For many 17 and 18-year-olds, learning to drive is an important landmark on their road to independence.
But with the average one-hour lesson costing between £24 and £27, and the Department for Transport suggesting each learner should aim to have around 47 hours of professional tuition, costs soon spiral.
Add to that the expense of preparing for the theory part as well as the cost of the exam itself (£23) – plus the practical test (minimum £62) – and many new drivers can be left feeling that it is just too expensive to learn. Especially if it takes a few attempts to pass.
Passed: Samuel Yuen saved on his lessons by taking up a driving school offer
Here, The Mail on Sunday outlines the simple steps to drive down costs.
Trim costs of the theory test
While the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency Theory Test Kit costs £4.99 from the app store and its Guide To Learning How To Drive book costs £9.99, there are ways to cut costs.
There are websites that offer the information required to pass the test – with no charge – such as the practice theory test at Gov.uk.
But if you want to buy the latest materials, there are savings to be made by looking out for the best deals.
Cashback services – where you get money back if you sign up and make a purchase via their websites – are one option.
Topcashback, for example, offers 15.75 per cent cashback with Driving Test Success, a website that offers lots of material to help learners revise for the theory part of the test. Also try the ‘driving theory’ section of Hotukdeals.
Consider asking friends and family for hand-me-down copies of theory test books or see if you can pick these up second-hand at a charity shop. Just ensure they are the most up-to-date versions.
If applying for a provisional licence, save £9 by buying online at a cost of £34. Do it by post and it costs £43.
Track down a good value instructor
Do not simply book with the first driving instructor you stumble across. Do some research and compare costs – and quality.
You can save money by going with a cheaper instructor, though you want to be sure of getting someone with a good track record.
But if you scrimp and end up taking double the amount of lessons to pass, you will end up spending just as much as you would have with a more expensive instructor.
Look for an approved driving instructor registered with the DVSA and ask them for their pass rate. Clearly, a high pass rate is indicative of quality teaching.
Ask family, friends and colleagues for recommendations – and find out how many lessons it took them to pass.
Also, ask if you can get some money off the cost of lessons by booking ten sessions in one go.
Lessons typically cost between £20 and £25 per hour, but most driving schools or instructors will offer deals of ten lessons for around £200.
How I saved £350 on the price of learning and bought my own car
Proud: Roisin Hemingway is now driving a Ford Fiesta with personalised number plate
Roisin Hemingway was determined to keep the cost of learning to drive to a minimum so she would be able to afford to buy her own car once she passed her test. She is now the proud owner of a Ford Fiesta with a private number plate.
The 21-year-old bank clerk, from Leeds, first started learning to drive in 2016, but then took a break before coming back to it a year later. She passed her test at the second attempt in October last year.
She says: ‘I applied for my provisional licence online which meant a saving of £9. When it came to lessons, I asked family and friends for recommendations – and compared prices online.’
Lessons at her chosen school were priced at £24 per hour, but Roisin was able to save herself more than £100 on the cost. She explains: ‘First off, I signed up for a special offer of three hours of lessons for £45,’ she says. ‘I then booked two ten-lesson blocks which gave me a discount of £2 per hour. I was able to negotiate the price down further still by paying upfront.’
Roisin also made savings by getting her parents to insure her on their family car. She adds: ‘In total, I had 23 professional lessons and practised with my dad in the family car for around ten hours in between – saving me around £240 in lesson costs.
‘I made additional savings by booking my driving test on a weekday – meaning a saving of £13.’
Overall, Roisin has been able to save more than £350 on the cost of learning to drive. Now that she has passed, she continues to be savvy with her finances so she can afford to keep her car on the road.
She says: ‘Costs for those who have just passed their test are not cheap. I currently budget around £30 a week for petrol and take advantage of free parking at work.
‘I paid £1,200 for my motor insurance with Direct Line, but have a telematics policy which rewards safe driving with lower premiums.
‘So I am hoping that over time my insurance costs will come down.’
