Learning to Drive? Here’s How to Choose a Driving Instructor
Driving schools vs. private tuition, picking the right instructor, dealing with a bad one, intensive courses, insurance and everything else you need to know as a learner driver.
Learning to drive is an expensive business, especially if you hire a professional to teach you. It is therefore vital that you choose the right driving instructor from the outset.
In order to help you do this, we have put together a detailed guide that shows you exactly what sets a good instructor apart from a bad one, how to assess and select a driving school properly, how to get the most out of your lessons, and what laws apply to learner drivers.
For completeness, we strongly recommend that you read our post on driving license rules for learner drivers as well.
Do learners need a driving license?
If you plan to learn on public roads, or on any land that has public access, then you will need to apply for a provisional driving license first. This rule applies regardless of whether you will be learning with an instructor or privately.
Although you can apply for a provisional license 3 months before your 16th birthday (i.e. at 15 years and 9 months of age), you cannot normally get behind the wheel of a car until you are 17 years old.
Licenses are issued by the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency. All applicants must meet the following requirements:
To read our step-by-step guide to applying for a provisional license, preparing for the UK car driving test and upgrading your license to a full driving license once you pass, please check out the following guide:
Do any speed or time restrictions apply to learner drivers?
Learner drivers in England, Scotland and Wales have to follow the same speed limits as everyone else. The rules differ in Northern Ireland, learners are restricted to a top speed of 45mph there.
There are no time time restriction on learner drivers in the UK, so you can drive at any time of the day or night. Indeed it is recommended you do at least some night driving, to gain experience. Bear in mind, though, that some insurers impose curfews on learner drivers, typically from 10pm to 6am.
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Should learners drive in different conditions?
Absolutely. Gaining experience in different weather conditions, such as snow or ice, or in the rain, will not only increase your confidence but also improve your driving skills, because you will learn to modify your driving style to handle a car correctly in poor weather conditions.
You are similarly encouraged to practise driving in different terrains and geographical areas such as country roads, hilly areas and congested cities.
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How much will it cost to learn to drive?
Cost is a major consideration and one of the biggest reasons why more and more youngsters are postponing learning to drive these days. With numerous demands on family finances, hefty university fees and eye-watering insurance premiums for new drivers, it is little wonder that learning to drive is no longer the rite of passage for teenagers that it once was.
Lessons normally cost between £20 and £35 per hour. If you are being charged less £20 per lesson, then you should be suspicious.
According to the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, the average learner driver clocks up around 45 hours of professional tuition. At an average of £25 per hour, that equates to £1125 in lessons alone.
Add in the cost of your license £34 (£43 if you apply by post), the cost of the theory test, £25, and the cost of the practical test, £62 on weekdays (£75 on evenings and weekends), and you quickly reach the £1,246 mark. And that’s without accounting for the cost of any test retakes.
If you choose to take the test in your instructor’s car, then you’ll need to budget for that too.
Then there is insurance. You’re automatically covered when you learn with an instructor, but if you venture out in your own car or in someone else’s – even for practise – then you’ll either need your own cover or the owner of the car you’re using will have to add you to their policy.
Of course, if you pass and choose to run your own car, then expect to pay thousands more each year to buy, insure and run your vehicle. Insurance alone for new drivers at 18 averages over £2,000 a year!
Clearly, learning to drive can be a costly exercise, so we suggest you work out your budget first. The last thing you want to do is abandon tuition half way through, or even have long gaps between lessons, because of financial constraints.
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How many lessons will I need?
Everyone learns at a different pace, so your aim should not be to compete with your friends to see who can pass first, but to concentrate on becoming a confident and safe driver.
However, purely for reference purposes, the average learner requires around 45 hours of professional tuition, supplemented by approximately 20 hours of private lessons before they pass. Even then, over half of learner drivers fail their driving test.
Hopefully, you won’t need quite as much practise as the chap from Liverpool who, according to Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency records, only passed his practical driving test on his 39th attempt, or the two learners from north-east London who have both flunked their theory test over 100 times!
