Automatic driving lessons

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The automatic driving licence explained

Automatic driving lessons will prepare you to qualify with an automatic driving licence. With an automatic licence, you can drive automatic cars, but not manual ones. With a manual licence, on the other hand, you can drive both manuals and automatics.

Is it worth learning to drive automatic?

There are pros and cons to learning to drive in an automatic car.

In a manual car, you’ll need to change gears using a gear stick and clutch pedal to control power and speed. In an automatic car, there are still gears but the car will effectively change between them for you. This means you have to do less as a driver. But whether or not it’s worth it for you depend on where your priorities lie.


  • It’s quicker and easier to learn in an automatic car. You don’t have to figure out how to change gears and work the clutch.

  • There’s no risk of stalling. Stalling is the bane of any manual driver’s life, but if you’re wondering ‘can you stall an automatic car?’, the answer is no (unless there’s a mechanical fault). Phew!

  • Automatic cars are better on hills. Steep hills can be a scary thing for new drivers, especially if you’re starting from a stop. In an automatic, the car will take care of it for you.

  • They’re easier in heavy traffic. Just think how nice it would be not having to press the clutch and change gears every few metres. Well, it’s possible!

  • Automatics are gaining in popularity. Manual cars may still be more popular in the UK, but automatics are the cars of the future. If you want to drive an electric car, for example, it’ll be automatic!


  • Lessons are more expensive. That’s because there are fewer automatic driving instructors around, so the demand is higher.

  • Automatic cars are more expensive. They’re not only more expensive to buy, but they’re also pricier to maintain and repair.

  • Automatics are more difficult to hire in Europe. You’ll usually have a bigger choice of manual cars than automatics if you’re looking to hire a car in Europe. That means that hiring an automatic tends to cost more.

  • They give you less control. Even though they’re meant to choose the best gear for you, they can’t anticipate upcoming situations. In a manual, you can deliberately change down a gear to get that extra boost of power.

  • Automatic driving lessons give you less flexibility in the long run. An automatic licence only qualifies you to drive automatic cars, whereas with a manual licence, you can drive both manuals and automatics.

Are automatic lessons popular?

Waiting lists for automatic driving lessons can be high in the UK and finding an automatic driving instructor can be difficult. That's because there are fewer automatic instructors than manual instructors, so automatic instructors are highly sought after. However, according to the DVSA’s data, only 9.5% of tests taken in 2017-18 were in automatic cars.

Automatic driving lessons are more popular in the city than in the country. If we look at the test centres that had the highest proportion of automatic driving tests in 2017-18, the top 20 are all London test centres!

At the top was Greenford (Horsenden Lane) Test Centre in West London, where 29.2% of tests taken were automatic. In contrast, Whitchurch Test Centre in Shropshire had the lowest proportion of automatic driving tests taken, at just 1.1%!

Automatic driving lessons also tend to be more popular amongst females than males. In fact, 75% of all automatic driving tests taken in 2018-19 were taken by females according to the DVSA’s data.

Tests taken by females


Tests taken by males


DVSA practical car tests conducted by gender and transmission 2018-19.

Even though the number of people taking the automatic driving test is still low, automatic cars are quickly becoming more popular on the roads. 40% of all new cars in 2017 were fitted with an automatic gearbox, according to the Telegraph. That’s 70% higher than back in 2007!

Who should take automatic car driving lessons?

Drivers who value convenience and ease would benefit from driving an automatic car, whereas drivers who want to experience a stronger physical connection to the car might find it more fun to drive a manual.

An automatic car would be especially worthwhile if you’re based in a busy city with lots of traffic, like London, Liverpool, Portsmouth or Nottingham. You wouldn’t need to press the clutch continuously in stop-start traffic.

Similarly, an automatic might be your preferred choice if you live somewhere hilly, like Bristol, Sheffield, Brighton or Leeds. Automatic cars make hill starts much easier.

On the other hand, if you live somewhere quiet, or somewhere flat like Essex, Norfolk or Cambridgeshire, then ease might not be such an important factor. In that case, you might prioritise cost and opt for a manual car, which is likely to be easier to buy and maintain.

It’s also worth thinking about whether you’d like to hire a car on trips abroad. According to The Zebra, automatics are more widely used in countries such as the US, whereas in Europe, manuals are more popular. So, you’ll have more choice with a manual licence.

