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Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
4 MARCH 2024
6 min read
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Behind the Wheel: How confident are British drivers?

Whether we’re nervous about driving in the dark, or don’t particularly enjoy parallel parking, there are certain scenarios that can be stressful for even the most experienced of motorists. Confidence while driving not only makes it more enjoyable but also keeps you calm and focused in challenging situations, ensuring the safety of yourself and other motorists on the road.

With this in mind, our team conducted a survey to uncover the scenarios and car maintenance tasks drivers feel the most and least confident with. Alongside some guidance on how to feel more in control while behind the wheel.

Which UK cities are home to the most confident drivers?

Rank City Percentage of Confident Drivers
1 Southampton 88%
=2 Cardiff 87%
=2 Plymouth 87%
=3 Edinburgh 85%
=3 Bristol 85%
4 Manchester 84%
=5 London 83%
=5 Glasgow 83%
=5 Belfast 83%
=5 Norwich 83%

Across the UK, 82% of drivers say they are confident when on the roads, with Southampton having the highest proportion of confident drivers, where 88% of motorists in the city describe themselves in this way. This is closely followed by Cardiff and Plymouth, with 87% of residents in both cities agreeing they are calm and comfortable while driving.

According to the research, Nottingham is home to some of the least confident drivers from the study, with 11% admitting to feeling uneasy behind the wheel. This is over double the UK national average of 5%.

Interestingly, our survey has revealed that the type of car we drive can also affect our confidence. Those who drive petrol cars are the most comfortable on the roads, with 84% suggesting this to be the case, while those who drive an electric car are just under 10% less confident behind the wheel.

Which driving scenarios do Brits feel most or least confident in?

The scenarios in which UK drivers are the most confident in:

Rank Scenario Percentage of drivers who are confident with scenario
1 Roundabouts 82%
2 Driving up/down hills 81%
3 Following a GPS 80%
4 Changing lanes on a motorway 79%
5 Driving on the motorway 78%
6 Driving on country lanes 77%
7 Slip roads / merging onto a motorway 76%
=8 Driving in the rain 75%
=8 Parking on a hill 75%
9 Navigating roadworks or diversions 72%
10 Driving with my kids in the car 70%

When it comes to different on-road scenarios, drivers across the UK are most confident about roundabouts, with 82% of motorists saying they aren’t put off by these. This is followed by driving up or down hills (81%) and following a GPS (80%).

Lots of Brits are at ease on motorways too, where over three-quarters of drivers say they are confident about changing lanes (79%) and driving on the motorway (78%) in general.

However, this does differ across the generations. Those aged between 17 and 24 (15%) are almost three times more uncomfortable switching lanes on motorways than those aged over 55 (5%) and are twice as uneasy about simply driving on these kinds of roads.

The scenarios in which UK drivers are the least confident in:

Rank Scenario Percentage of drivers who are not confident with scenario
1 Driving abroad 37%
2 Driving on ice 35%
3 Driving in the snow 31%
4 Driving after an accident 27%
5 Driving in the fog 24%
6 Driving in unfamiliar places 20%
7 Having a 'backseat driver' 17%
=8 Reading a traditional map 16%
=8 Parallel parking 16%
9 Driving in the dark 15%
=10 Slip roads / merging onto a motorway 10%
=10 Parking on a hill 10%

Over one-third (37%) of motorists say they aren’t confident driving whilst abroad, which perhaps isn’t surprising given that the rules, signs, and even sides of the road you drive on often vary from country to country.

Weather can also have a significant impact on confidence. Driving in ice (35%) and snow (31%) are the third and fourth scenarios in which motorists are the most uneasy, and just 67% of drivers say they are comfortable driving in the dark. No matter how experienced you are, it’s really important to take extra care when the weather is poor, particularly in the colder months when we are driving in winter weather conditions.

What are the car maintenance tasks drivers feel most and least comfortable doing?

The car maintenance tasks UK drivers are most confident about:

Rank Maintenance Task Percentage of drivers who are confident with task
1 Unfogging your windscreen when on the road 78%
2 Checking the oil 74%
3 Speaking with a mechanic 70%
4 Checking/filling up coolant/antifreeze 67%
5 Checking tyre tread depth 65%

Brits are most confident with the basics of car maintenance, like unfogging their windscreen (78%) and checking their oil (74%). Many are also fine with speaking to a mechanic (70%), which is sometimes perceived to be a difficult task.

Looking at seasonal tasks, just 67% of drivers are confident they know how to check or fill up their coolant or antifreeze, which is an important step in preparation for driving in cold weather.

The car maintenance tasks UK drivers are the least confident about:

Rank Maintenance Task Percentage of drivers who are confident with task
=1 Changing the oil 38%
=1 Changing a tyre 38%
2 Changing your headlights 36%
3 Checking brake fluid levels 30%
4 Jumpstarting your battery 28%
5 Changing your windshield wipers 24%

Car confidence really starts to waver when it comes to the more technical roadside tasks. Nearly two-fifths (38%) of drivers aren’t comfortable changing their oil or tyres, and a further one in five (17%) Brits say they are uneasy about checking the tread depth of their tyres.

Even if you don’t feel poised to do your own car maintenance, your vehicle needs to be kept in good working order, to ensure you keep yourself and other road users safe. Driving a car that’s in a dangerous condition could earn you a £2,500 fine, three penalty points, or even a driving ban.

That being said, some things are better left to the professionals. If your car needs a little TLC, and you are doubtful about carrying out the task yourself, book it in with a mechanic.

Top tips on how to build your confidence as a driver

Julie Daniels, part of the motor insurance team, has pulled together her top tips on how you can build your confidence as a driver:

1. Prepare ahead of time

Planning your journey ahead of time should help ease stress while on the roads. Take a look at your route beforehand to minimise the risk of getting lost and try to avoid roads that might have a lot of traffic or congestion.

2. Practise driving in different conditions

Situations like driving in adverse weather conditions or at night can be challenging, but it’s important not to avoid them altogether. Exposing yourself to these situations little by little is good practice and will help you feel more confident over time.

3. Take some refresher driving lessons

There are various advanced driving courses you can take, such as motorway driving or lessons focused on how to drive at night. These courses are designed to help you become more confident behind the wheel and prepare you for different scenarios on the road.

4. Keep it slow

It’s always important to stick to the speed limit. If you’re not confident on the roads, keep it slow and steady so you’ll have more time to assess the road ahead, stay calm, and make informed decisions.

Methodology & Sources

The data used in this campaign is from a survey of 2014 drivers aged 17+ which took place in October 2023.