Driving School Lessons – Does Quality Justify the Cost?

The driving test probably isn’t as old as you might imagine. It was introduced in April 1935, and only became mandatory for anyone who started driving on or after that date. Which means for a good number of years there have always been people on the road who, legally, have never taken a test. Unfortunately, you’re almost certainly too young for this to apply to you!

Of course, learning to drive is one of the most liberating periods in a person’s life, and passing a driving test is one of life’s real landmarks. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive things a young person can do. An average learner needs 47 hours of instruction in order to pass their test, and with lessons now generally weighing in at £24 per hour, that cost quickly mounts up.

Learner driver instruction is regulated by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Authority (DVSA) and they are responsible for setting the standard for safe and responsible driving. Driving Schools are understandably a popular option for those who hope to meet these standards. Qualified instructors are fully trained, they often have brand new cars for you to learn in, and they now offer much more than just practical guidance: with the addition of a theory and hazard perception test standing between you and your driving licence, it’s easy to see why learning with a professional is more likely to lead to success.

In addition to the stipulated 47 hours of instruction, the DVSA also recommends that learners undertake at least 22 hours of private practice on top of their formal driving lessons. Which might make you think…if I’m going to practice in a friend or relative’s car, why not just get them to teach me? The answer probably isn’t as easy as you might think. In order for someone to give driving instruction, they have to be aged over 21 and have held a full driving licence for 3 years. There is no requirement for them to have any prior experience of teaching someone to drive, nor are there any regulations around modifications for their vehicle: there’s no requirement for dual controls, and even the DVSA’s suggestion of additional internal mirrors is only a recommendation. So here are 3 key things to keep in mind before you consider teaching a friend or relative to drive.

  • Get legal. It might be hugely tempting to buy a learner car and get it insured in the name of a more experienced driver. As long as the car is insured, and someone with a full licence is present at all times, that’s fine, right? Sadly not. This practise is known as Fronting, and in the event of an accident and subsequent claim, if the insurance company suspects you of Fronting, the result could be a conviction for fraud. If you’re going to learn, make sure you get insured appropriately.
  • Get humble. Insuring a learner driver is often an expensive exercise, particularly if the learner is aged 17-25, because this age group is statistically more likely to have an accident. One way to reduce this cost is to choose a car in a low insurance group. This means kissing goodbye to learning in your rich uncle’s 150K Ferrari 458 Italia, but a fifth hand £300 Ford Fiesta will save you quite a bit of money. What it might lack in style it more than makes up for in savings.
  • Get practical. As nice as it is to have peace of mind from fully comprehensive insurance, the reality is that when you’re in the driving seat of a cheap runaround, third party insurance is probably adequate. By the same token, you’ll see your insurance premiums drop if you up your excess. Long story short – the less of a financial burden your car becomes to the insurance company, the less your insurance will cost.

Learner Driver Insurance

But – it’s not all scary legal doom and gloom! As well as the convenience of having lessons and practice with someone you know, there are specialist insurance companies who will insure learner drivers for as little as £3 per day. With driving instructors offering week-long intensive courses that can cost as much as £1200 for 7 days, the equivalent cost with a friend or family member could be just £21! It’s also worth noting that only an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) can legally charge you for driving instruction – be careful if the friend or family member you choose to learn with tries to tell you otherwise!

So if you’re looking into driving lessons, it’s well worth talking about it with friends and family first. Although there is a lot to consider, learning privately rather than with a qualified instructor could save you a bundle – as long as you do it right. Remember – get legal, get humble, get practical.

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