How to choose a driving instructor

How to find a good driving instructor, what to look out for and which questions to ask

How do I choose a driving instructor?

There are 5 things you need to do when choosing a driving instructor:

  1. Read reviews on unbiased review sites
  2. Check your driving instructor is fully qualified
  3. Find out how long their waiting times are
  4. Ask how many lessons their learners take before passing
  5. Ask about their teaching style and methods

Who can teach me to drive?

Technically, there are loads of people who can teach you to drive. In fact, when trying to find a driving instructor, there are only three restrictions. The person must:

Be at least 21 years old (there’s no upper limit for age) Have a valid, full driver’s licence from an EU or EEA* country Have held that driver’s licence for a minimum of three years

While anyone who fits this criteria can teach you to drive, only fully qualified driving instructors can actually charge you money. Charging for driving lessons when you aren’t qualified is illegal. Be careful if you find a driving instructor who has an hourly rate but no credentials!

(*European Union or European Economic Area)

What qualifications does a driving instructor need?

You can be taught by two levels of instructor, an ADI or PDI. An Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) is a fully qualified driving instructor whereas a Potential Driving Instructor (PDI) is an instructor still in training.

Further to this, you can ask an instructor for their pass rates, or their most recent grading. All ADIs are graded either A (high standard of instruction), B (sufficient level of instruction), or a fail (unsatisfactory level of instruction).

What’s the difference between professional and amateur instructors?

Professional instructors have not only been trained in all the rules of the road, but also in the planning and delivery of lessons. They will have received instruction on how to manage students’ expectations and emotions whilst learning to drive, and they will know all the challenges the test routes in your area represent.

Their car will be similarly prepared. It will be insured for you to drive it on your provisional licence and have L plates (and usually branding and a headboard) to indicate to other drivers to take care. It will also be dual control, which will allow the instructor to take control of the pedals should they perceive a hazard that you don’t.

A friend or relative may have one or more of these things, but unless they are an instructor themselves, there’s no way they’ll have them all. The main benefit of learning with a friend or relative is that it’s absolutely free.

The real question here is: Are driving lessons worth it? We think so, yes. When learning to drive, you really do get what you pay for.

Knows the complete highway code?
Makes learning plans?
Delivers planned lessons?
Knows test routes?
Has learner insurance?
Has L plates etc. on car?
Has a dual control car?
Is completely freex

Can a friend or relative to teach me to drive?

Of course they can! Having a friend or relative teach you to drive can be a great way to save money. Whether you have them complete all your lessons, or supplement your professional tuition with private practice, you just need to take a few steps beforehand. You’ll need to make sure:

  1. Their car is roadworthy
  2. You have learner insurance
  3. The car has L plates attached

It will also help if you can get the Official DVSA Guide to Driving, as well as the Driver’s record for learner drivers from the website. These will allow you to plan your own lessons and keep track of your progress.

Remember though, you will only ever be as good as your instructor - at least in the short-term. You’re not only going to pick up any bad habits they have, but you’re probably going to invent some of your own that they may not even notice.

A professional instructor looks out for these things every day, and is going to be in a better position to correct them for you before they become a problem. You don’t want test day to be the first time you’re told you don’t check your mirrors properly!

What makes a good driving instructor?

This list could be almost endless, but here are the things we think are most important in any driving instructor.

Patience: A good instructor should never become frustrated with your (lack of) driving skills. It’s their job to see every setback as another opportunity to learn.

Support: You should never feel like you’re on your own. Good driving instructors are always monitoring you to make sure you’re on the right track.

Punctuality: We’re all late from time to time, but a driving instructor that keeps you waiting every other week doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Organisation: Good instructors know how to organise lessons, write up lesson plans, and give you feedback in a timely fashion. You should never have to chase them!

It might sound like a set of dream features but all instructors strive towards these goals!

How do I find driving instructors and schools?

This part is really important, as you can’t make an informed decision without knowing what’s available to you. A good place to start are national driving schools like The AA and BSM.

How important is the pass rate of an instructor or school?

When some people think of how to pick a driving instructor, they immediately think of pass rates. These can be deceptive, however, as statistics are incredibly simple to manipulate.

