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How to find cheap driving lessons

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Learning to drive is a pretty big life decision – not least because of the cost. With these tips, you can get on the road whilst saving money.

learner driver plate and woman with steering wheel

Credit: Roman Samborskyi, moondes - Shutterstock

Been excited about learning to drive for a while? We don't blame you.

It's the first leap towards total independence. If you live in the countryside or the suburbs, being able to go places on your own watch can be a total game-changer – and for some, a necessity.

The problem is, learning how to drive doesn't come cheap. If you're not careful, you could be spending over a grand before you're even thinking about buying your first car. Read on to find out how to pass your driving test on a tight budget.

Pass your test and you may be able to ditch student accommodation to live in a van.

Is it worth learning to drive?

dog sticking head out of a car window

Credit: Christin Lola – Shutterstock

As it's such an investment (in terms of money and time) to learn to drive, you won't be alone in wondering if it's really worth it.

Only you can decide if it's the right decision for you to start driving but, to help, we've put together some reasons for and against learning to drive.

Reasons to learn to drive

Here are the five best reasons to get a driving licence:

  1. Driving will give you loads of independence. That means no more relying on your parents or mates for lifts everywhere.
  2. You can go on road trips with your friends and save money by splitting petrol costs, rather than buying expensive train tickets.
  3. Having a driving licence can boost your CV and career. Plenty of graduate jobs will ask for a full clean driving licence as a role requirement, so not having one could rule you out of the running for some jobs before you've even applied.
  4. It's a good idea to learn to drive while you're still a student as it will likely be harder to find time for driving lessons once you've started a full-time job.
  5. Having a driving licence (even just a provisional one) means you don't have to take your passport on nights out to act as ID. As a licence is much easier to fit in your purse or wallet, the chances of you losing it in a drunken mess are also far lower.

Reasons against learning to drive

Not sure if it's the right time for you to learn to drive? These are the five main reasons why learning to drive may not be worth it right now:

  1. If you live somewhere with great transport links (e.g. a major hub like London), don't need a car to get around, and plan to stay there long-term, it might not be worth paying out for lessons right now.
  2. Car insurance is generally a lot more expensive for younger drivers, so if you wait a few years to learn to drive, it will probably be cheaper.
  3. Maintaining a car is expensive (even with our money-saving tips), as well as learning to drive. If it's not necessary for you to drive, you can save money by not having a car as you won't need to pay for petrol, insurance, breakdown cover, MOTs and more.
  4. Learning to drive can be stressful, so it's important to consider if you'll feel under too much pressure from doing it alongside uni work. Always put your mental health first.
  5. Be honest with yourself if you don't trust yourself to be a safe driver. If you think you might be a bit reckless on the road, you probably shouldn't be driving (but we hope this one doesn't apply to you!).
Think you won't use your wheels when you're at uni? Find out how to make money renting out your car.

How much does it cost to learn to drive?

Provisional licence£34 (£43 if you apply by post)
Theory test£23
Practical test£62 (£75 for evenings, weekends and bank holidays)

* Based on 40 hours of lessons at £35 a lesson. For 30 hours of lessons, you're looking at paying £1,050, and for 50 hours, it'll be £1,750.

Of course, this guide is intended to help you drive down (pardon the pun) the cost of learning to drive, so before you're put off by the hefty price tag, be sure to check out our money-saving tips below.

Essential costs for learner drivers

The only thing you absolutely need before you learn to drive is a provisional licence.

It's illegal for you to do any form of driving on public roads without at least a provisional licence. Even if you plan to learn on private land, you'll need to show your provisional licence to your assessor at your driving test. In other words, you need to get one.

It costs £34 to apply for a provisional licence online, or £43 to do so by post. You can find out more about what you need to apply for a provisional driving licence and submit your application on the official government site.

Other than a provisional licence, there's nothing else that you need to learn how to drive. You can buy and learn in your own car if you'd like (in which case you'd need car insurance), but most instructors will have their own car (with their own set of pedals on the passenger side) which you'll use.

However, before you take your practical test you will need to do one other thing...

How to pass your driving theory test on a budget

dog using computer

Credit: Kalamurzing - Shutterstock

The theory test is often a forgotten expense when it comes to learning to drive. But you need to pass your driving theory test before you can take your practical test, so it's important to factor in its cost too.

Assuming that you're just taking a theory test for a car (as opposed to a lorry, for example), it'll cost you £23. Although it has a reputation for being easy, the theory test is not something to be taken lightly.

The test involves two components (a set of multiple-choice questions and a hazard perception exercise). You'll need to prepare for both if you want to pass the first time (and save having to pay to retake it).

Revising for your theory test

There are books about driving theory to help you revise for the multiple-choice element, but we'd recommend downloading the Driving Theory Test 4 in 1 Kit (iOS and Android).

The app has all the same info as the books for better than half the price (£4.99), but on top of that, it has dozens of hazard perception clips for you to try too. Plus, the app comes with a 'Pass Guarantee' – if you don't pass the first time after completing the revision plan, they'll refund you the test fee.

Trust us when we say that you need to prepare for your theory test. You can't blag your way through stopping distance and road sign questions, and you'll definitely need to learn how the hazard perception test works. Otherwise, you could end up scoring zero across the board.

