Cost of putting a young driver on the road hits £5,000 – and buying a car is the cheapest bit

Teenage learner drivers are facing colossal costs of up to £5,000 to get on the road.

Driving lessons alone can now set teenagers or their parents back £1,500, while insurance is almost £2,000 on average.

A new driver’s car itself comes in cheaper than either of those, costing £1,200.

L-pains: Learning to drive has become increasingly expensive, with lessons and insurance both costing more than a car.

L-pains: Learning to drive has become increasingly expensive, with lessons and insurance both costing more than a car.

Learning to drive used to be a rite of passage for all, but now the sheer cost of insurance premiums, driving lessons and the cars themselves are transforming it into a privilege. 

Kirsty Ward, head of Asda Money, said: ‘Parents are anxious about letting their children loose on the roads for the first time, but they’ve also got the huge cost of driving lessons and running a car to contend with.’

Lesson fees vary according to driving school and area, but typically go for around £20 to £30 each.

According to the Driving Standards Agency, the average learner driver needs 47 lessons and 20 hours of private practice before they pass their test.

The latest insurance comparison by TigerWatch shows average insurance prices down 4 per cent in the past year, but younger drivers are not benefiting from reductions.

TigerWatch insurance graphic shows how different drivers are seeing prices change - with older women seeing the best reductions.

TigerWatch insurance graphic shows how different drivers are seeing prices change – with older women seeing the best reductions.


Once young drivers have passed a test and begin to drive by themselves parents are then hounded by further stress from the worry of having their child alone on the road. And any prangs in their fledgling driving career are also likely to prove expensive.

Asda Money said of the parents whose children have already passed driving tests, 57% are worried about them driving alone and 14% refuse to allow them to drive unaccompanied at all. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 37% of parents don’t think driving tests adequately prepare their children for the road.

The pain comes as parents struggle with the effects of financial austerity and a weak economy, leaving many households with frozen income in recent years. At the same time, high youth unemployment has made it harder for youngsters to get a job and more essential that they can travel to find work.

However, there are ways to reduce  car insurance premiums for young drivers despite soaring insurance costs.

The Pass Plus scheme is aimed at new drivers seeking to set themselves apart from the crowd as more responsible, better qualified drivers, thereby meriting cheaper insurance premiums. The scheme claims it can knock off up to 35 per cent off the cost of insurance and costs about £150 to enrol in.

Installing an insurer’s black box in the car – which records how and where you drive to work out an appropriate premium – is also becoming increasingly popular.

Buying online, paying in one go to avoid interest, or adding a named and more experienced driver to the car insurance policy, can also cut costs.

Choosing the right driving instructor for YOU ?

Your driving instructor will nurture you through the formative period of your driving education, so you need to choose well. Sometimes they will need to boost your confidence and other times they will need to bluntly tell you where you have a surplus of confidence over your actual driving ability.

Given that this is one of the most important things you’ll ever learn to do in your life, how do you choose what driving instructor to use?

Ten helpful tips for choosing a reputable driving school/instructor

If you are confused about which driving school or instructor to choose then follow these tips to help you make the right decision……

1. Check if the instructor is qualified and what is their DVSA Grade

Many of the large driving schools and some smaller driving schools offering low priced driving lessons use trainee driving instructors which means that although they have had a certain amount of training they are not yet qualified and will be actually practicing on you!! All driving instructors must display their badge in the front windscreen. A trainee license is pink and a fully qualified driving instructors badge will be green. When you make a booking at one of these driving schools they are unlikely to tell you that your driving lessons will be given by an unqualified driving instructor but they will most likely charge the same price for a driving lesson. Your instructor should be happy to show you their DVSA Standards Check SC1 form or if they don’t, ask yourself why – A good instructor has nothing to hide.


2. Look for a friendly and approachable driving instructor

Why put up with a grumpy or miserable driving instructor? Your driving instructor should be calm, professional, well mannered, cheerful and above all patient because not everyone learns at the same rate. When you make your first contact with him or her try to imagine being in a car with them because after all if they don’t sound that pleasant on the phone they are unlikely to get any better when teaching you to drive. If you get things wrong is he/she going to be more worried about their car or about your driving lesson?


