Learning to drive

Learning to drive can be an exciting time, but there’s plenty to think about before getting behind the wheel for the first time. Here’s everything you need to know about the process of learning to drive, from learner driver car insurance to what to expect in your first lesson.

Learning to drive can be an exciting time, but there’s plenty to think about before getting behind the wheel for the first time. Here’s everything you need to know about the process of learning to drive, from learner driver car insurance to what to expect in your first lesson.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
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Posted 15 JANUARY 2020

What do I need to be able to learn to drive?

Before you jump in the car and go for it, there are a few rules involved:

  • You must be 17 to drive a car on the UK roads (the exception to this is if you receive disability living allowance at the higher rate)
  • You must hold a provisional licence – you can apply for this at any time after you’re 15 years and nine months old
  • You must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses, if you need them)
  • You must be insured to drive the car you are learning in. The car you learn to drive in must have valid road tax and MOT. It should also display L plates (L or D plates in Wales)
  • You must be accompanied by a qualified driver, who is over 21 and has had a full licence for at least three years. Just be aware that it’s probably better to use an approved driving school or instructor, rather than relying solely on your friend to teach you how to drive.

How long does it take to learn to drive?

Although there isn’t a minimum requirement of number of lessons or hours spent behind the wheel, the average driver usually needs about 47 hours of lessons and around another 22 hours of private practice.  

Standard lessons are often around 90 minutes, so if you had one driving lesson a week, if will take you several months before you’re ready for your test.

What skills and attitudes to do I need to pass my driving test?

Want to know how to pass your driving test first time? You’re not alone! 
Good driving isn’t simply about learning the rules of the road, it’s about your skills as a driver and your attitude towards other road users.

You’ll need:

  • To show responsibility, as your life and others’ lives depend on it
  • To be able to concentrate on what you’re doing and what’s around you
  • To anticipate what might happen around you
  • To show patience and courtesy to other road users
  • To have confidence in your own abilities
  • And, of course, you’ll need to learn the rules of the road too.

What happens in my first driving lesson?

Usually, you’ll spend your first lesson on very quiet roads, to give you chance to get the feel of the car. You’ll learn how to start the car, and how the gears, pedals and other important instruments work. Obviously, if you already know the basics, let your instructor know and they may adjust the lesson accordingly. Oh, and don’t worry if you’re nervous about your first lesson – everyone is.  

Is there such a thing as car insurance for learner drivers?

There definitely is. If you take driving lessons with a registered driving instructor, your fuel and insurance are covered by the driving school. But what happens if you want to learn to drive with a family member or if you want to practice in between lessons?

It’s important to make sure you’ve got the right learner driver car insurance in place. Unfortunately, this can be expensive, as new drivers and young drivers, in general, are considered risky by insurance providers because of their inexperience. Plus, you’ve had no chance to build up a no claims discount, which will help keep down your premiums later in life.

What type of learner driver car insurance is there?

There are two ways to ensure you get the cover you need when learning how to drive:   

  • becoming a named driver on someone else’s insurance – it’s possible to be added as a named driver to someone else’s insurance policy, say a parent, relative or friend’s insurance. Although this is possible in theory, some insurance providers may not like a learner driver being added as a named driver, while others may charge a significant amount to do so (the insurance provider will take both drivers’ information into account and create a price based on each of you sharing the car). There may also be an administration charge to make the change to the policy. Remember, though, that it’s illegal to name someone else as the main driver if you drive the car most often. This is insurance fraud known as ‘fronting’, and could invalidate your insurance and you could also be prosecuted
  • Learner or provisional driver insurance – learner or provisional driver cover will allow you to practice in any car, but you must be supervised by a qualified driver aged 21 (some insurance providers require the supervising driver to be 25+) or over who has held a full licence for at least three years. You might find that some insurance providers set tougher rules than that, so always check the policy terms and conditions. If you drive without supervision, you could be fined up to £1,000 and get up to six points on your licence before you even pass your test. Provisional driver insurance can offer flexibility in the length of time the policy is in place. Some policies will offer an initial fixed period of a month, for example, with renewable short-term periods thereafter. Most learner driver policies will also set limits on the value of the car that’s involved and some will also restrict the time of the day when you can drive the vehicle.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you’ve got the right car insurance for you – and that’s where we can help. We independently compare a variety of the UK’s most trusted car insurance companies to provide new and young drivers with car insurance deals.

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