At the end of the day, there’s no right answer - it’s all down to personal preference!

Is it cheaper to learn to drive an automatic car?

On a cost per hour basis, automatic driving lesson prices tend to be higher. However, the overall cost of driving lessons may be lower, as most people are able to pass with fewer lessons.

You should also bear in mind that if you learn in an automatic, you’ll only be able to drive automatics after passing your test. Automatic cars, repairs and insurance all tend to be more expensive than manual.

How many lessons do you need to pass the automatic driving test?

There isn’t a set number of driving lessons that you need to take before the automatic driving test. The DVSA states that the average learner in the UK takes 47 hours of lessons before passing their driving test. However, when it comes to automatic car driving lessons, you’re likely to need fewer. You could find yourself taking as few as 20 hours of lessons.

Pay as you go driving lessons

Pay as you go driving lessons allow you to pay individually for each lesson without committing to a set number of hours. However, pay as you go driving lessons usually work out more expensive as learners usually get a discount when they buy a full lesson package.

Can you take an automatic driving test?

There isn’t a separate driving test for people learning in an automatic car in the UK. If you take automatic driving lessons, you’ll take the same test as people taking manual driving lessons - the only difference will be the type of car you drive!

The DVSA car driving test consists of:

  • An eyesight check
  • ‘Show me’, ‘tell me’ questions
  • General driving
  • Reversing (one of three manoeuvres)
  • Independent driving

If you’ve already passed your driving test in a manual car and you’d like to switch to automatic, you won’t need to take the driving test again in an automatic car.

Automatic car pass rates

Even though learning to drive in an automatic car should be easier, the pass rate for learners taking the automatic driving test is well below the national average.

Driving test pass rates

UK average

DVSA practical car test pass rates 2018-19.

So, why is the automatic pass rate so low?

We can’t say for sure, but maybe it’s because learners expect learning to drive in an automatic to be easy. This could cause over-confidence in learners, spurring them on to take the test too soon or to swap from manual to automatic if they’re having difficulty learning.

Upgrading from an automatic to a manual licence

If you qualify with an automatic licence and later decide you’d like to upgrade to a manual licence, you won’t need to reapply for a provisional licence. You can start learning to drive in a manual car with an automatic licence at any time, as long as you follow the rules for learners set by the DVSA:

  • You must be accompanied by a driver over the age of 21 who has held their full licence for three years and is qualified to drive a manual car
  • You’ll need to display your L plates
  • You must be insured on the car you’re driving

To switch over to a manual licence, you won’t have to take your theory test again but you will need to retake your practical driving test in an automatic car.

Where can I find automatic driving lessons near me?

National driving Schools such as The AA and BSM offer automatic car lessons across the UK, so wherever you’re based, the chances are we’ll have a top-rated automatic instructor just around the corner.

Some of our most popular locations for automatic lessons are Birmingham, East London, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, North London, Peterborough, Reading, Sheffield, South East London and West London.

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Common questions

Can you do driving lessons in an automatic?

Absolutely! If you would like to take the automatic driving test and qualify with an automatic driving licence, it’s best to take driving lessons in an automatic car. These will prepare you most efficiently for the automatic driving test.

That said, if you start off by learning in a manual car and later decide you’d like to take the automatic driving test, you won’t need to start all over again - the skills you learn in a manual will still come in handy when you drive an automatic.

Is it better to learn automatic or manual?

When it comes to choosing between manual and automatic driving lessons, there’s no one right answer - the right choice for one person will be different for someone else.

The main factor that could influence your decision is that an automatic licence only qualifies you to drive automatic cars, whereas a manual licence qualifies you to drive both. So, if you think you may need to drive a manual car at any point, you’ll be better off with a manual licence, even if you plan on driving an automatic car more regularly.

Are automatic driving lessons more expensive?

Yes, automatic driving lessons tend to cost more per hour than manual driving lessons. Nevertheless, many learners find that by learning to drive in an automatic car, they’re able to take fewer driving lessons before passing the driving test, saving them money in the long run.

Why are automatic driving lessons more expensive?

Automatic driving lessons tend to cost more per hour than manual driving lessons because there are fewer automatic driving instructors. Less competition for learners means that automatic instructors are able to fill their diaries quicker without the need to lower their rates.

Are automatic driving lessons easier?

