Learner drivers have it tough. It can be a long and expensive path to a full licence with plenty of stressful moments along the way. So, what should you know about learning to drive in the UK?
Here are the 9 most important points, with a further 6 sub-points for extra context - you lucky thing.
- Learning to Drive is Expensive
- How Many Driving Lessons Do I Need?
- Practice, Practice, Practice
- Book Your Theory Test Early
- Driving Lesson Waiting Lists Can Be Loooooong
- Can a Learner Driver Have Passengers?
- How do Driving Lessons Work?
- How Long Does a Provisional Licence Last?
- How Long Does a Full UK Licence Last?
Learning to Drive is Expensive
But you knew that already. Cars are expensive machines and learning how to drive costs £2,500 on average. Here's how that breaks down.
How Much is a Provisional Driving Licence?
A provisional driving licence costs £34 with an online application. You can apply as soon as you turn 15 years and 9 months old, but it only becomes valid on your 16th birthday. And you can't start learning to drive if your provisional licence hasn't arrived.
How Much is a Full Licence?
It's free to upgrade from a provisional to a full license. However, if you want to update your photo, you'll need to pay £17 to get it changed. So, if you want to keep costs down, maybe just grin and bear it with your original!
How Much is the Driving Test?
How Much Do Driving Lessons Cost?
If you choose a driving school, the average UK rate can range from £30 to £50 an hour. However, you can pay far more if you choose an independent driving instructor. So it pays to shop around if you're learning to drive on a budget. The price of driving lessons varies depending on your instructor.
In many cases, you pay per hour, but most driving instructors will let you buy 5 or 10-hour blocks at a time.
How Many Driving Lessons Do I Need?
According to the DVSA, it takes the average learner 45 hours of lessons plus 22 hours of extra practice to pass their driving test. With the expenses involved, we'd all like to pass in 10 lessons, but even the most confident learner can take 6 months to pass.
There's no set time frame, so you can take as long as you need. Don't feel pressured to get it done in a certain number of lessons!
Practice, Practice, Practice
Time on the road with a qualified driving instructor is the best way to learn, but, like the DVSA says, you need a hell of a lot of practice to pass. If a parent/guardian is willing, you can buy insurance for learner drivers and get behind the wheel of their car.
After you've had a few driving lessons and have built a bit of experience, this is the best next step.
Just Not Practicing on the Motorway...
While learner drivers are allowed on the motorway during a driving lesson, you can't practice on one yourself. A learner must be accompanied by an approved driving instructor in a car fitted with dual controls to drive on the motorway.
...Or On Your Own!
Your parent or guardian must always be in the car with you. They must sit in the front passenger seat and pay full attention to the road while you're driving. In order to buy car insurance for a learner driver, they must have held a UK driving licence for more than 3 years and be 21+.
If they hire or lease their car, they might not be able to insure you on it. The leasing/hire company owns the car, and they don't like learner drivers due to the extra risk. And it goes without saying that you need an L plate on the front and back of the car.
Book Your Theory Test Early
You can't book a driving test without having passed your theory test first. If you're a confident driver, you don't want to keep throwing money at driving lessons because you still haven't passed the theory test. When you pass the theory test, the certificate lasts 2 years, so there's plenty of time for driving lessons and the practical test*.
You just need a provisional licence to book the theory test, so you can book it as soon as you turn 17.
*If the 2 years expires, you have to retake the theory test. So don't jump the gun TOO much...
Driving Lesson Waiting Lists Can Be Loooooong
And that can be a good thing because, oh BOY can you wait a long time. Especially as there were 0 driving lessons for most of 2020.
Which means there's a whole year's worth of learner drivers trying to get through at the minute.
Expect to wait at least a few months to start learning to drive, so start looking early and book onto a waiting list. That's not to say that every driving instructor will have a long wait - but don't expect to start straight away.
Can a Learner Driver Have Passengers?
Absolutely, as long as one of them is the registered driver of the car sat in the front passenger seat. Just make sure you're confident having more people in the car.
How do Driving Lessons Work?
Every driving instructor works differently, but they all build up your skills over time. To begin with, your instructor will do most of the driving. You'll learn the basics in a car park or on quiet side streets before moving onto main roads once you have good control over the car.
As your confidence grows, so will your time behind the wheel. Eventually, your driving instructor will focus more on giving directions rather than guiding you through gear changes. Once you're driving with full independence and have learned all the manoeuvres, your lessons become extended practice to get you ready for the test.
Your instructor will tell you when they think you're ready to book yours. Alternatively, you can book your slot quite early on (as it can take months to find one) and give yourself a target date to work towards. You can book a driving test up to 24 weeks in advance.
You can check out what's included on the driving test here to get an idea of what is covered in lessons. It won't all come up on your test but it all COULD come up.
How Long Does a Provisional Licence Last?
A provisional licence lasts 10 years. Plus, you can keep renewing it until your 70th birthday. Although that would mean that you could never drive a car on your own.
How Long Does a Full UK Licence Last?
A full UK driving licence also lasts 10 years. You'll need to renew it yourself, for a fee of between £14 and £21.50 depending on what option you choose.
Learning to drive can be a complicated, stressful process. Hopefully, you now feel more confident and know what you need to do in order to earn your full licence, freedom and independence.
And it is SUCH a good feeling when you finally get there...