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Should I learn in an automatic or a manual car?
This is a very important consideration and one which will dictate the type of vehicles you can drive legally with your full driving license, once you pass your driving test.
For an in-depth discussion of the pros and cons of automatic cars versus manual ones, please click on the link below:
Private Learning vs. Driving Schools
Pros and Cons
Given the cost of professional driving lessons, more and more people are opting to learn with a relative or friend. Others opt for private lessons because of the flexibility it affords them, or because they like the temperament or teaching style of their relative or friend.
However, there are drawbacks to learning to drive with someone you know, just as there are with learning with an instructor, so weigh up both options before you decide.
Crucially, don’t base your choice on cost alone. For one thing, private learners have to buy car insurance, unlike those who go with a driving school, and this can narrow the price difference between private tuition and professional tuition noticeably.
Here are the main factors to consider before you make your final decision:
Driving School Pros & Cons
+ Professional teaching style
+ An instructor is more able to judge when you are ready to take test
+ Instructors know what examiners look for during the test
+ Instructors know exactly what to teach and how
+ Dual-control car used, which is safer than normal car
+ No car insurance to worry about, you’re covered automatically
+ You will not have to foot the bill for any damage to an instructor’s car
+ You have more incentive to learn – and faster – if you are paying
+ Instructor’s car will very likely be well maintained
+ Instructor usually know the best areas to practise locally
+ Lessons more likely to be structured and planned
– Cost: lessons are typically £20-35 per hour
– Lesson time may be lost giving lifts to other students
– There may be a personality clash between you and the instructor
– Instructor’s teaching style may not match your learning style
– You won’t know how good the instructor really is until you’ve had lessons
– You may lose money if you miss a scheduled lesson
Family Member or Friend Pros & Cons
+ More flexibility on when you fit in ‘lessons’
+ Family/friend potentially able to devote more time
+ ‘Lessons’ can be as long, or short, or frequent as you like
+ ‘Lessons’ can be fitted in flexibly, when it suits both parties
+ Little or no cost for the actual ‘lesson’ (though insurance will cost)
+ Gives you an early opportunity to get used to driving the family car
+ You potentially get to drive a better car than you would with an instructor
+ Chance to bond further or spend more quality time with a family member or friend
– Family/friend may be overly nervous or cautious when teaching
– Potential for clashes or arguments, which can then carry over
– No dual control, so not as safe as an instructor’s car
– Car may not be the most suitable for a learner, e.g. size or handling
– Danger you’ll learn your relative’s or friend’s bad habits
– Risk they will miss out important information or tips
– Family/friend may not be up-to-date on road rules
– Any damage or accident could prove costly to repair or hurt your relationship
– Scheduling ‘lessons’ may be a problem
– All too easy to postpone ‘lessons’ when family or friend teaching
– A private car may not be as roadworthy or as well maintained as an instructor’s
– Family or friend’s instruction may contradict the instructor’s, leading to confusion
– You’ll have to buy learner insurance or be added to your family member’s/friend’s policy
– Illegal to pay a family member or friend to teach you, so not an option
The optimal approach may be to learn with an instructor and then, when you are confident/competent enough, take supplementary lessons with friends or family to get as much practise as possible.
Can I Learn in my own or family car?
You can practise driving in your own car, if you have one, or in someone else’s car, as long as you obey the following rules on:
- Car insurance
- Suitable Teacher
- Learner Plates
Let’s examine each one in greater detail:
You can learn in your own car, if you own one, as long as you are personally insured to drive it. There are serious penalties for driving without insurance.
If you are learning in someone else’s car, then you either need your own cover or the car owner needs to make sure you are covered under their insurance policy as a learner driver. Note that some insurers insist the person teaching you is at least 25 years old.
To learn more about car insurance for learners and new drivers, please click the link below to skip to the relevant section:
According to the law, the person teaching you must be:
- Over 21 years old
- Qualified to drive the type of vehicle you’re in, i.e. hold a manual license if teaching in a manual
- Have held their full license for at least 3 years and for it to have been issued in the UK, EU or EEA
It is illegal to pay anyone other than a qualified and approved, or trainee, driving instructor to teach you to drive.
