How to Choose a Driving Instructor

Getting behind the wheel for the first time can be an exhilarating experience. Whether you're nervous, excited (or both) to get your driving licence, it's important that the right person sits beside you while you learn to tackle traffic. Read on to find how you can choose the right guide for your driving lessons.

Driving instructor

Who can teach you to drive?

If you learn to drive with someone without paying them, that person must be over 21 years old and have held a valid driving licence for at least three years. Many of your family or friends will likely fit the bill. But if you’re paying someone to drive, they must be an Approved Driving Instructor who is registered with the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Family/friend vs. Approved driving instructor (ADI) – pros and cons

There are good reasons for choosing to learn with a family member or friend:

  • Someone who knows you well and understands your instincts could be a great driving instructor for you.
  • Time slots offered by a driving school may not be as flexible.

On the other hand, many drivers prefer the benefits of an approved instructor:

  • Rules change frequently and ADIs are more likely to be up-to-date with the latest information that can help you ace your test.
  • You can’t practice on motorways unless your car is fitted with dual controls, which a driving school can offer.

Driving school vs. independent instructor

Both driving schools and independent instructors are qualified to guide you through passing your test. The best choice really depends on your preferences and what’s most important to you.
Driving schools offer some advantages over independent instructors:

  • Flexible plans and discount pricing can come in handy.
  • Independent driving instructors’ cars may not be fitted with dual controls. If driving seems nerve-wracking to you, it’s best to have someone who can offer a safety net.

However, going with an independent instructor can also be advantageous:

  • Independent instructors are often more affordable than driving schools.
  • Driving schools sometimes have the habit of changing instructors between lessons. This can be challenging emotionally and may make the learning process longer as you lose continuity. You can avoid this if you choose your own independent instructor.


If you decide that an independent instructor is for you, there are a couple of options to consider. An approved driving instructor is the most common choice, but it’s worth considering lessons from a potential driving instructor too. Let’s take a look at the difference:
Approved driving instructors or ADIs:

  • are registered with the DVSA
  • know how to manage expectations and emotions while teaching
  • display a green hexagon badge on their car windows

Potential driving instructors or PDIs:

  • are trainee instructors at the DVSA.
  • are yet to take the third of three qualifying tests to become an ADI
  • typically charge less for their lessons
  • display a pink triangle badge on their car windows

Where can I find a reputable ADI?

If you know someone who’s recently passed their driving test, they might able to recommend a reliable instructor. You can also use the GOV.UK website to find instructors near you. Check the ratings/reviews of instructors and driving schools on popular sites to ensure you’re in good hands.

Things to look for when choosing an instructor

You’re going to spend a lot of time in the coming few months with your instructor, so it’s good to choose someone who you can get on well with. Make sure that your instructor is:

  • registered with the DVSA
  • patient and punctual
  • has the right car for you

At the end of the day, it’s important that you like your instructor. It’s interesting to note that less than 15% of registered ADIs are female. Nevertheless, if you think a female instructor would be better for you, take the time to research online.

Questions you should ask your future instructor

Before you decide on an instructor, ensure you cover these points in your initial conversation:

  • How long have you been teaching?
  • How do you structure lessons/What’s your teaching method?
  • Do X days a week sound good to you?
  • Where will you pick up and drop off?
  • Is your car automatic or manual?
  • What’s the pass rate amongst your students?
  • Do you offer motorway lessons?

You can also take a trial lesson to make sure that the instructor, and the car, are both a good fit for you. Which car you step into also matters when it comes to how fast you learn.

If you learn to drive in an automatic, you will only be qualified to drive an automatic. Passing your test in a manual car allows you to drive both.

How much should I pay for my driving lessons?

Driving lessons will likely cost you an average of £24 per hour. If you’re a quick learner, it won’t take more than a few hours to get the hang of the basics. 40 hours of driving lessons can add up to £960, which is the average time that most learners take. If the ADI’s rates are unusually inexpensive, this is a possible red flag. It could be a consequence of a poor reputation or a not-so-well-maintained car. Our handy guide gives you everything you need to know about driving lessons so you can be fully equipped with all the info before you start.

What should I do if I’m unhappy with the instructor?

Don’t hesitate to change your instructor if you’re not comfortable. Remember that driving is serious business, and learning the right way is important to make sure you’re not putting yourself and other road users at risk. You’re paying for your lessons and you have every right to rethink if you’re unhappy. If you have a particularly bad experience, you can report the instructor via GOV.UK.

Learning how to drive is a life-changing experience that sets you on the road to independence. Get started on your journey by researching reputable driving schools and instructors near you. Investing time and resources into finding the right instructor can go a long way to maximising the learning process.

Want to keep gaining experience and confidence after you’ve passed your driving test? Take a look at the Pass Plus Scheme.

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