Driving test and lessons

So the time has come for you to learn to drive. We imagine that you’ve already thought about what sort of car you want to cruise around in. But there is a minor thing you have to do before you get your first dream car and that’s pass your test.

In this article, we look at everything to do with learning to drive. Including how to apply for a provisional, your lessons and how to book your driving test.

Applying for a driving licence

Before you have any lessons or take any tests, you have to apply for a licence. You will need a provisional licence before you start learning to drive a car, a moped or a motorbike. To apply for a licence you must;

  • Be at least 15 years and 9 months old
  • Provide the addresses you’ve lived at for the past 3 years
  • Have your National Insurance number (if known)
  • Be able to read a number plate from 20 meters away
  • Provide an identity document (or a valid UK biometric passport)
  • Pay £34 by credit or debit card

You can apply either online or by post. If you apply online then your licence should be with you within a week. For more information on how to apply by post you can read our article on how to apply for a driving licence.

Booking driving lessons

It should be noted here that although you can have a provisional licence, you cannot start learning to drive a car until you are 17 years old. Once you turn 17 though, you can start booking some lessons.

The chances are, there are quite a few driving instructors in your area. These could be part of a wider driving school, such as RED, or they could be independent. Who you choose to go through is up to you. However, we do recommend that you read their reviews first. The government also have a list of approved driving instructors. You can find that list here.

Not all instructors will be on this list. And just because someone isn’t on the list does not mean they aren’t any good or aren’t reputable. However, we do suggest that you go through someone on this list if you can.

How many driving lessons should I have?

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) recommend that you should have around 47 hours of instruction. You should also have 22 hours of private practice before taking your test. This is just a guideline, however. You should have as many driving lessons or as many hours practice as you want. It’s not a competition, you want to be as prepared as possible for your test. Don’t forget to insure your car for private practice. This is very straightforward. All you have to do is contact your insurance company and let them know a learner driver will be driving the car. They will then update the insurance accordingly. You will have to put L plates on both the front and back of the car.

How much do driving lessons cost?

There’s no fixed rate for driving lessons. However, it is estimated that the average cost of a driving lesson is £24.

Most driving schools and independent instructors will allow you to buy in bulk. RED Driving School charge £276 for ten hours of lessons. The British School of Motoring charge £230. As you can see, this varies. So, we recommend that you shop around to find not only a reputable instructor but one that will also offer a good deal on lessons.

What happens in your first driving lesson?

During your first driving lesson you will go through something called a cockpit drill. This will introduce you to all the checks you need to do before you drive. This includes things such as ensuring the doors are securely closed and your mirrors are adjusted.

Next, you will go through the controls. This includes using the clutch, handbrake and how to change gear. Ask as many questions as you want, that’s what the driving instructor is there for. Plus, you’ll be glad you asked to run through the controls again when you finally get going. When you do drive off for the first time you will go through all of the procedures. This includes clutch control and changing gear.

It is recommended that you put aside 2 hours for your first lesson. This is so you can take your time and relax. Once your time is up, you will have a chat about how you thought the lesson went and what you will need to work on. And that’s it, your first lesson is over.

It’s advisable that you have a couple of lessons a week to ensure that you don’t forget anything. If you have too long a break you could end up forgetting vital information.

Again, ask as many questions as you want. Your instructor has probably heard every question possible, good and bad. They won’t judge you.

Taking your theory test

You can take your theory test at any time before your practical test. The theory test is in two parts; multiple choice and hazard perception.

In the multiple choice, you will be asked 50 questions. You have just under an hour to answer all of them. The pass mark is 43 out of 50.

The hazard perception part of the test is different. It requires you to view 14 hazard video clips on a computer screen. These are roughly one minute long. You have to watch these clips as if you were a driver and find 15 hazards. The passmark for hazard perception is 44 out of 50.

How much does a theory test cost?

The theory test costs £23. It stays the same amount regardless of what time of the day or what day of the week you do it.