You can have as many people accompany you during the lesson as there are seats in the vehicle. Riders can often be distracting, though, so consider carefully before inviting them along.
Regardless of whether you are learning in your own car or someone else’s, you must put an L plate (or a D plate in Wales) of the right size on the front and back of the vehicle while you are being taught. Our section on L and P plates has full details.
In addition, the car you are learning in must be legal and roadworthy. In particular, it must be:
Can I hire a dual-control car to learn in?
Yes, it’s possible to hire a dual-control car to learn to drive or to take a test in.
Specialist hire firms such as Arnold Clark offer dual-control vehicles from as little as £12 per hour, about half the cost of a conventional driving lesson.
Of course, you won’t be getting expert tuition from a qualified instructor if you go down this route, but it is worth considering if you are determined to learn with a family member or friend, but don’t want to risk damaging their car.
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Can I practise on the motorway with a family member or friend?
No, you cannot, not with a relative or friend.
Until June 2018, only qualified drivers were allowed to drive on motorways, but then the law was changed, to encourage learner drivers to practise motorway driving.
However, the law states that learner drivers can only venture onto a motorway if:
- They are accompanied by an approved driving instructor
- The vehicle they are in has dual-controls
- There are L plates on the car
- The instructor is confident you will be able to handle the car on a motorway
Learning with a Driving School
How much do driving lessons cost?
Driving lessons normally cost between £20-35 per hour, though the average is usually nearer £25. Offers of lessons costing less than £20 per hour should be treated with caution.
Learners typically require around 45 hours of professional tuition in order to pass the test, which at £25 per hour-long lesson adds up to £1,125 in total.
Many instructors offer discounts for block bookings, making them a good way to save money. But only do this once you are certain that your chosen instructor is the right one for you and that you intend to stay with him or her.
If you do block book, make sure you pay with a credit card. That way, if anything goes wrong, your payment is covered under Section 75 rules.
Another way you can save money is by booking double lessons, as many driving schools offer discounts on two-hour lessons.
While cost is obviously a major factor in choosing a driving instructor, don’t make it your sole consideration.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for low introductory prices to hide sharp practices such as hidden fees, drawn out lessons, short lesson times, obligatory overpriced lessons on top of the discounted ones, the use of low performing or trainee instructors, and extra charges for weekend/evening lessons.
This article on driving school scams gives more examples of how you could fall victim, if you’re not careful.
The fact is that driving is one of the most dangerous things you are likely to learn to do, yet many of us expect to pay less for a driving lesson than for English tuition. Is that really realistic or wise?
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How do I find a driving instructor near me?
You basically have two options when it comes to choosing a qualified driving instructor: you can use a driving school or you can go with a professional instructor.
Driving schools come in various different sizes, ranging from regional outfits with just a few drivers to huge operations employing hundreds of instructors nationwide.
Most schools operate on a franchise basis, where the driver pays a regular or annual fee and in return the company lets them use its logo, provides and maintains the car, and handles bookings.
Some of the advantages of using a driving school, especially a national franchise, include:
+ Well known brand with track record
+ Choice of instructors in your area
+ Can quickly assign an instructor to you
+ More chance of getting a suitable time slot
+ Easier to switch instructors
+ Often have a newer fleet of cars
+ Choice of driving courses
+ May offer online resources
Here is a list of some of the largest and best known driving schools with a major national or regional presence in the UK:
All driving instructors in the UK, regardless of whether they work for a franchise or for themselves, are self-employed.
However, there are specific reasons why you may want to go with an independent instructor instead of a franchisee:
- You get to choose exactly who you learn with
- Independents are only as good as their reputation, so likely to try harder
- Potentially offer a more personalised service
- They cannot fob you off to head office if you are dissatisfied
- May be more competitively priced or more flexible on price than a franchisee
The best resource for finding a registered driving instructor in the UK is the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency’s online Find driving schools, lessons and instructors service.