If a school takes their total learners and divides it by their total passes, the number will be close to 100%. This is because, unless they drop out of the school, all students will eventually pass.

Dividing total learners by tests attempted will give a lower figure. This is due to the equation now factoring in test failures.

If you're looking at a school's pass rate, however, you're probably mostly interested in how often people pass first-time. This would involve dividing first-time passes by first-time attempts, and would most likely be lower than the previous two results.

So you can see how easily the numbers can be manipulated, and this is just the beginning. The biggest problem with pass rates is that you never know how they're being calculated.

So… pass rates are irrelevant?

Not exactly, they’re just misleading. A more accurate measurement when thinking about how to pick a driving instructor is ‘pass time’. This is the amount of lesson hours it takes to pass the test.

For example, the DVSA suggests it takes the average learner 45 hours of lessons to pass the practical driving test.

This number is better because it doesn’t count how many tests a learner took, but rather how much learning they did. By checking how many hours were necessary to pass, we get an idea of the quality of the teaching and thus, the school!

Holy mathematics, Batman!

What should I ask my driving instructor?

Probably the most important question you can ask anyone (driving instructor or not) is how their day is going. After that though, there are a few key questions you should ask a driving instructor before you commit to too many lessons.

1. How long have you been teaching?

Every teacher is prepared for this question, and there’s no right answer. Newer instructors will have fresh techniques they are eager to share with you. Older instructors will have seen just about every road situation possible and have a solution that they can show you.

2. What’s your teaching method?

This boils down to how much instruction you get before, during, or after maneuvers. More traditional, teacher-centric styles will usually give instructions and walk you through carrying them out. More modern, collaborative styles focus on letting you make some mistakes first, then helping you reflect on and correct them.

Remember that no single style is better than others and instructors will often use different techniques with different students. Just be clear what works for you so you don’t end up panicking from too much, or too little, instruction!

3. What’s the best thing about being a driving instructor?

There’s nothing like being served by someone who loves their job. A driving instructor who really likes driving, loves helping people, or is passionate about teaching is going to help you learn much better than someone who’s only in it for the money.

How often should I take driving lessons?

This is one factor that will change depending on your situation. You might want to find a driving instructor that can offer you lessons once or twice a week. This is a normal schedule for most driving instructors.

Alternatively, you might want to set some time aside to do some intensive practice. This could mean three or more lessons per week. There are some instructors who focus on this type of learning, and most will offer it if they have the time in their schedule.

Learning slowly over time is generally the most cost-effective way to learn. It gives you time to reflect as you progress, and even get in some private practice when you’re more confident. Massed practice, on the other hand, will get you test-ready very quickly!

So if you have the spare time and money, availability could be your primary consideration for how to choose a driving instructor. If you’re busy and on a budget, however, one or two lessons a week is an efficient choice!

How much should I pay for driving lessons?

Following from the previous point, deciding on your budget at the start is incredibly important when choosing a driving instructor. Not all driving instructors are going to be the same quality, and they’re not going to charge the same amount either.

Paying for an instructor on a lesson-by-lesson basis is going to be the most expensive option. Schools and private instructors that offer packages are going to offer the best hourly rate. Just remember to read the fine print! Packages can often come with restrictions.

One thing to check with a proposed package is whether you can get a refund for any unused hours. If that’s the case, buy the biggest package you can! This way you can purchase lessons at the lowest hourly rate but only have to use what you need.

Which is the best car for learning driving?

This is going to depend mostly on you. There’s not much point learning to drive in a 4×4 if you’re going to be driving a Smart car when you pass your test. For this exact reason, most instructors use small, sensible cars for their lessons.

However, some instructors choose to try and attract customers with flashy convertibles or luxury vehicles that couldn’t be more different from your typical first car.

When you’re choosing a driving instructor, find out what car they drive, the engine size and fuel type - although there’s not much difference in the way diesel and petrol cars drive these days. You also want to check that it has dual controls. These allow the instructor to control the vehicle’s pedals.

As you can imagine, dual controls are very important in the early stages of your lessons, when you might make the occasional mistake!