What you need to know about learning to drive

Do you want to learn to drive or know a teenager who’s itching to get their L plates? Here’s what you need to know about learning to drive!

Close up of a learner driver L plate on the rear window of a car - the learner driver and her instructor can be seen in the background

Have you got a teenager approaching their 17th birthday in your household? If so, I’m guessing that you may have already had a chat about driving lessons.

Or maybe you’re the one who wants to learn to drive? It’s one of those things that can easily get put off when life is busy – that’s why I didn’t learn to drive until I was nearly 25! 

Passing your driving test has all sorts of benefits, but there are a lot of things to think about before you get your driving licence. Here’s a quick run down on some of the things you need to consider:

Applying for a Provisional Licence

You can apply for a provisional licence to drive a car up to three months before your 17th birthday. So if the application goes in on time, your teen should be able to get behind the wheel legally on the day they turn 17.

A provisional licence currently costs £34 if you apply online, or £43 for postal applications. You’ll need to provide a valid form of ID (such as a passport), your residential address for the last three years, and your National Insurance number if you know it. Click here for more information from the Gov.uk website.

Checking your Insurance

This section is really aimed at the parents of learner drivers!

If you are planning to let a learner driver use your car, it’s important that they are adequately covered with the right insurance. Not all policies allow you to add learner drivers so contact your current insurer to find out what effect a learner driver will have on your insurance premium.

If you need to switch to a different insurer, you can use a comparison site like Compare the Market to find the best prices.

Also remember that if the learner driver has their own car, it’s worth them having car insurance in their own name so they can start building up their No Claims Bonus which will help reduce their premiums in the long term.

Close up of an L plate on the back of a blue car

Taking the Theory Test

The theory test assesses your knowledge of the rules of the road and road safety, so it’s a good idea to do some practice before your test.

The theory test currently consists of a computer-based multiple-choice questionnaire and a hazard perception test. In this test you’re shown clips of every day road scenes, and you need to identify the ‘developing hazard’. The sooner you spot the hazards, the higher the score you receive.

The theory test questions are based on three books:

You can also download an app to help you prepare for the hazard perception test and take a practice theory test online.

You’ll need your provisional licence number when you book your theory test online. The theory test costs £23 and you can’t book your practical test until you’ve passed it, plus there may be some time before the next available test date if you need to book a re-sit.

Finding a Driving Instructor

When you’re looking for a driving instructor, it’s a good idea to ask around for personal recommendations.

You might want to learn with a large well known driving school like The AA, or you might prefer to go for an individual driving instructor. Also consider if you have any specific requirements – for instance you might feel more comfortable with a female driving instructor.

Some driving schools may offer intensive driving courses, discounts for block booking lessons, or specialise in lessons for nervous drivers.

How you get on with your driving instructor is a big factor in learning to drive. Don’t be afraid to change instructors if you don’t think you’re progressing well enough.

Booking your Driving Lessons

You may be wondering how many lessons you need to pass your driving test.

You can generally reckon on needing around 40-50 hours of lessons and an additional 20 hours of practice with a family member or friend. But there’s no set amount of hours that you need, it depends on how quickly you learn so you may need more or less than that.

The cost of driving lessons can certainly add up quickly, so it’s a good idea to try and save up before you start learning if possible. You can often save money by booking lessons in blocks of 10 or more.

Taking the Practical Test

Your instructor will let you know when you are ready to take your practical test. Generally speaking, you need to be competent at the different manouevres, and comfortable driving in challenging situations without assistance from your instructor.

If you’re feeling unsure, why not ask your instructor to put you through a mock test to get an idea if you are ready for the real thing?

The practical test currently costs £62 for weekdays, or £75 for evenings, weekends and bank holidays. Remember that many people need more than one attempt, and you will probably need to budget for a few extra lessons while you wait for a repeat test.

A smiling learner driver tears up her L plate after passing her driving test

Learning to drive takes time and money. But then when you get the pass, and take off the L plates…Well, the freedom of the road is yours!

7 thoughts on “What you need to know about learning to drive

    • Sally Akins says:

      It’s definitely worth checking out your options for insurance, both in terms of getting the best price and the right kind of cover!

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