Directories & Reviews
There are several handy resources available on the web to help you pick the right driving school:
Driving & Vehicle Standards Agency – national index of over 26,000 driving instructors approved by the government run DVSA. Inclusion is voluntary, so not all approved driving instructors (ADIs) are listed. Results can be filtered by CPD, ADI CoP and standards check grade
Driving School Reviews – well known driving schools rated and reviewed by current and former students on the basis of teaching quality and price
Driving Test Success – search for an instructor by area, sex, language or course type
Driving Schools Around – searchable directory of driving schools across the UK
Review Centre – customer reviews of over 200 local and national driving schools
Trust Pilot – top rated driving schools ranked and reviewed by consumers
Driving instructor qualifications
What is an ADI?
Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) qualified and registered driving instructors are referred to as Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs), whereas trainee instructors are known as Potential Driving Instructors (PDI).
It’s illegal to charge someone for driving lessons unless you are qualified and registered, or at least have a trainee driving instructor licence.
To qualify, professional instructors must undergo a criminal record check, known as a DBS check, and pass a rigorous three part test:
- ADI part 1 test – theory test
- ADI part 2 test – driving ability
- ADI part 3 test – instructional ability
Trainee driving instructors (PDIs) can apply for a trainee instructor license (valid for 6 months) and start teaching, in order to build up their own experience, after passing the ADI part 2 test.
Once they’ve passed all three tests and qualified fully, instructors are retested every four years to ensure teaching standards remain high. During the retest, they are assessed on lesson planning, risk management and teaching skills. They also have to undergo a new DBS check. You can contact the DVSA to check if an instructor is qualified.
ADIs can improve their teaching skills even further by taking voluntary training known as Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
One important point to note is that, although all ADIs have to be DVSA approved, they can choose whether or not to appear on the organisation’s Find driving schools, lessons and instructors service, which is partly why only around 26,000 of the UK’s 40,000 instructors are listed in the index.
What is the difference between the green and pink badges?
Driving instructors are obliged to display a badge in their windscreen to show that that they are registered with the DVSA. The badge will either be green or pink:
Bear in mind that a pink badge holder is only part-qualified, so there is a risk that if s/he fails their final test they may not be able to continue teaching you! They will also be less experienced than fully qualified colleagues.
What is an ADI Number?
All ADIs are given a personal reference number by the DVSA. It is worth noting down this number, not only to verify their details, but also to check their availability when you book your practical driving test, if you want them accompanying you on the day.
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Do driving instructors have to follow any regulations?
Although it is voluntary, all driving instructors are expected to follow the professional standards and business ethics set out in the DVSA’s Code of Practice.
The following section of this article has much more information on spotting and dealing with a bad instructor:
What to look for when choosing an instructor
While price is important, if you focus on it too much, you could end up choosing an unsuitable instructor, which is false economy. We therefore recommend that you take the following factors on board too:
Do they hold a green badge (fully qualified ADI) or a pink badge (still a trainee)?
How long have they been teaching? Do they teach full-time or part-time? How did they score on their last ADI test (graded A, B or Fail)?
Do they enjoy good word of mouth or glowing reviews on websites and forums?
How many of their former students have passed? A good instructor will know this information. If they have a high success rate, they’ll likely boast about it.
Does their teaching style match your learning style? Do you feel comfortable in the car with them? Are they patient, calm and supportive? Do they give you timely instructions and constructive feedback? Some learners like to be instructed before they make a move, others only when they need to be corrected.
What is their conduct like? Are they punctual, and prepared? Do they piggy back (give lifts to other students) or run personal errands during lessons? Do they give you their full attention, or spend time chatting/on phone/texting? Do they give more physical contact than is strictly necessary?
Do they teach for the full length of the lesson? Do they go over learning points at the end of a lesson or at the start of a new one? Do they set objectives at the start of the current lesson? Do they use client centred learning? Do they keep a record of your progress, e.g. The Professional Driving Instructors Progress Report card? Do they update your appointment card regularly?
Do they have to travel far or battle through traffic to reach you on time?