3. Will you get one to one training for the whole lesson?

Some driving instructors still do what is known as “piggy backing” which used to be seen as part and parcel of driving lessons years back. However, over the years it has gradually faded away due to improved instructor training which has lead to better quality services being provided by a number of driving schools. Unfortunately, it hasn’t disappeared completely and some established driving instructors continue to piggy back pupils. If you don’t know, ‘piggy backing’ means: picking up a pupil for their driving lesson with the pupil from the previous driving lesson still in the car. Then, the first part of the lesson consists of taking the previous pupil back to their drop-off point during YOUR lesson time!!

This practice is frowned upon by the DVSA and should not be tolerated. If you pay for a driving lesson then that is what you should get and not have someone else sitting in the back putting YOU off your lesson. Driving instructors that use this technique will have plenty of excuses as to why it doesn’t matter, or even why it’s a good idea. But, the reality is, it’s about making more money at the expense of lesson quality. When an instructor uses the current pupil’s driving lesson to take the previous pupil back to their house, they are essentially creating extra time and money. This is because they are eliminating the unpaid, ‘non-lesson’ time taken up when driving between pupil pick up points.

However, the truth is that a pupil who has paid for a 1 hour driving lesson should expect exactly that – an hour long lesson focusing on their syllabus. Put another way, if your lesson is ’roundabouts’, it’s going to be tricky for the instructor to incorporate and teach that subject whilst thinking about the quickest way to get the previous pupil back to their drop off point. They might say there are roundabouts on the way, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that there is an ulterior motive behind the drive which ultimately means, until the previous pupil is out of the car, 100% focus is not being given to the current pupil.

It becomes even more obvious that lesson time is being wasted if you are expecting to learn a manoeuvre. Put simply, you are taking time out of your lesson to drop the last pupil off when you should be learning and practicing. There should not be 10 minute drive to the last pupil’s house which is thinly disguised as part of your driving lesson. At the very least, the presence of a stranger sitting in the back of the car changes the atmosphere and the dynamics of the lesson.

Because driving instruction is mostly a solitary career, it’s easy for instructors to use piggy backing. In fact, we have had pupils from all the major driving schools tell us it was happening in their lessons. It’s fair to say that this will be a choice made by the individual instructor, not the school and may well be happening without their knowledge. Happily, one to one driving lessons are seen by most driving schools as a good selling point, which means pupils are much less likely to experience piggy backing these days.

However, it does go on and if you are concerned about it, the first thing to do is to ask up front before booking your driving lessons. Any good driving instructor will be happy to clearly explain their policy. If you’re already having driving lessons where piggy backing is happening, you have the right to ask for one to one lessons and of course, the right to move elsewhere if you aren’t happy. If you don’t want to ask your driving instructor outright, you could always say that you’re not confident with someone else sitting in the back of the car and it’s effecting your ability to learn.

In summary: Piggy backing is not an acceptable part of driving instruction – whatever the reasons given! Insist on one to one driving lessons and make it clear that it’s what you are paying for!!


4. Never let your instructor make you feel stupid

If you make a mistake your driving instructor should help you correct it without making you feel stupid. If you need to go over something again and again until you get it right then your instructor should understand this and be patient and not let you feel bad about it.


5. Your instructor should always be punctual

Your driving instructor should pick you up on time and not drop you off before the end of the lesson. If this is unavoidable due to unforeseen circumstances your instructor should make up for lost time at the earliest convenience.


6. Your instructor should be fully committed to your lesson

Your instructor should NEVER use their mobile phone or eat snacks during your lesson as they would be committing a driving offence and it is not safe anyway. Can they really be teaching you whilst having a conversation or texting someone else? Is the driving instructor giving you their 100% undivided attention and concentration? There should NOT be any snack breaks, cigarette breaks or toilet breaks (unless absolutely necessary). A good driving instructor will always allow time for these things between driving lessons.


