Who should I Choose ?

Hints and tips on finding the best driver training:

It’s not an easy thing to do, unless you have a cast iron recommendation, so here is a guide to help you make your own decisions. 

Prices and Lesson Length:

The price is always the first question we are asked, and the average price for a one hour driving lesson around the UK at the moment seems to be between £19 and £25.

Prices and Special Offers:

There are loads of these around – the daftest that I have come across is 4 lessons for £5!
Watch out for these though – the one above was actually 4 half hour lessons, and you had to take them all at once! 
If a lesson price is substantially cheaper than £18 an hour you should be very wary. Even with a small cheap car, the running costs per hour which an instructor has to bear will be anywhere from £7-£12 or more (car, insurance, advertising, training, fuel, phone, maintenance etc….you get the picture), so will they try to save a little on fuel by not letting you drive so far? Are they qualified? Why are they so desperate for work that they are so cheap?
Good offers are those that help both you and the instructor. My personal favourites are:

Paying in advance – this helps you by being cheaper, and helps me because you are less likely to cancel last minute because I already have your money. So reliable customers can save around 10% with me by doing this.

Remember that a good quality instructor will never be consistently cheap, but will often save you a lot of money in the long run:
40 hours at £22 will cost you £880
80 hours at £15 will cost you £1200
…..and take you twice as long to get through your test. It’s your choice.

Driving Instructor Qualifications:

All driving instructors must be on the Driving Standards Agency’s register, either as Trainee instructors (PDI) or as Approved Driving Instructors.
Fully qualified instructors will have a green badge in the window, which proves that they have passed the test of instructional ability to a competent standard – in other words – they have proved that they can teach reasonably well. Trainee instructors (who have a pink badge in the window) may be good, and certainly their enthusiasm can often have a huge effect on the learning experience, but be aware that they have not been assessed on their teaching ability, and may not pass this final exam. If they don’t pass this final exam within 6 months of starting to teach on the trainee licence they will have to stop teaching you.

If you know a trainee instructor and want to learn with them – do so, you will be helping them to gain valuable experience, and because you know them you will be comfortable learning with them.

If you do not know an instructor who is a trainee, there is no reason not to try them out – but don’t pay full price. This is like getting a hair cut from a student hairdresser – there is no problem with it and it is likely to be reasonably good as they are trying their very best, but you should not be charged professional prices for it. According to the statistics, trainees have substantially lower pass rates than qualified instructors.

Once qualified all instructors have to go through a grading process every few years. The grades are a reflection of how well they performed on a 1 hour check test lesson – usually a normal lesson which is conducted with a representative of our governing body (the DSA) observing it.

Grade 6: The best grade possible. Around 6% of instructors are grade 6. On the lesson observed, a grade 6 instructor has proved that they can give the best quality instruction.

Grade 5: Good instruction given. Around 20% of instructors are grade 5. The pass rates across the country show only a very small variation between grade 5 and grade 6 instructors. I’m a grade 5 at the moment.

Grade 4: Competent instruction given. A grade 4 instructor may be excellent at other times, but like many of us is not keen on being tested! Or on the other hand this may be the best they can do. If you have a grade 4 instructor with a good attitude you will be fine – feeling comfortable with a grade 4 instructor will usually mean you will probably learn just as much as feeling a little uncomfortable with a grade 6.

Ungraded: Find out the reason for this – if an instructor has recently qualified then they will be ungraded, and may well be excellent so ask them what mark they received on their final exam (it is graded twice, so it will be between 4/4 and 6/6 with the grades being similar to the above). However, it may mean that on their last check test they did not achieve the “competent” grade 4 standard. Or they may be a trainee.

Pass Rates:

Take absolutely no notice of pass rates at all. They are so easy to fake, twist, abuse they should not be taken as any guide to how good the instructor is. If an instructor is prepared to show you the report they received from the Driving Standards Agency, then you can have a good look at it and make your own mind up, but even then it may not be an accurate reflection of their performance.

A 100% pass rate may mean that the instructor has got all of his customers through their test. What it does not say is that out of the 10, 9 of them took it more than 3 times in order to pass! Or that they have only had 1 customer. Or in the worst cases their first customer to test has passed, so for the rest of that year they have removed their badge from the window so that as far as the DSA can tell they only had 1 customer all year.

Another problem with pass rates is that many excellent instructors specialise in nervous drivers who have much more trouble with the “test” than others.

If you read of a guaranteed pass course, or see pass rates substantially above 70% ignore them. The “guarantee” will be worthless, and the figures will be twisted.

How do I choose a good driving instructor then?

Do the research, try to find them from recommendations, talk to them on the phone before handing money over, find out about them, and see if you get on. Don’t pay hundreds of pounds up front to an office when you have never spoken to the instructor – this is a recipe for disaster. Even instructors with bigger companies will be happy to call you to discuss their qualifications and your needs.