Learning to drive Guide

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Learning to drive a car infographic - showing provisional licence, driving lessons and theory and practical driving test

How to learn to drive a car

Learning to drive is life-changing driving can open doors to new jobs, make managing family life a lot easier, and simply provide the freedom to go where you want when you want.

First, though, you have to learn to drive. It’s neither easy or cheap. And the decisions you make now can have a real effect on whether or not you become a safe driver.

Luckily, Young Car Driver has a whole host of information to help you on your way to getting hold of a shiny pink driving licence.

For the impatient ones among you, there’s even a page on “the quickest way to pass your driving test”.

Below, we’ve condensed the key points to know when you’re learning to drive a car.

How much does learning to drive cost?

First things first, you need to save up enough money to pay for it.

Much like owning and running a car, learning to drive can end up being quite expensive. From driving lessons to provisional insurance and test fees, the numbers start to add up. And things can get even more costly if, like most, you don’t pass at the first attempt.

According to Young Car Driver’s estimations, you’ll need around £1700 to cover the cost to learn to drive, which includes:

  • 45 hours of driving lessons with an independent driving instructor (£1125)
  • A one-hour driving lesson before your test (£50)
  • Provisional licence and test fees (£150)
  • Supervised driving insurance (£250)
  • Fuel (£100)

Of course, this can vary depending on if you decide to have extra driving lessons and the amount your instructor charges per hour. As is to be expected, those who learn to drive in London or the South East will likely end up paying more than those elsewhere in the UK.

Applying for a provisional driving licence

Before you can make yourself comfortable behind the wheel, you’ll need to apply for a provisional driving licence.

We recommend you do this as soon as possible, even if you’re only considering driving lessons at this stage, as you can’t begin your driving lessons without one.

Besides, it’s quite useful to have an extra form of ID.

You can easily apply for a provisional driving licence. It costs £34, and you’ll need to have your passport handy (or another valid form of ID).

Getting driving lessons

The exciting part. Once you’ve got your provisional driving licence, you can start taking driving lessons.

When it comes to choosing a driving instructor, you should look beyond just how much they’re asking for per hour.

You’re be spending a lot of time in the car with the instructor, so you need to find someone you can get on with and who can motivate you to learn to drive.

Make sure you ring and speak to your potential instructor before you commit to them. You should be able to tell a lot about them from the phone call and whether they’d be a good fit for you.

Also, check that they have availability at the right times and confirm they will pick you up from where you want.

Supervised driving – learning to drive with family and friends

Outside of your driving lessons, you can also learn to drive with a friend or family member to get more road time under your belt.

The DVSA says the average learner needs around 45 hours of driving tuition with an instructor, and a further 22 hours of additional practice with friends or family.

This extra driving practice is a little like the magic bullet when it comes to learning to drive. The best way to boost your chances of passing is getting more time behind the wheel.

So, if you’re fortunate enough to have a parent or friend that is happy to give your lots their time, make the most of it.

Of course, things can sometimes get a little heated. Parents nor friends are professional driving instructors, and perhaps the occasion can sometimes get a bit tense.

But it’s essential to remain calm and be appreciative of the time they’re giving (they may also be concerned about their car returning in one piece).

Anyone to be able to supervise you must be at least 21 years old and have had their licence for three years. Also, if you’re driving a manual car, they must have a licence for manual vehicles.

Provisional licence insurance

What is learner driver insurance? And why do I need it?

I know my driving lessons with a driving instructor includes learner insurance for me.

Learner or Provisional driver insurance is for your driving practice with a parent or friend between driving lessons.

As the learner driver, you can take out insurance in your name rather than drive on the car owners policy.

The essential advantage being In the event of a claim, the car owners NCB is not affected.

Provisional licence insurance policies have restrictions on both the car you can drive and the person who is to supervise you.

Typically the car you can drive on a learner driver policy:

  • Must have primary Insurance in the owner’s name.
  • Be limited to a value of, usually £30,000 and Insurance Group 32.
  • Be no more than nine years old.

The person to supervise you:

  • Must be a qualified driver and have sufficient experience.
  • The legal age limit to supervise someone driving is 21 years old. However most insurance companies offering learner driver insurance will require this person to be 25 plus.
  • Have held a valid GB – NI or EU driving license for at least three years.

The theory test

Possibly the least exciting part of learning to drive is the theory test. But it’s got to be done and is vital to make sure you can drive safely.

It covers all the rules of the road and gauges how you’d act should you find yourself in specific hypothetical scenarios.

We strongly recommend taking your theory test as soon as you can – you don’t even have to have taken a driving lesson yet (although you will need your provisional licence).

