Learning to drive can be an expensive business. Getting yourself (or your child) ready for the road often takes longer than you might expect. Although this is clearly desirable from a road safety point of view, it can be punishing on the bank balance. So here are some tips to help cushion the blow.
Drive with a relative or friend
This is the obvious one. Although a qualified instructor is likely to be more helpful in terms of teaching theory and getting you test ready, you also really need to practice as much as possible. And if you’re not shelling out twenty quid an hour to do so, all the better. So if you can supplement your paid lessons by going for a spin with an experienced relative or friend, then this is the best way to stem the flow of notes from your wallet.
It’s important to choose the friend or relative wisely, however. If you do go down this route, make sure you choose someone very patient! Learning with an impatient, short-tempered or nervous person is likely to be counter-productive. Also, don’t let these informal lessons entirely replace professional ones, as you won’t pick up bad habits from a professional instructor, and they are better geared to teach you the specifics that an examiner is looking for.
With that in mind, if you’ve never driven, it’s a not a bad idea to have your first lesson informally. Get a friend or relative to drive you to a big, quiet car park or similar area. When you’re there, spend as long as it takes mastering clutch control (assuming you’re learning in a manual car). You’ll be in for a bumpy ride, as it’s trickier than you might think. Don’t attempt to drive on the road until you’re setting off and changing gear smoothly. Taking these baby steps with an instructor will be costly, especially as it might take a while to get into the swing. Do bear in mind that the bite of the clutch will probably be in a slightly different place in your instructor’s car, so be ready for that.
Anyone you learn to drive with must be at least 21, and must’ve held a full driving licence for three years or more.
Use a trainee instructor
If you’re happy to use an instructor who’s still training him/herself, then this should save you money. Not all driving schools offer this; but if they do, then you shouldn’t expect to pay the same as you would for a fully-qualified instructor.
Want to know more? Then read our article on how to choose a driving instructor.
Barter for a free or reduced-price first lesson
It’s fairly common practice for schools to offer reduced-price – or even gratis first lessons. Bear this in mind before diving in, because if you pay full whack for a first lesson, only to decide that you don’t like the instructor and you’re not going to continue, then you’ve basically wasted your money.
Go for an economical car
Don’t choose an instructor with a flash car, as the running costs will impact on the price of lessons. Go for an instructor who has a modest hatchback. If it runs on diesel, even better – not only do these have a better fuel economy, but they’re more difficult to stall.
Pay in advance
Paying in advance is likely to reduce the cost of your lessons, because a driving school or instructor is basically giving you a discount for reliability. After all, you’re less likely to cancel a lesson in the last minute if you’ve already paid for it; so instructors will give a reduction as incentive to pay this way.
Book lessons in blocks
Paying for larger blocks of lessons should get you a further discount. Again, this will make an instructor’s life easier, so they are keen to encourage it.
Don’t take one-hour lessons
The time it takes for the instructor to get to you and back is factored into the lesson price, as is the cost of the petrol which is used to do it. For this reason, a one-hour lesson is less cost-effective than a longer one. So have lessons of at least 90 minutes, or two hours if you have the stamina for it.
Shop around for deals
As with all expenses, it’s a good idea to look around for the best deals before committing to lessons. At the time of publication, the British School of Motoring (BSM) is offering up to 25 per cent off bookings of ten lessons. Plus the AA Driving School has an offer where lessons booked in a block are half price after the third lesson (valid until 31 July). And there may well be plenty of other bargains available in your area. Searching HotUKDeals.com to see if there are any offers currently posted there isn’t a bad place to start.
Tap friends for items they’re no longer using
If you know anyone who’s passed their test recently, ask them nicely if you can inherit their L-plates, highway code manual, and any other learning-related stuff they may have. The cost of buying these things, plus any theory test or hazard perception DVDs, really does add up.
And, when you’ve passed your test, do the good thing and pass them on to someone else who needs them.