If you live in a rural area with less choice of instructors, don’t rule out a suitable instructor just because they are not based in your local area, especially if they can reach you easily.
Type of car
Do they teach in a manual, or automatic, or both? Do they use the same car for each lesson? Is it the right kind of car for you? Will you be able to take your practical test in the same car on the day?
For reviews of cars commonly used by driving schools visit Intelligent Instructor.
Are they aware of their local test centre?
What do any ‘guarantees’ they offer actually mean? Do they give you any kind of written contract?
Do they offer discounts for extended lessons or block bookings? How much do they charge for the hire of their car on test day? What is their policy on cancellations/refunds?
What if I have special needs?
If you have any kind of condition that affects your ability to drive and want to begin or return to driving, then get in touch with one of the 17 Forum of Mobility Centres across the UK. These independent organisations have been set up specifically to offer information, advice and assessment to help you get behind the wheel. Visit the Driving Mobility website for more details.
For additional information or advice, or to locate a driving instructor who specialises in helping people with physical disabilities, special educational needs and those with hearing difficulties, contact the Association of Disability Driving Instructors.
Anyone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder should check out the driving section of the National Autistic Society’s website for guidance.
The Epilepsy Society offers an interactive online tool to help those living with epilepsy to find out how driving regulations apply to them.
Some other notable resources available to disabled people include:
Blue Badge – special parking bays for disabled drivers
Motability – affordable cars for the disabled
Are intensive or residential driving courses any good?
Intensive lessons (otherwise referred to as crash courses!) are usually spread over one or two weeks and involve learners spending up to six hours a day behind the wheel for the duration of the course.
As the name suggests, residential driving courses are intensive courses that require you to spend the length of the course living in accommodation at or near the driving school.
Pros & Cons of Intensive Driving Courses
+ Cost less, often half what you would pay for 40-50 driving lessons
+ Efficient – you compress months worth of driving in to 1-2 weeks
+ No distractions like work or college, you focus solely on driving
+ Ideal for those who want/need to learn quickly, e.g. for a job
+ Give you many hours of practise each day for the length of the course
+ Some courses offer a free retest or correctional lessons if you fail the practical test
+ One fixed price for lessons, theory test and practical driving test
+ No admin to worry about, everything is booked for you
+ Easier to fit into your calendar
+ Minimal gap between lessons
– Hefty upfront fee involved
– Some courses require you to have passed your theory test first
– Others don’t offer a discount if you have already passed the theory test
– Learners unlikely to be exposed to driving in many different weather or road conditions
– Your confidence may be dented if you fail at the end of intensive training
– Require you to block-off a chunk of time in your calendar, so less flexible than lessons
– Too intense, may not give you the breadth of experience that lessons over many weeks do
– Course could prove to be stressful and pressurised
– Lots to remember and master in a very short time span
– Less time to absorb information when compared to weekly lessons
– If you fail the test and have to wait for another test slot, you may forget what you learned
– You may be required to spend several days away from home
– Correctional lessons may be purely classroom based, unless you pay extra
– The pass ‘guarantee’ may be nothing of the kind, as nobody can promise you’ll pass
– Even if you pass, you may not feel safe or ready to drive solo after just a week or two of driving
If you’re a fast learner, or like cramming for a test, or if it is critical that you pass your test, e.g. for a job or for relocation purposes, then an intensive course might be ideal for you.
However, we believe that most learners would be better off booking conventional lessons or, if they are on a tight schedule, considering a semi-intensive crash course instead.
At the very least, we would recommend that you take an assessment lesson with the instructor before signing up to an intensive course, to ensure that their teaching style suits you and that you are comfortable with the accelerated pace of learning.
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What to Expect During Your Driving Lessons
What do I need for a driving lesson?