How to get cheap driving lessons

These are the best ways to cut the cost of lessons when you're learning to drive:

  1. Approach driving instructors directly

    Woman driving a car

    Credit: SPK Lifestyle Stock Photo – Shutterstock

    Driving lessons tend to cost between £25 – £45 a pop. The easiest way to make a saving is to approach an instructor directly rather than going through a large driving school.

    Say, for example, your mate recommends their driving instructor who works for the AA. Rather than contacting the AA Driving School to book lessons with the instructor, you could contact the instructor directly.

    Companies will usually charge instructors a percentage of their earnings if a booking is made through them. If you go direct, the instructor may offer you a discount as they won't have to pay a commission to their employers.

    If nobody you know can recommend a teacher, try Googling "best driving instructors near me". You'll usually get a result (or something similar) with a ton of highly-rated instructors, who once again you should contact directly for the best price.

    Just note that booking directly may mean you don't get access to some of the company's extra learning materials (like an online portal). It's also unlikely the company will help you out with any disputes or issues you have with your instructor or payments.

  2. Buy driving lessons in bulk

    Like most things in life, driving lessons work out cheaper per session if you buy them in bulk.

    But, rather than paying for 40 lessons at once, you're better off paying for five or 10 first. Unless you're 100% confident you'll love working with your instructor, start by booking a small handful of lessons in case you decide you want to switch later on.

    Once you know for sure that you're happy with your driving teacher, you can buy lessons in bulk and (hopefully) make a decent saving.

    But how many driving lessons should you pay for? According to the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency), it usually takes people around 45 hours of lessons (plus 22 hours of private practising) to reach the test standard.

    Of course, you'll always have that one mate who claims they passed after one lesson, and the instructor may try to sell you more than you need, so it's worth bearing in mind the actual stats before bulk-buying lessons.

  3. Book two-hour driving lessons

    Driving lessons tend to be one or two hours long. Two-hour lessons are often a little less than double the price of a one-hour lesson, so you're getting the same service for less money.

    But the benefits don't end there. An hour may sound like a long time, but by the time you've got in the car, adjusted the seat/mirrors, driven somewhere suitable for doing some manoeuvres and practised a bit, it'll be time to go home.

    Two-hour lessons give you much more time to get into the groove, and there's a good chance that you'll improve a lot more in a two-hour lesson than you would in two one-hour lessons.

    The quicker you learn, the quicker you pass – meaning the fewer lessons you have to spend money on.

  4. Have free driving lessons with a friend or family member

    Learner driver plate

    Credit: Bjoern Wylezich – Shutterstock

    The cheapest way to learn to drive is by getting a friend or family member to teach you. In many cases, you'll be able to learn for free, but ironically this can come at a cost.

    Professional instructors know a lot more about what it takes to pass your driving test. Passing isn't just about being able to drive – you need to be the perfect driver on the roads, always checking your blind spots and mirrors and generally being overly conscientious, if anything.

    Your friends and family will have probably picked up bad driving habits over the years, and if you learn from them, these habits could stop you from passing. Although the lessons could be free, they might mean you end up paying for multiple driving tests.

    As a compromise, we suggest having some free driving lessons with friends and family alongside lessons with a professional instructor. This way, you won't need to pay for as many lessons, but you'll still be receiving good advice and getting in plenty of practice.

    Hannah Williams, Content Editor at Save the Student, has some further advice on this:

    Make sure you choose the right friend or family member to take you out. Tensions can run high in stressful situations!

    I had a friend take me out driving who jumped every time I made a small mistake. It was really distracting and looking back, pretty dangerous.

    On the other hand, you don't want someone who's so laid back or worried about offending you that they don't tell you when you're doing something wrong.

    Think about it and choose wisely.

    If you're considering being taught by a friend or family member, remember that they need to be aged 21 or over and have held their full licence for at least three years.
  5. Take your theory test early as an incentive to drive

    Taking your theory test early on when you're learning to drive can be a good way to cut down on lessons (and therefore cost) in the long run.

    Particularly if your instructor insists on covering theory in your driving lessons, it's worth taking the test sooner rather than later.

    When theory prep takes up time in your lessons, you'll have less time to learn the practical side of driving. To pass your driving test, you'll need heaps of practice, so the more time spent on the road during your lessons, the better.

    What's more, you only have two years to pass your practical test before your theory pass expires. This might sound like a long time, but it can be tempting to put off learning to drive when other commitments come up.

    Having a time limit can help you focus on passing the driving test and avoid the risk of paying to retake your theory exam.

  6. Only book a driving test when you're ready

    It's important to remember that you have to pay to retake driving tests if you fail. One of the most effective ways to save money on learning to drive is passing your test the first time. Try to avoid taking it before you're ready.

    You might feel in a hurry to pass and stop paying for driving lessons but, if you're not in a position where you (and your instructor) know you can manage it yet, it might be best to hold off on the exam until you are.

    Plus, as well as meaning you'll have to retake it, failing your driving test can knock your confidence. This can make it harder to keep progressing at the same pace as before, leading to more lessons and extra costs.

    Best of luck!

Ready to buy your first car? Insuring your car can be expensive, but we've got a guide to cheap student car insurance.

Tom Allingham

WRITTEN BY Tom Allingham

Tom joined Save the Student in 2017, initially heading up the editorial team before becoming Communications Director. He has appeared as a Student Finance expert on a range of TV and radio stations including the BBC, ITV and Sky, sharing his top tips for saving money and cutting student bills.
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