Everything You Need to Know About Driving Lessons

Learning to drive is a rite of passage for young people. It's an exciting time and you'll be acquiring an invaluable lifelong skill along with the freedom it brings. But there's a fair bit you need to do to become one of the UK's 45 million motorists. Read our handy guide to driving lessons to get the lowdown.

Everything you need to know about driving lessons

Who can drive a car?

To drive a car on the road in the UK, you need to:

  • Be at least 17 years old.*
  • Be able to read a number plate at a distance of 20 metres
  • Have a valid provisional licence

*The exception to this is recipients of the enhanced rate of the mobility component of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), who can start having driving lessons at age 16. Learner drivers must be supervised by a qualified driver over the age of 21 who has had a full driving licence for at least three years.

What do you need to start learning to drive?

Provisional driving licence

Applicants need to be aged at least 15 years and 9 months old. You can use the provisional licence to drive a car from the age of 17 and to ride a moped from the age of 16. It costs £34 and you’ll need to provide an identity document such as a passport, addresses where you’ve lived over the past three years and your National Insurance Number if you know it.

The car you learn in

Any car you drive on the road needs to be taxed, insured and have a valid MOT. If you’re learning in a qualified instructor’s car, they’ll have taken care of this. If you’ll be practising in a family member or friend’s car, it might be worth considering Learner Driver Insurance – this is short-term, flexible cover available for periods ranging from a few hours to a few months, with the main driver’s no claims bonus protected.


These need to be displayed on the front and rear of the car whenever you’re driving it on a provisional licence. You can buy them easily online, from supermarkets or motoring goods shops. In Wales, you can display either L-plates or D-plates.

Who can teach me to drive?

While you might be tempted to save money by getting a friend or family member to teach you, lessons from a qualified driving instructor are likely to be a very worthwhile investment. Not only will they be practised at helping you improve your skills, they’ll have a much better idea of how to prepare you for the test. Also, you’ll have the reassurance of learning in a car with dual controls, so the instructor can help you out of a sticky situation if necessary.

By law, anyone receiving payment for teaching you to drive needs to be a DSA-approved Potential Driving Instructor (PDI) or Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). ADIs are fully qualified driving instructors and will have a blue badge in their car. PDIs are trainee instructors; it’s fully legal for them to teach you to drive. Their lessons will tend to be cheaper, and they have a pink badge in their car.

How can I find a good driving instructor?

There are around 40,000 driving instructors in the UK, so there are bound to be some in your area. But where to start looking? Personal recommendations can be a great way to find a reliable instructor, or you can do plenty of research online. Searching “driving instructors near me” is a good starting point. Look at reviews, pass rates and how long they have been teaching. The DVLA has a handy tool that you can use to find ADIs in your area. We’ve also put together an article with advice on how to choose a driving instructor.

How can I tell if a driving instructor is right for me?

Everybody’s personality and learning style is different, and you could be spending many hours in the car with your instructor, so finding one who’s a good fit for you is important. It will make the experience easier, more productive and potentially save you a lot of money by getting you to pass your test more quickly.

There are two kinds of driving instructors, those who work for franchise driving schools (including big national companies such as AA), and independents. If you want to have the same instructor for every lesson, an independent might be the way to go. Booking lessons in bulk tends to work out cheaper, but it’s a good idea to book just one at first to try things out – if you find you get on well with the instructor, you can sign up for a block of further lessons. It’s also worth thinking about whether you have any particular requirements – would you prefer a man or a woman, for example, or someone who can teach you in an automatic rather than a manual car?

What questions should I ask a prospective driving instructor?

The following are good things to ask when choosing a driving instructor:

  • Where will the lessons be, and on what types of roads?
  • Can you pick me up and drop me off at different locations if required?
  • How long is each lesson?
  • What’s your availability like? Can you accommodate lessons at times that suit me?
  • Do you teach motorway lessons?
  • Can you teach lessons at different times of day so I can learn night driving?

Should I learn in a manual or an automatic?

Automatics are easier to drive and therefore going down the automatic route is likely to mean you pass your test more quickly. But you won’t be qualified to drive a manual, which will restrict your options, particularly here in the UK. For your first car, manuals are likely to be much cheaper – something to bear in mind and weigh up against the cost of extra lessons.

Do I need to practise outside the lessons?

If you have the opportunity to practise under the supervision of a family member or friend, it will help you consolidate the skills you’ve learnt in the lessons and potentially reduce the number of lessons you need to get you ready for the test. Ask your instructor whether they think you’re ready to start practising outside lessons and stick to practising the skills you’ve been taught.

How many lessons will I need?

The average learner needs 45 hours of lessons in addition to 20 hours of practice, but you might well need more or fewer. Longer, more frequent lessons tend to build your skills more quickly – a minimum of one two-hour session per week is recommended when you’re starting out.

There are also intensive driving courses that can see people pass the test within a week, but they’re not right for everybody – you’ll need a block of time you can dedicate to learning, not to mention a chunk of ready cash, and some people may feel rushed learning like this. You’ll also need to book and pass your theory test. You can study for this in your own time, and there are plenty of resources available online to help you.

Your learning doesn’t have to stop after you’ve passed your test. You could go on to take the Pass Plus Scheme to gain further experience and confidence in your driving skills.

How should I prepare for my first lesson?

You can prepare for your first lesson by going over the Highway Code, using Theory and Hazard Perception apps and watching driving lessons on YouTube. Paying attention to what the driver is doing when you’re a passenger in a car can also help build your understanding. Get a good night’s sleep before your first lesson, and get ready in good time so you don’t come into it flustered. Wear comfortable clothes and most importantly shoes you can feel the pedals through – your well-worn comfy trainers are ideal. Try to relax, stay hydrated and remember that a bit of nervousness is totally normal – you’re about to take the first step in an exciting new chapter in life!

Now you’ve got the lowdown on driving lessons, you can book one and take your first step towards being a qualified driver. Take the time to find an instructor that’s right for you and you’ll learn more quickly, be a better driver and enjoy the experience.

Looking for your first car? We’ve put together a list of the best cars for new drivers which is well worth a look.

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