How to choose a driving instructor

Choosing a driving instructor is an important decision – it is their tutoring that can provide the knowledge to help you avoid accidents, drive safely and consequently even lower your car insurance. However, with so many driving instructors to choose from, how do you know which one is the best for you? Here we offer some tips to help you make an informed choice.

Is the driving instructor qualified?

You may be tempted to take lessons from a friend or family member, but only a registered approved driving instructor (ADI) can charge money for teaching you to drive. A fully qualified ADI must display a green certificate on the windscreen of the car while teaching you; while some trainees, who are granted licences before their qualifying examination, will display pink certificates. The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) also monitors the performance of driving instructors with grade six indicating a ‘very high standard’, grade five indicating the instructor is ‘good’ and grade four ranking the instructor as ‘competent’. In order to qualify, the instructor must have held a driving licence for at least four years; pass a strict driving test and a tough theory test; and be registered with the DSA.

Look for recommendations

Listening to the recommendations of friends or family members is one of the best ways to determine just how good an instructor is. Ask them about their experience with their instructor – ask about how reliable they are; if they are patient and friendly; whether or not they smoke; whether they use the lessons for other purposes – such as to carry out their shopping or run errands; whether they keep their car clean; and so on. If you don’t have anyone close to you to ask, then look for reviews of the instructor or school online. There are many internet forums which may help you gain some insight into the instructor’s methods by reading reviews both positive and negative of other drivers’ experiences.

Know what questions to ask

If you don’t have any recommendations to work with, then don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or use the internet to shop around for instructors and schools in your area. Contact them directly and ask any questions that will help you gain peace of mind about your decision. Some of the questions to consider include:

- Is the instructor fully qualified? How are they graded by the DSA?

- If you’re using a driving school and a trainee will be used, then will you receive money off your lessons?

- What is the instructor’s pass rate for getting drivers through their practical test first time?

- What is the condition of the vehicle you will be using? What model is it, how old is it, what safety features does it have and will the instructor have dual controls?

- How long are the lessons, how much are they and can you get a first lesson at a reduced price as a trial? Do you get a discount for booking several lessons at once? And will your instructor pick you up and drop you off at your home address or another convenient location?

What happens if you’re not happy with your instructor?

Building a rapport with your driving instructor is vital and no matter how well qualified they may be, there is no guarantee that your personalities will be compatible or that their teaching methods will be ideal for you. As such it’s best to book just one driving lesson initially rather than a block of lessons. Get a feel for how your instructor works. Remember that it is your prerogative to choose another driving instructor if you’re unhappy with your current teacher. It is perfectly feasible that you may find another instructor who better suits your needs. There is an abundance of instructors out there, so don’t be afraid to walk away if your current instructor isn’t right for you. Don’t, however, let nerves get the better of you. Remember that instructors are used to dealing with learner drivers, many of whom have never been behind the wheel before and may not know the first thing about driving. No matter how badly you may think you will perform, chances are your instructor has dealt with scenarios far worse. So take a deep breath, try and book your first lesson at a time when there are no other stressful events in your life and don’t be afraid of making mistakes – all learners do, and instructors have dual controls to deal with anything serious.

Why it pays to make the right choice

According to recent Government surveys, nine in ten learners who passed both their theory and practical tests first time were taught by an instructor. So while paying for lessons may be expensive you are much more likely to avoid repeated tests. Instructors can also teach you good habits that you can apply throughout your motoring life. Avoiding accidents and driving convictions can help you save money, not least on your car insurance with most providers offering no-claims bonuses that can cut premiums by as much as 60 per cent after five years. If you are satisfied with your driving instructor, see if he/she also offers Pass Plus tuition. This advanced driving course could reduce car insurance premiums by as much as 35 per cent with some insurers; and some local authorities are willing to supplement the costs of the course.


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