If you’re learning to drive, or possibly helping out someone who is (your child, for instance), then one of the first steps you’ll have to take is choosing an instructor. This isn’t necessarily as straightforward as one might assume, as there are a lot of factors to weigh up. But as luck would have it, we’re here to send you down the road to driving success.
Where to start
Well, you’re on the internet now, so why not start here? You should be able to find a decent instructor online. The British School of Motoring (BSM) has been going for a century now, and is offering up to 25 per cent off bookings of ten lessons at the time of writing. The AA Driving School also has an offer until 31 July 31 where lessons booked in a block are half price after the third lesson.
Otherwise, personal recommendations are good. If someone you like and trust has good things to say about an instructor, the chances are that you’ll get on as well.
Also, with all instructors, have a good old natter before you commit to any payment. Instructors who have enrolled with the bigger schools will expect this too, so don’t be shy about asking. If you’re offered a free or reduced-price trial lesson, take it, as this will be a good test of whether you feel comfortable with them before having to shell out any money.
Instructor’s ability and qualifications
If you’re going to pay your instructor, then they have to be Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs). Vehicles used for tuition will display one of two types of badge issued by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). If the instructor is fully qualified, then they’ll have a green octagon. A licensed trainee who has yet to fully qualify will have a pink triangle.
In addition to this, the instructor should have a grading issued by the DSA. The highest standard is a grade 6, which approximately 6 per cent of ADIs will have attained. About 20 per cent of ADIs have a grade 5, which is also a very good standard, and grade 4 means that they’re competent. It’s worth bearing in mind that a grade 4 instructor may still be very good – but has simply chosen not to sit tests to progress up the grading. An instructor may be ungraded, which also doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad – but it might be worth finding out why.
Price is obviously a pretty important factor, as few of us are lucky enough to have a bottomless budget. A one-hour lesson tends to cost between £20 and £25. You may find a one-hour lesson insufficient though, so consider doing lessons of 90 minutes or two hours. You’re likely to get more into the swing this way. Don’t pay twice the hourly rate for a two-hour lesson though, as the one-hour price should have the instructor travelling to you and back factored in – and they won’t have to do this twice!
If you want to pay less, it’s possible to get trainee driving instructors through driving schools. Obviously cutting the cost sacrifices the instructor’s experience accordingly, so it’s up to you to strike the right balance. If you are fairly confident, then the trainee route may well suit you. If you’re a nervous driver, then a more seasoned instructor might be for the best, as they will have had more practice at dealing with jittery students.
An instructor’s pass rate isn’t necessarily as helpful as you might think, because in isolation the term is practically meaningless. If you want to know about pass rates, be clear on how they’re calculated – so, for example, see if the percentage given is for those who pass first time. Knowing the average amount of lessons might help too.
Obviously the more similar the car is to the first car you’ll be driving, the better. It’s a good idea to take lessons in a car with dual controls, so if something bad happens, the instructor will be able to intervene. Also, if you’re particularly tall or short, be sure that the seat can be adjusted to the level which makes you comfortable.
How you choose your instructor is ultimately up to you. What we will say though is go with someone who communicates clearly, and makes you feel comfortable. You’re going to be spending a lot of hours sitting next to them, and plus your safety will be jointly in their hands. If you don’t feel comfortable, switch instructors sooner rather than later.
If you can supplement your tuition with lessons from a relative or friend, all the better. We’ll go into this in more detail in our impending article on how to reduce the cost of your lessons, so keep your eyes peeled for that.