Automatic driving lessons are generally accepted to be easier, because there’s no clutch pedal to master, and no need to use a gear stick to determine your speed. This gives you less to learn, meaning you could become a safe driver quicker if you learn in an automatic car. That said, it’s not easy to learn to drive an automatic, in the same way as it’s not easy to learn to drive a manual car. It requires patience and practice, like any skill that’s worth learning!

Is 20 driving lessons enough to pass?

The average learner needs 47 hours of driving lessons according to the DVSA, as well as 22 hours of private practice. However, there’s less to get to grips with when you take automatic driving lessons. This means many learners are able to pass after just 20 hours of lessons, as long as they also get some private practice.

Is it easier to pass an automatic driving test?

For learners who struggle with clutch control, stalling or hill starts, the driving test will be easier to pass in an automatic car. This is because test candidates won’t have a clutch pedal to deal with. However, the pass rate is lower for the automatic driving test than it is for the manual driving test. According to the DVSA, the national average pass rate was 45.7% in 2018-19, but for the automatic driving test, it was just 38.8%.

How do you drive an automatic car?

Driving an automatic car is similar to driving a manual car, but there is no clutch pedal to press and depress, and no need to change gears to determine your speed while driving. This means drivers have less to concentrate on. There’s less to distract them from things like hazard perception and observations, helping them to focus on safe driving.

To find out how to stop an automatic car and how to use the gear stick, check out our other common questions below.

How do you stop an automatic car?

There's only one thing (okay, perhaps a few things...) more important than knowing how to start a car. And that's knowing how to stop! Luckily, stopping an automatic car is very straightforward once you’ve got your head around it! Just follow these 5 simple steps:

  1. Push the brake pedal
  2. Move the gear stick to “P”
  3. Pull the handbrake
  4. Depress the brake pedal
  5. Push the button to stop the engine
How do you do a hill stop on an automatic?

You might be worried about doing a hill stop in an automatic car - it’s common to ask “will an automatic car roll back on a hill?” An automatic car can roll back on a hill just like a manual car can, so it’s important that you keep your foot pressed on the brake pedal until you’ve pulled the handbrake when you’re stopping on a hill.

The same applies when you’re doing a hill start - make sure your handbrake is on! Then, move the gear stick to D (drive), press the accelerator gently until you feel the car pull against the handbrake and only then release the handbrake.

The only exception is if your car has Hill Start Assist. This will keep you from rolling backwards when your handbrake is released. The good news though is that either way, an automatic car won’t stall when you’re doing a hill start, unless there is a mechanical fault with the car.

Should you put an automatic car in neutral at traffic lights?

No, unless you’re parking, you shouldn’t move the gear stick to ‘neutral’ or ‘park’. This can cause unnecessary wear to the transmission, the differential and the CV joints.

Are automatic cars better?

For many people, automatic cars are better because they’re more relaxing for the driver. They can also be safer, since they allow the driver to concentrate more on their surroundings and any hazards, as opposed to changing gears and working the clutch pedal.

That said, automatic cars aren’t necessarily better than manual cars. Instead, it’s down to personal preference.

Are automatic cars cheaper to insure?

There isn’t a big difference between manual and automatic cars when it comes to insurance premiums, but automatic cars can often be more expensive to insure. That’s because automatic gearboxes tend to cost more to replace than manual gearboxes, and automatic gearboxes are generally found in cars of a higher spec.

Drivers who have an automatic driving licence also tend to have higher premiums than drivers who have a manual licence, even if the driver with a manual licence is driving an automatic car.

Do automatic cars use more fuel?

Not necessarily. It used to be true that automatic cars used more fuel than their manual counterparts, so if you're buying an old car then that may well still be the case. However, for many new automatic cars that's simply not true. Always check the fuel consumption of any individual car that you're looking at buying rather than assuming one way or another.

Are automatic cars safer?

Automatic cars don't have any additional safety features compared to manual cars. That said, they could help you to drive more safely because they give you less to focus on within the car - for example, you don't have to worry about changing gears or pressing the clutch pedal. This means in an automatic you can give more of your attention to the road and any potential hazards, allowing you to drive safer.

What is the best small automatic car to buy?

The best car for you with vary depending on factors like your budget and your taste. However, Autoexpress recently named their top small automatic cars for 2019 for both practicality and enjoyment. The top three were:

  • Skoda Fabia DSG
  • Volkswagen Polo DSG
  • Hyundai i10 auto

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