-to-two weeks, running for up to six hours a day. While such an intensive approach can suit some people, such a schedule can prove too much for other learners’ stamina levels so ask yourself what suits you and your learning requirements best.
There are four key qualities that you should look for in a driving instructor:
1. Patience – you want to learn with an instructor that has a calm and caring manner about them.
2. Good Communication Skills – a good teacher will always help you to clearly understand their message.
3. Knowledgeable – do they know their stuff and are they up to date with current guidelines?
4. Good Rapport – last but perhaps most importantly, do you ‘click’ with the instructor?
Having a chat with an instructor before starting your lessons will give you a good idea of if they have the above attributes. If you feel uncomfortable though for any reason, you should find a different instructor. You are investing time and money in your driving lessons so you need to get the best learning experience for you.”
– Lewis Wright, driving instructor and co-founder of the WrightStart driving school.
Sourcing a Driving Instructor
To source instructors in the first place, the DVSA offers a directory here that you can hunt through, featuring trainers who are all registered and approved by the agency. Alternatively, you can locate an instructor through Theory Test Pro’s own Directory service here.
Simply enter your postcode, select the type of instructor you want – for example, if they teach manual or automatic – and you will be presented with a list of approved instructors in your area and their profiles. Remember, our registered instructors all offer Theory Test Pro as standard, which will help you prepare for a successful Theory Test.
Working With Your Driving Instructor
With the lessons underway, monitor the instructor as much as they are monitoring your driving. Instructor Neal Jones says that “working together is key. Pupils must give back what I put in. It’s about working as a team and interacting with each other and questioning each other – I love it when a pupil asks a question”. Also:
• Make sure you’re getting maximum value for money from your instructor. Don’t accept ‘piggybacking’; this is where you are asked to drive to the instructor’s next pupil and pick them up before driving back to your house. The time you paid for should be solely spent on you and your one-on-one training, and not on making the instructor’s working life easier.
• Ensure that your instructor is attentive; if they are more interested in their mobile than teaching, then consider changing – the less time they spend working with you, the more time (and money) you will have to spend learning to drive.
Practising Your Driving
Make the most of family and friends who can take you out in their car (as long as you are insured to drive it) so you can continue practising outside of official learning hours; the DVSA recommends that you spend at least 22 hours undertaking private practise. Bear in mind that the person sitting in with you must be over 21 and have a full licence that they have held for over three years.
One of the big things I like to push – if the pupil is able to – is private practice. It creates a reality to their driving; a genuine responsibility as there is no instructor in the car with, say, dual controls and it adds a real-life practise element to the training. Pupils should also always apply what has been taught in a lesson to these private sessions.”
– Driving instructor Neal Jones of The Driving Academy on the benefits of private practise.
Passing Your Theory Test
You of course want to pass the Theory Test first time but to ensure you stand the best possible chance of making the grade without the potential cost of retests, you must put in the work:
• Read the Highway Code online for free here or buy it in book form. Bear in mind that the Highway Code is updated so if you prefer the idea of learning from a book, only borrow a copy if it is the latest edition.
• Practise the Theory Test on the official website or better still, use Theory Test Pro that offers mock questions and Hazard Perception tests to get you ready for the real thing; remember that using Theory Test Pro has proven to double your chances of test success and is available for free via participating instructors.
• Learn the Code before you start having lessons; this can cut down on the time you will need to spend discussing the Code with an instructor, giving you more time in the lesson to actually drive.
Ultimately, don’t try and hurry the learning process – one, it could see you fail, incurring retest charges and secondly, driver training is not simply about helping you pass the test. Instead, a good instructor will set you up for a safe driving career over the decades to come. And that’s got to be worth it – because you are.