Here’s a checklist to help you:
- Provisional license – only required for your first lesson with a new instructor, but a must
- Check code – only required for the first lesson (see section below for details)
- Glasses/Contact lenses – make sure you don’t forget these if you need them to drive
- Comfortable footwear – big boots or heels will make it difficult to ‘feel’ the pedals properly
- Appointment card – to book further lessons or to record which lessons you’ve paid for
- Money – don’t forget your wallet or purse if you pay after each lesson
- Usual stuff – phone, house keys and anything else you usually carry with you
- Questions – make a note of any questions you have or points you want clarified
- Positive attitude – relax, and be willing to listen and learn!
What’s a driving license ‘check code’ and how do I get one?
You can view or share your driving license information and driving record with third parties such as driving instructors or car hire firms via the government’s view driving license service.
If you want to share this information electronically, you will need to generate a check code, which can only be used once and remains valid for just 21 days. You’ll need to supply the following information to create the code:
- Your driving license number
- Your national insurance number
- The postcode on your driving license
Ideally, your driving instructor should logon onto the check driving license portal and enter the check code along with the last 8 digits of your driving license to verify it at the start of your first lesson with him/her.
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What to expect on your first driving lesson
You won’t normally be invited to sit in the driver’s seat straight away. Instead, the instructor will collect you and drive you to an appropriate place, such as a quiet residential road or an open area.
Once these checks are complete, s/he will then ask you to jump into the driver’s seat, so they can run through the controls and basic checks with you. They will normally cover the following:
- Doors securely closed?
- Seat in a comfortable position?
- Steering position established?
- Seatbelts on?
- Mirrors adjusted?
- Accelerator, breaks, clutch
- Gear stick, hand brake, indicators, steering wheel, windscreen wipers
Next, and depending on your level of experience, your instructor will explain the basics of driving:
- Moving off – putting the car into gear and getting it ready to start moving
- Clutch control – controlling the clutch pedal and finding the ‘biting point’
- Mirror and signal – checking it is safe to move off and letting others know you’re about to
- Gear change – why, how and when to change gear
- Stopping – how to control the brake, clutch and handbrake to come to a halt
- Parking – how to pull up next to the kerb safely
Click on the link below to find out more about driving drills such as mirror signal manoeuvre, LADA, MSPSL, SCALP and POM:
Expect to spend 20-30 minutes going over these basics. Then, it’s time to actually drive!
Don’t panic if you stall the car a few times, as this is completely normal and to be expected at the beginning.
Given that there is so much to cover in the first lesson, it is always a good idea to make your first lesson two hours long. In fact, we recommend you book double lessons for the first few weeks, to build up experience and confidence.
Also, try to book a slot for when you feel at your most alert and stress-free, be that first thing in the morning, midday, late in the evening after work, or at the weekend.
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Motorway practise with an instructor
Since 4th June 2018, learner drivers in England, Scotland and Wales have been allowed to drive on motorways. Before then, only full driving license holders were allowed to venture onto motorways. The change only applies learners in cars, not motorbikes.
Motorway driving is entirely voluntary and does not form part of the driving test.
Learners in Northern Ireland aren’t allowed on motorways – yet.
As a learner, you can only drive on a motorway in the company of an approved driving instructor – not a trainee instructor, family member or friend – and only if they believe you are safe and competent enough to do so.
Motorway lessons must also be conducted in a vehicle that has dual-controls and is fitted with L plates.
The safest roads to drive on are motorways, but many new and inexperienced drivers find driving at speeds of up to 70mph nerve-wracking and therefore put it off. Motorway lessons will give you valuable practical experience and help boost your confidence.
Your motorway lesson will focus on the following key areas:
- Joining and leaving the motorway, using slip roads and overtaking safely
- Controlling a car at high speeds
- Using and changing lanes correctly
- Understanding motorway signs, rules and common hazards
- Learning what to do in the event of a breakdown or emergency
Your obligations as a learner
Do you want a good working relationship with your instructor? If so, then make sure you are:
- Willing to learn
- Following instructions
- Prepared to ask questions
Above all, give your instructor fair warning if you need to cancel or rearrange a lesson. Not only are driving instructors highly trained professionals who deserve to be treated as such, but they are self-employed too, so a cancellation is not an hour of free time for them but an hour of lost wages!