The theory test certificate is valid for 2 years which means you have 2 years to take your practical. If you don’t do it in that time then you will have to retake your theory. There are tonnes of learning resources for your theory test. These include books and computer programmes. You can buy these pretty much anywhere, including online and in bookstores like W H Smiths. We recommend you utilise these resources as much as possible. It will give you a much better chance of passing.

Taking your practical test

When you are ready, you can take your practical test.

There are 5 parts to the practical driving test; 

  • An eyesight check
  • ‘Show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions
  • General driving ability
  • Reversing your vehicle
  • Independent driving

You will drive for around 40 minutes. If you are taking an extended driving test then it will take around 70 minutes.

The eyesight check is straightforward; you will have to read a number plate from a distance of either 20 metres for new-style number plates and 20.5 for old-style number plates. However, if you fail this part of the test, you fail the whole thing.

The ‘show me, tell me’ questions will be 2 safety questions. These will be basic vehicle safety questions to demonstrate you can carry out basic safety checks.

The rest of the test will examine your actual driving ability. This will include pulling over and away, reversing your vehicle, and either following verbal directions or road signs. You might also be asked to carry out an emergency stop.

If you make a mistake in your driving test, it’s not the end of the world. You should carry on as normal unless the examiner decides otherwise.

How much will my practical driving test cost?

The price will depend on when you take your test.

If it is on a weekday, then it will cost you £62. However, if you want to take it on a weekend or an evening then it will cost you £75.

Not all test centres offer weekend and evening tests so you may not be able to book your test for when you want. We recommend going through the government website to book your test. Unofficial third party sites can cost you more.

What happens if I pass my driving test?

Congratulations! If you pass then this is what will happen;

Your examiner will give you a pass certificate and will take away your provisional licence. You will then be updated with the DVSA (Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency) and your full licence will be with you within three weeks. Your pass certificate will be enough to use as evidence you passed in the meantime.

If you need to change your photo, your name or address on your provisional then you can do so. You will be able to keep your provisional after you have passed. You will then have two years to exchange it for a full driving licence. If you don’t, you will have to take your test again.

How do I change the insurance?

Before you go driving into the sunset, you have to change your insurance. This is pretty easy. All you have to do is let the insurance company know and they will update it. Alternatively, you can change insurance company if you wish. You can read our article about whether online insurance quotes are accurate here.
You will also have to make sure that your car is taxed. You can do that at the government website.

New driver? What you need to know

Driving on your own is different from driving with an instructor. So here are some of our top tips for new drivers;

  • You’re in charge
    • When you’re behind the wheel, you are in charge. This means you are also in charge of who you let into your car. It can be far too easy to let your friends influence you when you’re on the road or be encouraged to do something that is unsafe.
  • Wear a seatbelt
    • This one is obvious but you would be surprised at how many people still don’t. Most new cars nowadays will beep at you until you put your seatbelt on but old cars don’t. So make sure you, and your passengers, are wearing seatbelts. Don’t touch your phone
    • The new mobile phone law is much stricter. If you are caught on your mobile phone and you have been driving for less than two years, you will be banned. Simple as that. We know how tempting it can be to check your phone, especially when stuck in traffic or even at traffic lights. But it’s not worth it. Put your phone somewhere you can’t see it. If you have to use it for maps, use a phone holder. If you do need to use your phone, pull over. Better to be late than banned from driving.
  • Keep your car maintained
    • It’s easy, especially if you have a second hand car, to ignore maintenance on your car. We have some top tips to maintaining your lease car here. While it is based around leasing, there are some general tips and tricks to maintaining any car.
  • Know what to do after an accident
    • Accidents happen. And as you are a new driver, you are at a much higher risk of an accident. However, knowing what to do in the event of an accident will make things easier should the incident occur. You can read what to do in an accident here.

What are the best cars for a new driver?

All of these cars make great first cars. Of course, these aren’t the only cars on the market but they are our top picks. 

Hopefully this has cleared some things up about your driving test and lessons. For more information on getting a new car as a young person or as a student then you can read our article here. Again, we recommend that you use a government approved instructor and that you book your test through the government website. Apart from that, everything is down to what you think is best. Practice makes perfect, and that has never been more true than when we talk about learning to drive.

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