When you start learning to drive, you will spend a lot of hours with your driving instructor, so it’s essential to find one you can happily spend time with as they teach you to safely and confidently take to the road.
While it’s great to start learning with a friend or relative, this can lead to some difficulties such as heated arguments. There’s also a risk that they’ve picked up some bad habits which they could pass on to you, or that they aren’t up to speed on the ever-changing Highway Code.
So, it’s recommended that you spend at least some time with a driving expert. Driving instructors know exactly how to prepare you for test day and will teach you in a car with dual controls for improved safety.
Once you’ve decided to start your driving journey, how do you go about finding a good instructor?
The government has a simple and handy site enabling you to enter your postcode and find local driving instructors, who are approved by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
Driving instructors are regularly assessed on how well they do their job, and you can use this site to check their grade, if they’ve provided it. They’ll be ranked A (high standard), B (satisfactory) or fail. Alternatively, they might be ranked on the old grading system, which marks instructors from 1 (extremely poor) up to 6 (very high).
Instructors choose whether to be on this service, so not all of them will be listed.
Once you’ve found an instructor, there’s no harm in browsing the internet for any online reviews as well.
Ask friends or family
Searching online can only get you so far. It’s hard to gauge an instructor’s personality, for example. So, what better way to find the right instructor for you, than to ask someone you know and trust?
If you’re learning to drive at the same time as friends, word of mouth is especially helpful.
The right instructor
What exactly should you look for in a driving instructor?
Needless to say, they should be punctual, friendly and well-prepared. You will also need someone who can fit around your lifestyle, for example if you work or study during the day.
Alarm bells should ring if they keep on turning up late, in a poorly maintained car, or don’t give you the full time you booked the lesson for.
You should also get on with your instructor and feel comfortable sat alongside them, as you’re going to spend a lot of time together.
Think about any specific needs
If you have specific requirements, then you should find out if they can help.
For example, if you specifically want a female instructor, you’ll need to find out if one is available.
This also applies to learning to drive in an automatic car. But bear in mind that, although automatic cars may be easier to drive, if you pass your test in an automatic, you won’t legally be able to drive a manual car.
Look for a green badge
It is important to check the badge in the driving instructor's windscreen. Approved driving instructors, or ADIs in the lingo, must display a green badge in their windscreen, while trainee driving instructors with a licence – known as PDIs – must display a pink badge in their windscreen. Trainees are also allowed to give lessons, by law.
It’s illegal for someone to charge for driving lessons if they aren’t qualified and registered.
Get your paperwork in order
Before you get started with your chosen instructor, remember that you need a provisional licence for your first lesson.
If you’re solely going to learn with a professional driving instructor, then you don’t need to worry about insurance. But if you're also practising with a relative or friend, you need to make sure their insurance policy covers you as a learner driver.
The right price
Learning to drive is not cheap. Typically, driving instructors charge around £20 to £25 per hour, and the average learner requires around 45 hours of lessons before being test-ready.
You can reduce costs a little by finding a driving school that offers reduced rates for introductory lessons. Also, once you’re happy that you’ve found the right instructor, you may be able to save money by block-booking lessons.
However, even if money is tight, you really can’t compromise, as the quality of your driving should come before cost. Otherwise, if you just go for the cheapest lessons, you may just end up having to take more in order to get test-ready.
You can also save money by having lessons with an instructor, as well as spending additional time behind the wheel with a friend of relative who’s an experienced driver. Also, you can get ahead by hitting the books before you even get behind the wheel, to learn about the rules of the road, and get to grips with the Highway Code. This will help you during your lessons, and you’ll need that knowledge for your theory test anyway.
Swap if it’s not working out
If your chosen driving instructor isn’t right for you, first try talking to them and see if the problem can be solved.
If not, then there’s nothing to stop you trying someone else. After all, you’re at the start of a long, important journey, so you need the right person at your side. Good luck!
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