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How to handle a bad driving instructor
Signs of a bad instructor
Classic signs of an unprofessional driving instructor include:
- Not turning up
- Mocking you in any way
- Cutting short lesson times
- Excessive physical contact
- Shouting or swearing at you
- Only offering irregular lessons
- Inappropriate comments/touching
- Not refunding money you are owed
- Repeatedly cancelling at short notice
- Failing to display green or pink badge
- Talking/texting on phone during lessons
- Running personal errands during lessons
- Sending pupils inappropriate messages/images
- Not providing feedback on performance/progress
- Failing to deliver lessons you have already paid for
- Taking you on the same unchallenging route repeatedly
- Not checking your provisional license or eyesight in the first lesson
- Teaching limited manoeuvres or not allowing enough practise of them
Changing your instructor
You have every right to expect your driving instructor to behave professionally with you at all times. If this is not the case, try communicating your concerns to them first, but if the situation doesn’t improve, then don’t hesitate to change driving school.
Bear in mind, though, that good instructors are in demand, so you may not be able to book a new one at short notice.
Also, some instructors may be reluctant to take you on if you’ve already had a good number of lessons elsewhere, because they like to teach you their own way and may feel that they will not be able to re-teach you using their approach.
Complaining about your instructor
Driving instructors are expected to follow a voluntary code of practice with regard to their personal conduct and business dealings. Serious misconduct could result in disqualification or worse.
If you are unhappy about the service provided by your instructor, you can contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) driving instructor team to complain. You should always report serious misconduct to them. Don’t worry about police involvement, because you won’t be forced to escalate the matter to them unless you really want to.
Illegal driving instructors
Only a Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) qualified and registered instructor is allowed to charge for driving lessons. To prove their credentials, an approved driving instructor will display a green badge in their car, and a trainee a pink badge.
Insurance cover for learner drivers
Car insurance is a legal requirement for all drivers in the UK – even learner drivers.
If you learn to drive in your instructor’s car, then you’ll automatically be insured. However, if you want to practise or learn in a friend’s or a relative’s car, you’ll need to arrange separate cover.
You have two options:
Learner Car Insurance
This type of policy insures you to drive either your own car or a borrowed car. The policy will be in your name. You need to be at least 17 and hold a provisional license to buy learner insurance.
When practising your driving, you will still need to be supervised by a full license holder who is age 21 or more (some insurers specify 25 years), and has a minimum of 3 years driving experience.
If you have an accident in a borrowed car and you have learner insurance, you will not impact the owner’s insurance premium or their no claims bonus (the NCB reduces the cost of car insurance each year).
Cover can be arranged for short periods ranging from 2 hours to 5 months, or annually. Learners normally estimate how long they will take to pass their test and then buy cover for that period. How much you’ll pay depends on a range of factors, but do shop around, as rates range from £1-5 per day.
Learner driver insurance normally stops the moment you pass your test, therefore make sure you cancel your learner cover and buy qualified driver car insurance in good time.
Having said that, there are some learner policies on the market that cover you for a few hours immediately after you have passed your test, allowing you to legally drive yourself home from the test centre. Bear this in mind when shopping for cover.
The second way to get cover as a learner is to ask a relative or friend who is already a qualified driver to add you to their insurance policy, so you can legally practise in their vehicle.
This sounds straightforward enough, but there are a some notable drawbacks to arranging insurance as a learner using this method:
- Insurers often apply a big excess if inexperienced drivers are added to a policy
- It pushes up the cost of your family member’s/friend’s car insurance policy
- Damage your family member’s/friend’s car and they may lose their NCB
- As a named driver, you will not build up your own NCB
Insurance cover for new or young drivers
Ways to cut the cost of Insurance
As stated, car insurance is compulsory, unless you’ve registered your vehicle as off the road (SORN). There are serious penalties for driving without cover, including fines and prosecution.
Unfortunately, insurance is eye-wateringly expensive if you are a new or young driver, especially if you are under 21; policy quotes of £2,000 or more are not uncommon. The good news, though, is that your premium will fall substantially as you get older and gain experience, especially if you drive responsibly.