Knowing the Highway Code will allow you to progress through your lessons quicker and be safer while learning to drive. And you won’t have to spend time in your lessons learning the theory, but can just focus on the driving.

You can book your theory test online at gov.uk/book-theory-test. It will cost you £23, and you’ll need to provide your provisional driving licence number.

Revision can be a little boring, but there are some great apps and other resources out there to help you get up to scratch.

Our advice is to take as many mock tests as you can to get used to the questions that might come up.

How does the theory test work?

The theory test is in two parts: multiple-choice questions and hazard perception. It’s all completed on a computer in exam conditions at the test centre.

In the multiple-choice part, you’ll answer 45 questions to gauge your knowledge of the rules of the road and test your decision-making. For example, knowing who has the right of way at a roundabout or which lane you should be in when overtaking on a motorway.

There will then be a further five questions that are part of a case study. You will get a potential scenario you could face when on the road and a set of questions to determine how you’d respond in that situation.

So, get revising!

Young Car Driver has a handy step-by-step overview of what happens on the day of your driving theory test, so you can know what to expect.

Booking your driving test

Arranging your driving test is very simple and works similarly to booking your theory test.

It’s all handled online and will cost you £62. Note that you can’t book it until you’ve passed your theory test, and will need to provide the number on your theory test certificate to do so.

You will also need to choose from which test centre you take your driving test. However, we strongly recommend you stick to what you know and go with the test centre in an area you’re most familiar.

What happens on your driving test

The driving test is a nervous time for everyone. Over just 40 minutes, the result of all that hard work and money you put into learning to drive will be known. But it’s essential to remain calm. Nerves are healthy – but if they’re too intense, they can affect your driving.

We recommend having a read of Young Car Driver’s page for keeping a handle on your nerves ahead of and during your driving test.

You’ll probably have a driving lesson with your instructor ahead of your test. Great an opportunity to run through a few final things you’ve been finding difficult and get yourself into the zone.

Eyesight check

The first thing you’ll do with the examiner is a quick eyesight check. You’ll simply have to read the number plate of a car parked 20 metres away. If you fail, then the test ends here. However, let us assume that if you’ve got this far, it shouldn’t be a problem.

The first minute

Then, it’s time. The first minute in the car is an important one. You don’t want to do something that will knock your confidence for the rest of the test. So stay focused, keep calm, and don’t forget the car keys!

Driving part of the test

The driving part of the test is over three sections. The first part will measure your general driving ability. It will see you follow a set of instructions from the examiner and is your opportunity to show you can drive safely and perform a set of manoeuvres correctly. At some point, you’ll also need to show you know how to pull over to the side of the road and then safely drive away again.

Reverse the car part

In the second section, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can capably reverse the car – most people’s least favourite part of the test. You will either have to do a bay park, reverse at the side of the road, or the dreaded parallel park.

Independent part of the test

The final part of the test, independent driving, is your time to shine. You get 20 minutes to follow either a sat nav or road signs. The intention to show the examiner you can drive safely and make decisions without being told what to do.

Take it slow. Too many people feel a subconscious desire to do things quickly in a vain attempt to ‘get it over with’. But you’re going to be driving for 20 minutes either way and speeding through it will only give you more opportunities to make a fault.

The Young Car Driver learn to drive a car guide has a list of 10 top tips for passing the driving test we recommend you checking out before you take your test.

How is the driving test scored?

The examiner will mark you on the number of ‘faults’ you make while driving the car.

You can make up to 15 minor faults and still pass. These are small mistakes that don’t necessarily put anyone in danger; however, if you continue to make them, it could become a problem.

Whereas if you make a single major fault – a mistake that has the potential to be a real danger – then you will not pass.

Getting your result

If you don’t pass, don’t worry. The majority of learners fail the driving test the first time, and two failures or more are not an uncommon occurrence. Stay positive, take a few more lessons and book in another test when you feel ready.

But if you are one of the lucky ones, well done! Your learning to drive days are over as of the moment, the test ends you’re free to get in a car and take it for a spin (responsibly, of course, and providing you have insurance).

Life on the road

So, you’ve passed your test. Now it’s down to you to decide what kind of driver you want to be. Remember that, even though you’ve got your full licence, you’re still very inexperienced and there’s plenty to learn.

Consider doing a Pass Plus Course to learn the basics of driving on a motorway. Or perhaps even kit out your car with P plates to make your transition to independent driving smoother.

Otherwise, congratulations! Being able to drive is a real-life skill, and you should be proud that you passed your test.

We hope you enjoy your new life on the road and don’t forget: be alert, remain calm and, above all, be safe.