Start here: The Driving School Buyers' Guide
Learning to drive is an incredibly empowering life skill. It is right of passage to a world of freedom, independence and most importantly no more waiting for the bus! So, it’s super important that you get it right.
Welcome to Driving School Reviews
We understand that there is a world of information out there: Google, Facebook, Yell.com, Parents, family friends, siblings… the list goes on and on.
Driving School Reviews has been designed to add more transparency to the driving school industry so you can make better choices, save money and become a better driver sooner. Our guide will help you navigate and explore everything you need to know about learning to drive.
While we strive to provide you with the most accurate information at the point of publication, we recognize that products and deals can be changed by the provider afterward and we encourage you to conduct your own research before purchase.
Where to start:
We recommend asking people you know for their personal stories and recommendations. They can provide you with insight about how to get through this process smarter and for less. But also keep in mind things may have moved on since your friend or parent learned to drive. These are our top tips when looking to start your driving lessons based on what we hear from other learners.
Our top 10 tips:
1. Get your provisional now
Apply for your provisional licence now. Without it, you can’t legally start learning to drive.
You can apply for a provisional driving licence as soon as you’re 15 years and 9 months old. It will cost you £34 by credit or debit card. The licence should arrive within one week if you apply online.
It's easy to apply online using the government website, DVLA Online.
Just make sure you meet these requirements:
- You can read a number plate from 20 metres away (if not, get your eyes checked first)
- You have an identity document or valid UK biometric passport
- You can provide addresses where you’ve lived over the last 3 years
2. Do your theory first or alongside practical lessons
You don’t need to have passed your theory test to get your driving lessons started, but well worth thinking about as soon as possible.
There are loads of options for you out there, including theory books, apps and websites. A combination is usually what works best. If you decide to download an app, there are lots of free choices that have the same 900 questions as the official DVSA app. So check those out too!
3. Check the reviews
One of the first decisions you'll need to make is what driving school to choose. There’s a lot to think about when choosing a driving school but we recommend you focus on teaching quality, price and customer reviews. See more detail about the Driving School Reviews scoring system here.
A personal recommendation is the best way to go. Learner reviews we believe are the best judge of a good school. If you’re not able to get a recommendation or want more options for price/availability, check out the reviews on our site. We've created a simple way for learners to share reviews and experiences to help you with your decision making. 100s of other learners have already contributed and we would love to see your review there too once you pass.
4. Look for ways to save
Learning to drive isn’t cheap, it’s a fact, but there are ways you can save in order to get the value for your buck!
- Buy in bulk - driving instructors and schools will always offer discounts on buying big - we’re talking 20 plus hours to start seeing those real cash savings on the hourly rate.
- Remember, learning to drive is an investment so don’t race to the bottom for pricing, those instructors will recoup their loss by making you buy again and again.
- Have access to a car? Use it! Practise what you learn in your own time, you can get some really great learner insurance policies on the market now, most offer hourly or daily policies.
- Check for guarantees, some providers will offer 100% money back guarantee policies
- Look out for extras: free theory apps with hazard perception and extra online resources - well worth the effort!
5. Don't pay cash
What’s the best way to pay for driving lessons? Well don’t, just kidding.
In all seriousness paying for driving lessons can be a daunting exercise, many independent driving instructors will only accept a cash payment. Yes, that’s right a cash payment! We don’t recommend this as we have heard too many horror stories of learners who paid cash upfront, been unhappy with their instructor and not able to get a refund.
The best way to pay is using a credit card - with any credit card purchases over £100 you are also offered credit card protection by your provider. Any of the reputable driving lesson providers will accept payment by credit card. If you cannot pay by credit card, at least use a debit card to ensure that you have a record of your purchase.
There are usually no fees when paying with a debit card, but you may be charged extra when using a credit card and other fees may apply for different cards such as Amex.
6. Focus on good teaching, not pass rates
When looking for a driving school/instructor, you’re likely to come across adverts with "85% pass rate" or something similar. These figures usually account for the number of people who ultimately pass their test - not necessarily first time.
We don’t recommend that you focus too much on pass rates, as they are a poor indicator of the quality of the lessons or teaching. However, if you are going to judge a school by pass rate, make sure to ask if this is a first-time pass rate and details about how the school measures this. Don't get fooled!
7. Don’t get hung-up on branded cars
Time to get real…
There are driving schools out there that will offer you driving lessons in a Mercedes, Audi, Mini Cooper or even BMW but are you really going to be driving one of those once you have passed your test?
Okay, maybe some people will but not everyone's that lucky. For the majority of the folks out there, let’s walk before we can run. Driving instructors tend to have a couple of firm favourites to provide lessons in. Ford Fiesta's and Vauxhall Corsa's are the most popular learner cars on the market and there’s good reason for it - they are reliable, economical and are in low insurance brackets. They typically make great first cars for newly qualified learners.
If, and only, if you really want to learn to drive in a flash car then go for it, but remember - quality of teaching and safety before looks.
8. Avoid evenings and weekends if you can
Life is busy and finding spare time can be difficult, but don’t treat learning to drive as a chore.
Top tips for when to take your driving lessons:
- Avoid weekend and evening lessons - these are the peaks times for lessons and it’s likely you’ll have to wait ages before starting
- In the evenings, especially in winter, the light will be fading, and whilst you’re getting started it’s best to drive in the light
- At weekends, the roads are busier as not everyone is at work
- Peak hour lessons often mean busier roads too, plus some driving schools charge extra for peak hour lessons, so bear that in mind.
- You’re generally more awake and alert during the day - a perfect time to learn what you need to be ready for your test
- Find a time that works best for you - the last thing you want to do is be in a rush to make it to your driving lesson
Summary: The perfect lesson time if you can make it happen: 9.30am - 4pm Monday - Friday!
9. Look at the test centres near you, not the waiting list
The DVSA are busy, seriously busy in fact.
Typically you’re looking at anywhere between 12-16 weeks for a driving test, but always speak to your instructor before booking your test.
We recommend that you look at the local test centres to you, don’t add an extra pressure on yourself by trying to get to know a new area that you’ve not been before. Patience is a virtue, so hold on in there for a local test centre - it could be the difference between passing and failing!
Not to labour the point but think of it this way, it will take longer than the waiting list to learn to drive from scratch so bear that in mind before you book your test.
10. Get's friends and parents help
It’s likely you have a family member or friend that would be able to help with some extra driving time. If so it’s definitely something to think about.
You’ll need to make sure that you have the correct learner insurance and be supervised by a full-licence holder. You have a few options for learner insurance and some providers now offer hourly learner insurance products.
One thing to remember - practice what you’ve been taught and don’t pick up any bad habits before your test.
Have another great tip?
We'd love to hear it! Whichever route you choose, don’t forget to leave a review so other new learner drivers can benefit from your experience.