You can cut the cost of insurance considerably by adding yourself as a named driver to the policy of a more experienced motorist (e.g. parent), just as you can when learning to drive, but you will not build up your own no claims bonus (NCB) if you do this.
Another thing to watch out for is that buying insurance as a named driver when you are in fact the main driver of a vehicle is known as ‘fronting’ and is illegal, because it is classed as fraud. If you get caught doing this, you could be added to the Insurance Fraud Register, making it harder and more expensive to buy cover in future, or worse you could be prosecuted.
Luckily, there are ways to buy cover in your own name and cut the cost at the same time:
Buy the Right Car
A Polo costs less to insure than a Porsche, so buy a car that falls into a low insurance group such as a small hatchback with a small engine. There are 50 groups in all, with group 1 being the cheapest.
Buy the Right Policy
Following these tips when buying a car insurance policy will help you cut the cost, no matter how long you’ve been driving:
- Shop around
- Pick a higher excess
- Choose the right level of cover
- Don’t overstate you mileage
- Avoid modifying your car
- Keep a clean driving record
- Consider a multi-car policy
- Fit security devices and park securely
- Add a parent or responsible adult to the policy
Opt for Telematic Insurance
Telematics insurance, also referred to as black box car insurance, is a form of insurance that uses a device in your car to record when, where and, crucially, how you drive. This data is then used to tailor car insurance that matches your individual driving profile.
Because all car insurance is based on risk assessment, safe drivers can end up paying up to 25% less using a telematics box, compared to a conventional policy. Conversely, risky drivers can end up paying a lot more.
One of the biggest advantages of telematics is that you can view the telematics data yourself and quickly adjust your driving style to lower the insurance premium.
Buy a Package Deal
If you are lucky enough afford a brand new car, one of the best ways to bring down the cost of insurance cover is to buy a packaged or bundled deal, either using a Personal Contract Purchase scheme, or through a special offer from a motor manufacturer or insurer:
Make sure you do the maths first, however, as it may be cheaper to buy insurance separately in some cases. But if the figures add up, packaged insurance could save you a lot of money.
Give your Driving License Number
Many drivers end up overpaying for their car cover because they give insurers old or inaccurate information. You can get around this problem by using the following secure data sharing initiative between the government and the insurance industry:
Day Insure (backed by Aviva)
Veygo (by Admiral)
New or Young Drivers
Drive Like a Girl (not just for females)
Insurance Comparison Websites
Don’t forget to use comparison sites when shopping for car insurance. They make hunting for cover easy and allow you to compare quotes side-by-side. You can either use a specialist car insurance comparison website like Mustard or one of the generalists:
Books, DVDs & Learner Plates
Amazon – the online giant offers a huge selection of books and PC/DVD discs and other material for learner drivers; it also stocks a selection of learner plates
DVSA Shop – the DVSA’s e-commerce site stocks all its official products for learners, drivers, riders, instructors and professionals
Halfords – order online or visit any outlet of this specialist retail chain for learner plates and all your other motoring gear
Safe Driving for Life
Dangerous Roads (interactive crash risk map of the UK)
Ingenie (articles on all aspects of driving)
Intelligent Instructor (trade magazine for ADIs)
LearnerPod (tips and articles)
Learners Guide (driving lesson plans)
Midrive (glossary of driving terms)
Pass Me Fast (assorted resources for learners)
Safe Driving for Life (information resource from the DVSA)
The Student Room (youngsters’ motoring forum)
You can learn to drive with a professional instructor, or with a family member or friend. There are pros and cons to both methods, so careful consideration is required. Make the wrong decision and you could end up wasting a lot of time, effort and money.
The best solution may therefore be to strike a balance and combine professional lessons with private, supervised practise.
Always ensure you have appropriate insurance when driving with a friend or relative.
In addition, follow the rules at all times, and try to get as much exposure to different driving conditions and road types as you can, in order to build up your experience and confidence as a driver.
Most importantly, be willing to listen and learn. Good luck and have fun!
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