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Driving Lessons… Where to begin

Congratulations! You’ve just turned 17, landed your dream job, and decided you need a new challenge or just want to learn to drive for the freedom and independence it offers.

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Driving Lessons… Where to begin

As a driving instructor, I am often asked two questions when first contacted by someone looking to take driving lessons. The first is always: “What are your rates?“, and the second: “When are you available?” 

I am very rarely asked, “How many lessons will I need?” or “What other costs are involved?”

So, with that in mind, it seems a ‘preparing to drive checklist’ may be useful to learner drivers.

Budgeting

When learning to drive, there are one-off costs involved as well as ongoing weekly costs.

You must have a current provisional license. This costs £34 to buy online and £43 by post, at the time of writing. You can apply for a provisional when you are 15 years and 9 months old, however you cannot drive on the roads until you are 17. Young people who claim PIP (Personal Independence Payment) may be eligible to drive at 16. If you want to find out more information about applying for your provisional licence, or a quick guide, check out Veygo’s guide!

The theory test currently costs £23, however some people need more than one attempt at this to pass. You may wish to buy an app or learning materials to help you achieve your theory test. It’s worth putting the effort in as passing the test isn’t something you can do without revision.

Booking your theory test can be as easy as visiting ‘Book your theory test’ – GOV.UK

Most instructors charge an hourly rate. Some also offer block rates, so for instance a block of 10 hours may cost a little less than buying them individually. Lesson prices vary throughout the UK; however, you’re likely to spend around £35 an hour. 

Your driving instructor will advise you on the frequency of your lessons, depending on your needs. 

Should you choose to go down the intensive route, this cost will be increased. You’ll be paying at least £40 an hour, plus the cost of booking early tests and getting lessons very quickly. If you need to pass your test urgently, this could be an option for you.

Budgeting:
1.     Provisional licence: £34 – £43
2.     Theory test revision material: £5 – £15
3.     Theory tests, per attempt: £23
4.     Lessons: estimated £35 per hour for 45 hours
5.     Provisional Insurance: Check with insurance provider (Veygo offer a great option)
6.     Practical tests: £62 per attempt
7.     Instructor cost for test: 2 – 3 hours at their rate
8.     Cancellation apps (if required): £5 – £20

How many hours of lessons will I need?

Most learners need between 35 and 55 hours of formal tuition. It will help if you can do some private practice. So, before you start thinking about how many lessons you need to buy, consider whether you have a family member or close friend who has held their full UK license for at least three years and can commit to taking you out a couple of times a week to practise. 

If not, you’re looking at the higher end of the range. The DVSA states that most people need 45 hours of formal tuition and 22 hours of practice on average, to be able to drive safely on the roads independently.

However, the number of hours you will need is dependent on various factors. Some questions to consider include:

  • Are you generally very confident or are you more anxious when in new situations?
  • Do you pick things up easily? Do you struggle to learn new concepts?
  • Are you coordinated? Can you do multiple things at once or do you need to focus on one thing at a time?

Be honest with yourself when estimating the number of hours you think will need.

Practical driving tests cost £62 per test, in addition to the cost of the instructor’s car and time. Most instructors will block out two to three hours for the test, charged at their normal rate. Ask your instructor how they like to manage test day and factor in that cost too.

It would be lovely if everyone passed first time, however the national pass rate runs at about 50% so be prepared and budget for more than one attempt. That way, if you pass first time, you have a bit of money to spare.

Currently, there are long wait times for practical test slots, so candidates are using cancellation apps to locate available tests in their area. These can cost anything up to approximately £20. Again, do your research, and ask around to determine which apps are most effective. 

Another factor to consider if you are planning to practise privately, is to ensure that your car is insured for you to drive as a provisional licence holder. Contact your insurance provider to discuss your options and costs, or use Veygo temporary cover to insure the vehicle for short periods of time.

Choosing your instructor

Bearing all that in mind, it’s time to look for your instructor. Before reaching out to a potential instructor, consider your:

  • budget and availability
  • learning style and requirements
  • timescale for passing

People come to me from various avenues, from the internet, through word of mouth via friends or family, or even through a third-party company.

It is wise to do some research to find a suitable instructor for you. Ask friends or family to get their honest opinion on their driving instructor and don’t be afraid to ask yourself: “Is this the right person for me?”

Good instructors will adapt their style to suit the pupil, but it can help to seek out an instructor with a teaching style that suits you. If you need lots of encouragement and support to excel, ensure the instructor you choose has that quality. Likewise, if you need pushing to work harder, find an instructor with a teaching style that suits your style of learning.

When researching online, remember to check all the reviews. People will often share first-hand comments about their experience with their instructor. Think about your own learning style and decide what type of teaching style suits you best to help your decision-making.

Then, contact several driving instructors in your area. Prepare ahead by considering your availability; which days are you free and how much time you can commit to lessons per week?

  • Questions to ask potential instructors:
  • Ask about their pricing structure and availability
  • Enquire about their pass rate
  • Ask how many hours they think you will need and let them know how many hours a week you’ll be able to commit to – bear in mind it is quite difficult to judge how quickly a pupil will progress until you have seen them drive, so the instructor will only be able to give you an estimate.

Check what the timescale is for booking tests in your area

Ask about cancellation policies and any other terms and conditions. If you are referred to a website, make sure to read up on all the information before booking.

Because of the long waiting lists for practical tests, a lot of instructors are asking that you complete your theory test prior to starting lessons. This, of course, is a very personal decision. Some people like to complete their theory first, while others prefer to start driving so, they can apply their theory revision to their practical lessons. Either way, the theory is a very important part of driving as it gives you the tools you need to understand the road, which is an ongoing process.

To summarise, do your research. Plan your budget and take some time to read reviews, talk to friends, family, and colleagues about their experiences before talking to potential instructors and making your selection.

See the checklist below of things to consider before you start your driving lessons. Hopefully this will be of some help in the planning and budgeting of a very long and safe driving career.

Finding an instructor:

1.     Ask friends and family for recommendations
2.     Search online in your area and on gov.uk website
3.     Read instructor reviews online
4.     Make a list of questions
5.     Call instructors on your shortlist; ask your questions and inform them of your requirements
6.     Choose the instructor who best suits your needs and make a booking.

Once you’ve gone over all of the above and you’re confident and happy with what you’re doing then it’s finally time to get some of Veygo’s learner driver insurance. As mentioned it gives you the freedom and comfort of practising in your own car! 

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Louise Dale

After 17 years teaching children with additional learning needs in primary education, I combined my love of teaching and driving to become a driving instructor. I have more than a decade’s worth of experience teaching people to drive, and have spent the last 4 years teaching at Drive, Learn, Achieve Driving School in Cardiff. I decided to share my expert advice with learner drivers, to answer your questions before you ever get behind the wheel.

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