It is worth keeping an eye out for introductory offers from driving schools. For example, national outfit Red Driving School is currently offering lessons from just £12.75 per hour while new customers to AA Driving School can save £4 a lesson – members of the motoring organisation get an extra discount of £2.
Learners who have family members or friends with their own car should investigate if they can get insured on their vehicles for a month or two.
Squeezing in driving practice in between sessions should mean you end up needing fewer paid-for lessons.
Ensure you and that you are car test ready
While learners are often desperate to get on the road, do not sign up to doing the practical test too quickly. Being less prepared risks a fail and requires sitting the test a second time – with a second fee. Elie Fakhoury, from private number plate website Click4reg, says: ‘Book the test when your instructor thinks you are ready to avoid having to pay out more money if you do not pass first time.’
Also if using your own car for the test, make sure it is fit for purpose.
Research from comparison website MoneySavingExpert indicates that almost 5,000 provisional drivers are failing their test each year simply because their car does not meet the Government’s required standards.
Reasons for this include drivers forgetting their L-plates or turning up in a vehicle that is not up to scratch.
This means they lose at least the £62 cost of the test, often without even getting behind the wheel. Taking a driving test during the daytime on a weekday costs £62 compared to £75 at weekends and in the evenings.
Being available for last-minute slots can also save money – so try to be flexible.
Samuel Yuen, from St Andrews in Fife, Scotland, started learning to drive in January last year and passed his test just over a year later.
The 20-year-old, who is a customer services agent at Edinburgh Airport, was able to make savings on learning to drive by taking advantage of an introductory offer from BSM Driving School and by block-booking lessons.
He says: ‘When I started researching online I found that most private instructors were charging between £26 and £28 in my local area. That was quite a lot of money for me as I was paying out of my own savings.
‘But after shopping around, I found a deal with BSM Driving School where I could get a two-hour taster lesson for £42.’
Samuel signed up to this deal and was happy with his experience.
He adds: ‘After the lesson I was keen to continue but did not want to pay £26 an hour.
‘I did a bit of negotiating and was able to get a fixed price of £21 an hour on the proviso I booked ten lessons and paid in cash.’
Samuel had 60 hours of driving lessons in total and passed on his third attempt. He now drives a Polo which he bought after passing.
He says: ‘Learning to drive was extremely important for me as I have to commute 50 miles each way to my job in Edinburgh Airport. Being a young driver is pretty expensive and I currently pay around £250 a month in petrol and £1,200 a year for my insurance through Ingenie.’
Cut costs once on the road
While learning to drive may seem costly, this expense can pale into insignificance when new drivers realise just how much it is going to cost to keep a car on the road.
Figures show a 17 to 24-year-old driver will now pay £2,381 to run a car in their first year of driving of which more than half – £1,348 – is the premium for insurance.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to reduce the costs:
- Pay for insurance annually as this is cheaper than paying in monthly instalments.
- Never auto-renew cover. Always compare deals elsewhere and buy online.
- Opt for a black box or ‘telematics’ policy which rewards safe driving with reduced premiums. Providers include Ingenie, Insurethebox, Co-op Insurance, Marmalade and Smartdriverclub.
- Take advantage of cashback deals on car cover. Current offers include £60 cashback on insurance from More Than and £50 cashback from Aviva when you buy it via Topcashback.
- Add a more experienced driver such as a parent to your policy. But do not fall foul of ‘fronting’ – where a parent claims to be the main driver of a younger motorist’s vehicle to reduce the cost of cover. This is fraud.
- Visit website Petrolprices to find the cheapest place to fill up locally. Supermarkets tend to offer the lowest prices and also often run special promotions.
- Make further savings on fuel costs by driving more economically, decluttering your boot and ensuring your car is serviced regularly.
- Pay road tax annually. Always renew via the official Gov.uk website to avoid getting ripped off by copycat websites.
- When booking a car in for a service, do not just accept the first quotation. Research to find the best deals – and look online for good prices. Keep your vehicle in good condition as this will help you avoid hefty bills when the car has to go to the garage.
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING