Learning to drive is a momentous part of any person’s life, whether it occurs at 17 or in adulthood. But, as with all teachers, some driving instructors are better than others – so what should influence your decision?
Here are the main factors that come into play when choosing a driving instructor. Remember that you can hire and fire your instructor at will, and that these are just some of the things you should think about before making such an important decision.
The Driving Standards Agency is the organisation that oversees a huge chunk of driver training. Only a DSA approved driving instructor (often abbreviated to ADI) is allowed to charge you for driving instruction, so it’s important to ensure your driving instructor has the right qualifications.
These qualifications are denoted in the form of a windscreen sticker. A trainee driving instructor (who is still entitled to charge for lessons!) will have a red, triangular shape in the windscreen. A fully-qualified driving instructor will have an octagonal, green window sticker.
All driving instructors with these stickers in the windscreen will have undergone a CRB check.
Ensure your driving instructor is relatively local. He or she needn’t be from the same street, but familiarity with local roads is what matters most. More importantly, your instructor should be familiar with your test centre – knowledge of the roads and routes used by examiners will help you prepare for the exam.
Your driving instructor needs to be comfortable with the times you will be available for lessons. There’s no point hiring a driving instructor who doesn’t do evening tuition if you’ll only ever be free after work. Ask them by phone whether your proposed lesson times fit in with their schedule.
Many driving instructors will give you a lesson on the way to work or school. This can be an effective use of time, and can introduce you to driving in rush hour.
Lessons generally tend to cost between £20 and £25 per hour. If your instructor is charging much above that, it could pay to shop around. Paying in bulk can make lessons cheaper overall, but you could end up paying for lessons that you don’t need.
Most driving instructors will use a modern hatchback, reflecting the kind of cars commonly used by new drivers. It’s still worth checking what kind of vehicle yours uses, though – if it doesn’t feel right to you, then check elsewhere.
This is an essential point if you are particularly tall or short. Modern car interiors are highly adjustable, but those at either end of the scale can find even the most versatile cars difficult to use – if you feel uncomfortable, you may have to find a new instructor.
Automatic or manual
The vast majority of British drivers learn to drive a manual car, i.e. one with a clutch and a gearstick. If that doesn’t appeal then you can learn to drive with an automatic instead. The process is said to be quicker (learners don’t need to worry about clutch control, for example) but remember that you won’t be able to drive a manual car if you pass your test using an automatic.
Gender and religion
Some learners have personal or spiritual reasons for choosing certain instructors. Although a large percentage of driving instructors are men, women who would prefer to learn from somebody of the same sex can usually find female instructors nearby. In large cities there are often specific driving instructors catering to religious requirements.
It’s important to remember that it is better to switch driving instructors than stay with somebody who makes you uncomfortable or who isn’t helping you progress. There are thousands of driving instructors out there, so be prepared to change if it suits you. Learning to drive will stay with you for your adult life, and your early experiences of driving can impact your future confidence behind the wheel, so a high-quality driving instructor is a good investment for the future.
How did you choose your driving instructor? Do you have any driving instructor recommendations (or horror stories) to share? Get in touch and let us know!
Owner / Editor of Carwitter – French car fiend, hot hatch lover. Follow @car_witter