7. Will your instructor use proper lesson plans and progress reports?

Ask your driving instructor if they use lesson plans covering the whole DVSA syllabus and carry out your lessons in a structured way. A good driving school will give you a list of subjects that need to be covered with diagrams and plans to help you understand the various topics. If necessary a whole lesson should be devoted to some of the topics, especially roundabouts which is where most accidents occur. A good driving instructor will always discuss with you at the beginning of the driving lesson the subjects that are to be taught and the lesson aims and objectives. A full discussion about progress made during the lesson and plans for the next lesson should take place when the car is stationary at the end of the lesson and not while the student is still driving.


8. Positive feedback and encouragement


It is very important that your driving instructor should praise you when you do things well and not just tell you when you have done something badly. Being praised and given encouragement enables you to know that you are actively learning and making progress. Constant negative remarks are bad for everyone and make you feel like you are never going to get things right.


9. Don’t get talked into block booking lessons in advance


There is nothing wrong with block booking to save money but you should always be able to get most or all of your money back for unused lessons if something goes wrong and you can’t continue or even if you decide to change your driving instructor. Beware of the small print!!! Lesson prices are always top of any new pupil’s list of questions for a Driving Instructor. Many driving schools offer “Special Introductory Rates” when you start but prices soon shoot up after a few lessons. Consider this: is it worth saving a few quid up front when lessons then end up costing more and you may end up taking twice as long to pass your test anyway?


10. Always choose a driving instructor that cares about you and your lessons

Some driving instructors only care about taking your money and not if you are happy with your lessons or not. At the end of each lesson you should feel good about what you have learned and be looking forward to the next lesson and your driving instructor should make sure of this. You may want to consider having longer lessons so that you can vary routes and practice more subjects and not just keep going round the same old routes.

Finding an instructor

Reviews and social proof

Ask around to find out who is the best instructor in your area. Look at reviews on online review websites (though, be aware that it’s easy to make fake reviews, both good and bad).

Using Directgov

Use Directgov’s postcode-based search to find an instructor near you. For example enter your postcode into the form, click ‘Find Nearest’ and you’ll see a list of local Approved Driving Instructors  – name, phone, email address and distance from your location. If the email address looks like it’s a personalised website (i.e. not a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail address), you can probably deduce their website so you can check that out before calling.

Independent driving instructor, or a driving school?

Some drivers work independently and you will deal with them directly. Others work as part of a school with several drivers. Make sure to talk directly with the driving instructor that you will use to make sure you feel comfortable.

Remember that you can be taking practical driving lessons while you are also learning your theoryclick here for the car questions for free. An instructor will help you with any areas that you find difficult, giving you real-world examples in a driving situation.


DVSA encourage learners to have their instructor observing the driving test

The practical test makes sure you can drive confidently and safely in different road and traffic conditions, and that you know The Highway Code (and can show this by the way you drive). It lasts about 40 minutes.

You can find out more about the practical test at GOV.UK, such as what documents you’ll need to bring to the test, what happens during the test and what sort of car you can use for your test.

Before you begin the driving part of the test, the examiner will do an eyesight check and ask you two questions about safety checks on your car.

DVSA videos show me, tell me driving test questions – outside the carinside the carunder the bonnet

For about 10 minutes of the test you’ll drive independently: your examiner will ask you to follow signs or give you directions to reach a destination. This is so you can show you’ll be able to drive safely on your own after you’ve passed your test.

You’re allowed to take your instructor with you on your test, or anyone who’s over 16.

It’s useful to have your instructor or the person who trained you to drive with you: they can help you work on any problems the examiner notices, either to help you pass next time or if you want to keep learning after you pass your test. Having someone you know with you can also help you to stay calm during the test.

Almost everyone gets nervous about their driving test: you’ve done months of preparation and you really want to pass. But to pass, you’ll need to keep your nerves under control. Here are some tips to help you

  • Don’t book your test at a time when you know other stressful things are happening, such as school exams.
  • Before the test, make sure you get a few good nights’ sleep: you’ll feel more stressed if you’re tired.
  • Avoid too much caffeine before your test: it might make you feel jittery and nervous.
  • Arrive at the test centre about 15 minutes before your test is due so you’re not hurried but you’re also not waiting too long.
  • If you want to talk to the examiner during the test, that’s fine – but remember that they might not say much because they don’t want to distract you from your driving.
  • Remember, your examiner wants to make sure you’re safe on the road. They’re not trying to catch you out. If there’s anything you’re not sure about, just ask.
  • Be positive: focus on passing your test rather than worrying about failing it.

