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How to find a driving instructor

Learning to drive is expensive and can be time-consuming, so finding the right driving instructor is vital.

Should you pay for lessons? Or is it better to get friends or relatives to teach you? And if you’re going with a professional, how do you choose the right one?

Here’s what you need to know.

Learning to drive is expensive and can be time-consuming, so finding the right driving instructor is vital.

Should you pay for lessons? Or is it better to get friends or relatives to teach you? And if you’re going with a professional, how do you choose the right one?

Here’s what you need to know.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
23 JUNE 2023
5 min read
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What’s the best way to find a driving instructor?

Here are our tips for finding a driving instructor.

Ask friends and family for recommendations

Don’t take one person’s word for it though – get a few recommendations and then do your own independent research.

Research instructors in your area and check online reviews

It’s worth checking out unbiased review sites, as well as local independent forums like Nextdoor.

Check the instructor’s qualifications

Anyone charging for driving lessons must have potential driving instructor (PDI) or approved driving instructor (ADI) certification from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). You can check if a driving instructor is registered on the DVSA website.

Registered driving instructors display a badge in their car windscreen – a green hexagonal badge shows they’re a fully-qualified driving instructor, while a pink triangular badge is for instructors in training.

Ask about their approach

You’re paying for a professional service, so your instructor should have clear lesson plans in mind.

Ask their advice

How long do they think a driving lesson should last? How often should you have lessons? When do they think you’ll be ready to take the test?

Assess their character

Are they friendly and polite? Do they seem patient and helpful? Did they show up on time? Is their car clean?

Make sure the relationship works

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your driving instructor, occasionally in stressful situations. So, ideally your instructor will be someone you get on well with.

Ask about discounts

Some instructors offer discounts if you block-book lessons, but have one first and make sure it’s a good fit before making a financial commitment.

Discuss the practicalities

Where will they pick you up? Are they flexible on lesson times? What happens if you need to cancel or postpone?

Driving lessons are expensive, so you need to feel you’re getting a good service. If you’ve had a few lessons with one instructor and don’t feel it’s a good fit, you can always switch.

How often should I take driving lessons?

How often you should take driving lessons depends on your ability and budget. Once or twice a week is usual, but you may opt for bouts of more intensive learning. Or you might choose to take it more slowly and leave time for private practice in between.

Ask your instructor for driving lesson tips. They’ll be able to tell you which approach they think works best. It ultimately depends on what makes sense for you, your schedule and your budget.

How much do driving lessons cost?

Driving lesson prices vary depending on your instructor’s experience and where in the country you live.

You can typically expect to pay £20-35 for a one-hour lesson (BSM’s prices start at £22), and you might need a fair number of lessons before you’re test-ready. You may find it’s cheaper to buy a chunk of lessons, rather than just one.

Other costs to factor into your budget include your theory and practical driving test.

What makes a good driving instructor?

A driving school or instructor’s pass rate isn’t everything – you’ll need to know the context of any figures you’re given.

An instructor could have a 100% pass rate, but if they’ve only had one student it’s meaningless. And if a driving school includes every pass, it’s likely to have a high success rate. It’s more helpful to find out whether people passed first, second or third time.

The best driving instructors will give you the support you need to learn to drive. Remember – you’re the one paying, so you need to feel comfortable with your progress and teaching.

Signs of a bad driving instructor

Here are some potential red flags to look out for:

  • No licence displayed in the windscreen
  • Failure to notice or correct your mistakes
  • Using the phone or being distracted during lessons
  • A bad temper or grumpy manner.

Should I choose a trainee instructor?

It’s not necessarily a bad idea to choose a trainee instructor. They won’t be an absolute beginner – they’ll have been tested by the DVSA and will have had the same criminal record check.

Because they’re still in training, you’re likely to pay less. You might also find they have more enthusiasm and fresher ideas than someone who’s been doing it for years. They’re still likely to be far more knowledgeable and helpful than friends or family.

Can I pay someone I know to teach me to drive?

A friend or relative could teach you for free, but if they’re not a qualified driving instructor, charging you for the lesson is technically illegal.

To accept payment, someone must be registered as an approved or potential driving instructor with the DVSA. If you think someone is working illegally as a driving instructor, you can report them to the DVSA.

When will I be ready to take my test?

Received wisdom is that you’ll need 40-50 hours of driving experience to pass your test. But the reality is that everyone learns at their own pace. Your driving instructor is best placed to monitor your progress and tell you when you’re ready to book your test.

The more hours you invest in your driving, the better your skills will become. Take opportunities to practise with friends or relatives, on top of your lessons, so you have the highest chance of passing your test first time.

Will I need car insurance when learning to drive?

Yes, you’ll need insurance when learning to drive, but the good news is, your instructor’s insurance should cover you. If you’re learning to drive in a friend or relative’s car, or going out with them for extra practice, you’ll need insurance for learner drivers.

If you’ve just passed your test, you’ll need your own car insurance (‘family’ insurance might be a good idea). As with your instructor, your insurance should be about what works for you, so compare car insurance to find the right deal.

Frequently asked questions

Can a driving instructor take me on lessons at night?

Yes, you can have driving lessons at night.

It’s actually a good idea to get used to driving in the dark in a controlled and safe setting, as you’ll probably find yourself driving in the dark a lot in winter.

Can a driving instructor take me on the motorway?

Yes, they can. Learner drivers are allowed to take driving lessons on motorways in England, Scotland and Wales – so long as they’re with an approved instructor and are in a car fitted with dual controls.

The idea is to increase the number of drivers who know how to use a motorway safely. It’s only voluntary though – it’s up to your driving instructor to decide if you’re ready for the challenge.

How much is a driving test?

A driving theory test costs £23, while the driving test itself costs £62.

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Rory Reid - car and technology expert

Rory Reid is a car and technology expert. He serves as the main presenter on Auto Trader’s YouTube channel and was previously a host on BBC Top Gear and its sister show Extra Gear. He is also a presenter on Fifth Gear. Previously, he hosted Sky TV’s Gadget Geeks, CNET’s Car Tech channel, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition and on the YouTube channel Fast, Furious & Funny.

Learn more about Rory

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