The Driving Instructors’ Association claims the best learner drivers are those that study with a qualified instructor but have support from their parents. Here’s how you should go about finding that instructor.
Do you need an instructor?
We all know someone who fancies themselves behind the wheel. But even if they are a good driver, the old saying about ‘those who can do can’t teach’ is frequently true. A driving instructor is a qualified specialist. They should know all the latest changes to the driving test; they’ll know what testers are looking for; they’ll have a dual-control car; and the learner won’t be learning clutch control on a family car.
How do you find a driving instructor?
A recommendation from family or friends is a great way to start. Whoever you choose, only approved driving instructors, registered with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, can charge for lessons. A qualified driving instructor will display a green octagon in their car windscreen. If they are showing a pink triangle they are a trainee. They can still charge for lessons but they’re not fully qualified and there’s nothing to say they’ll pass the test so don’t expect to pay the full amount.
What to ignore
Don’t be taken in by claimed pass rates from driving instructors. These can be meaningless: even the worst teacher can have a 100 per cent pass rate if all their students take the test multiple times.
Price is only a guide
Don’t automatically go for the cheapest. There might be a reason their lessons are priced so low. Equally, if an instructor offers their first lesson for free it can be a positive. It gives you a chance to see if you like them and their car. If a cheaper instructor means you take twice as long to get through the test, it’s going to work out more costly than the apparently more expensive option.
Assuming you’re happy with the driving instructor, buying a bundle of lessons might save you money.
An instructor might encourage you to take two-hour lessons because it works out cheaper per hour. That’s fine but you may struggle to concentrate sufficiently to keep on learning in the early days. And remember: the two-hour lesson is designed to suit the instructor. The more lessons they can do without travelling to a new student, the more money they earn.
Equally, one hour may be too short if you live a distance from the test area. If they offer 90-minute lessons, these may be the best compromise.
Look at their car
How similar is it to the car you’re going to be driving? Is it manual or automatic? Petrol or diesel? All are questions worth asking. If you’re going to be driving a petrol but they teach in a diesel, don’t necessarily be put off. Diesel cars are usually easier to learn on because they’re harder to stall.
When the instructor picks up, is the car clean and in good condition? A driving instructor can be forgiven for having a slightly tired looking car at 5pm on a Friday. But ideally it should be clean inside and out at all times.
Look at the person
Do you feel relaxed with the driving instructor? Do you find it easy to learn from them? Does the way they teach suit the way you learn? Or do they have BO and halitosis? At the very least, talk to the person who’s going to be doing the teaching before you pay any money, especially if you’re dealing with a large company. And if driving instructors behave inappropriately in any way, find another teacher.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.