If your examiner sees more than 15 driving faults during your test or one serious or dangerous fault, you’ll fail your test.

If you fail, you’ll be given a driving test report showing the faults you made, and your examiner will also explain to you why you haven’t passed. Although you’ll probably feel disappointed, listen carefully to the feedback because it will help you get things right next time.

You can’t retake your test for at least 10 days, so make the most of this time: talk to your instructor about what you need to work on and get as much practice as you can.

Full driving licence Well done! You can now get your provisional licence changed to a full licence. Your examiner will usually send your details to the DVLA so an upgraded licence can be sent to you by post.

Your examiner will give you feedback on your test. Remember to listen carefully to this: just because you passed your test, it doesn’t mean you drove perfectly!

Hazard perception clips get a modern makeover using CGI


New computer-generated imagery (CGI) clips replaced old filmed clips in the hazard perception part of the theory test on 12 January 2015. The test was made up of filmed video clips which showed everyday road scenes. Those clips were still relevant, but the image quality wasn’t as clear or defined as modern technology allows.

Differences in the new clips

The new clips show the same situations as the previous clips, but they:

  • look clearer on the screen
  • include updated vehicles, roads and surroundings so they look modern


An old-style video clip (left) and an updated CGI clip (right).

No change to how the test works

The way that the hazard perception part of the theory test works hasn’t changed. The pass mark of 44 out of 75 has stayed the same for car and motorcycle with 14 clips.

The clips:

  • feature everyday road scenes
  • contain at least one ‘developing hazard’ – but one of the clips will feature 2 ‘developing hazards’

A developing hazard is something that may result in you having to take some action, like changing speed or direction.


Crashes on driving tests reduced

New research by reveals the number of driving tests resulting in collisions with other vehicles over the past 5 years; identifying some interesting trends and predictions for the future.

There is a definite development in that the number of collisions in driving tests is lessening over time. The number of crashes with other vehicles during driving tests in 2013 was 22% lower than 5 years earlier and 32% lower than the previous year in 2012

Probably the most interesting finding from the data is that the number of collisions reported for the first quarter of 2014 shows a huge predicted fall in driving test crashes this year .

With only 20 collisions recorded so far in 2014 during driving tests, the extrapolated year end crash rate would be only 80 collisions. This is a huge drop from the already reduced level of 491 in 2013!

learner crash chart

When talking to experts within the driving instruction industry possible explanations for this decline have been broadly narrowed down to two reasons:

  • The worst drivers at the bottom end of the spectrum have improved their standard of driving; resulting in a reduced amount of collisions. The reason why this would be the case rather than the top end of the spectrum improving is that pass rates have remained fairly steady.
  • Another explanation could be that driving examiners are becoming more proactive in taking preventative action and stepping in at an earlier stage when a dangerous situation arises.

Pete McAllister who conducted the research said “It’s hugely positive to see such a trend emerging in the UK’s learner driver industry. The fall in collisions during tests we’ve found reflects equally well on instructors, pupils and examiners.”


Top tips for passing your test

L plate and keyHere are some top tips for those of you reaching that important driving test date

Whether you are taking your test at Blackburn or Nelson test centres make sure you are well prepared for your driving test.

  • Listen carefully to the examiner – ask if you are not sure of anything
  • Keep left unless directed otherwise by road markings or signs or by the examiner
  • Watch out for speed limit changes, particularly national speed limit signs
  • If you are unsure about where you are going ask the examiner
  • Revise the pictures and notes I sent you
  • Carrying out manoeuvres – remember its about the observations and control, correct the manoeuvre  if it goes wrong
  • Independent driving – it really does not matter if you go the wrong way…. it may be the safest option
  • Don`t leave your wipers running if it stops raining
  • The quickest way to fail your test is to not check your mirrors and blind spots when moving off
  • Remember to cancel that signal whenever you have finished parking up. At least one person fails every year for this mistake.
  • Remember your bus lane rules!!
  • Match your gear to your speed
  • Observations! Observations! Observations!

Take your time – Think positive – and remember a hesitancy fault is better than a serious or dangerous fault caused by rushing.