The Ultimate Guide to Learning to Drive
For many, learning to drive is a huge life milestone, providing independence and freedom. Here, in our Ultimate Guide to Learning to Drive, we cover every step in that journey so you feel fully prepared for getting behind the wheel.
- Getting your provisional licence
- Getting behind the wheel
- Getting learner driver insurance
- The theory test
- The driving test
- What do I do after I have passed?
Step 1: Getting your provisional licence
It is a legal requirement for learner drivers to obtain a provisional driving licence if you want to start driving lessons. If you are eager to start your driving lessons straight away, you can apply for the licence from up to three months before your 17th birthday.
When am I legally allowed to start driving lessons?
As long as you have received your provisional driving licence, you are allowed behind the wheel on your 17th birthday.
How do I apply for my provisional license?
To receive your provisional driving licence you will have to fill out a D1 form which is supplied by the DVLA. These are supplied by either your local Post Office or you can apply directly online via the DirectGov website. When filling out the D1 form you will also need to supply a form of identification (e.g your passport), your home address and your National Insurance number.
TIP: You save £9 by applying online, where a provisional license is £34.
Step 2: Getting behind the wheel
Do I pick an manual or automatic?
Clutch control using a manual gearbox equipped car can take some practice. With an automatic, there’s no clutch to use as the gearbox takes care of that for you, meaning there’s no risk of stalling the car or damaging the clutch.
In other words, driving an auto means you have less to think about whilst learning all the other aspects of driving, allowing you to focus on your road positioning and speed.
However, because of their added convenience and complexity, most car manufacturers charge a premium for an automatic version of their cars. More importantly though, if you learn in an automatic then you will end up only qualified to drive in an automatic. Whereas if you learn and take your test in a manual car, you can use either transmission choice.
Still on the fence? We have gone into more detail in our dedicated Automatic vs Manual Gearbox Blog.
Private driving lessons
If you already have a car or will be practising in a friend or relative’s car, you are now legally allowed to start driving lessons. Although, please be aware that there are a few legal requirements for the person that will be in the passenger’s side, teaching you:
- They must hold a full British driving licence and had it for at least three years
- They must be aged 21 or over
- You must clearly display the ‘L’ plates on the vehicle you are learning in
- You must be insured to drive the car that you will be learning in
Although this option may be cheaper, it is advised that you should also take some hourly lessons with a professional, qualified driving instructor. The reason we say this is because it is genuinely helpful and will get you ready for the test quicker. It's also said that bad driving habits can accumulate when having private lessons. Taking extra lessons with a professional will enable preparation for the test and the requirements needed to pass.
Professional driving lessons
The first step is to find a local driving school or independent tutor in the area and book some lessons. You can look for local, approved instructors online. It may also be helpful to get recommendations from friends or relatives; driving lessons are expensive and you want to get the best teacher for your money.
TIP: If you can’t get a recommendation, at least check out the reviews of anyone you have shortlisted.
We would suggest that you should have at least 4 hours of professional driving lessons before practising with a friend or relative. You should also take more hours with a professional before your driving test, this will give you the opportunity to complete a couple of mock tests before-hand.
How much should I be paying for lessons?
Typically, you will be charged on average £20 - £25 per hour for professional driving lessons.
The average learner driver will need around 45 hours of driving lessons before they are ready for their practical test. However, everybody learns at different rates.
You also have the option of an intensive course. The idea is that you will retain what you learn, because there’s less of a gap between lessons. As a result, people start lessons and complete their test all within a week! See our dedicated blog post where we mull over the pros and cons of the intensive route.
Step 3: Getting your learner driver insurance
If you don’t plan to drive any other car other than your driving instructors, then don’t worry about this section! You can skip this part.
However, if you’re planning to learn in a privately owned car with the help of family or a friend, then you need car insurance to be legal. We offer insurance for 30, 60 or 90 days, which you can then renew as you wish. You can get your no obligation quote now and you can start budgeting for your first outing!
Step 4: The theory test
Before being legally able to take your practical driving test, you must first pass your theory test. The test is split into two sections – 50 multi-choice questions and a hazard perception test. It currently costs £23 and you can book your test online. After booking, you can reschedule it from up to three days before the test.
We have conducted a couple of interviews with our colleague, Daisy, who has recently passed her theory test. You can read her interviews here, which will help and guide you through both the revision and what you should expect on the day of the test.
What the test is made up of:
50 Multi-choice Questions
The 50 multi-choice questions are picked at random from a bank of over 1000. That said, revision for the theory test is very important and the revision hours need to be put in. You can download the official DVSA theory test app, which you can access right from your phone. All of the questions that are possible to show up in your test, will be on the app.
You will need to get 43 correct answers out of 50 to pass this section.
TIP – If you get stuck you can always flag the question and answer it at the end of the test, where you will have more time to think about the correct answer.
The hazard perception test is made up from a series of mini video clips, where you will have to recognise hazards in different scenarios on the road. The aim here is to click the mouse as soon as you see the hazard – you will get more points if you are able to recognise the hazards quickly. Do not click the mouse too many times though, as you will then score 0 points for that video.
You will need to get 44 correct answers out of 75 to pass this section.
Example of what it will look like on the screen:
How much time do I have to complete the theory test?
You will have 15 minutes practice time at the beginning of your test. Use this time wisely and to get used to the computer system and the test layout. After the 15 minutes is up you will have 57 minutes to answer the 50-multi-choice questions.
After you have completed this section you will have a three minute break, you can skip the break if you want to.
For the hazard perception test you will have approximately 15 minutes to complete it. Each video clip is 1 minute long and there are 14 hazards to find. There will be one hazard in each video – apart from one clip, which will have two.
Step 5: The driving test
So you have now passed your theory test, you have had a lot of practice behind the wheel and your instructor thinks you are finally ready for the practical. This may seem daunting but you have come this far, so feel confident in yourself!
Make sure that you bring both parts of your provisional licence and your theory test pass certificate. You will also take the test in your driving instructor’s car, or you can take it in your car but only if it passes all the legal requirements.
How to book your driving test
You can book your driving test here at: www.gov.uk/book-driving-test and it costs £62. If there are no available dates for a while, we advise to book the nearest date and just keep checking the website for cancellations. You have up to 3 working days before your original test date to re-book it.
How long does the test last?
In the practical, you will drive in the car for 40 minutes.
The procedures in the test:
There are 5 parts to the driving test:
- An eyesight check – read a number plate from the distance of 20 metres.
- ‘show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions – 2 questions picked at random: based around the safety / operation of the car and driving
- General driving ability – Your driving will be examined and you will be asked to do a number of manoeuvres. These include: stopping at the side of the road, pulling out from behind a parked vehicle and a hill start.
- Reversing your vehicle – You will then be asked to complete one of the following: Parallel park, park in a parking bay or pull up on the on the side of the road, reverse for around 2 car lengths and re-join the traffic.
- Independent driving – You will be given 20 minutes to drive independently. This will be by either following directions on a sat nav or following road signs.
The instructor will tell you which variation you will need to complete. The test is the same for both manual and automatic cars.
How will I be marked in the driving test?
The marks are split up into ‘minors’ and ‘majors’. You have probably heard of these terms hundreds of times before but it is definitely helpful to know what they mean before you take the practical test.
To pass your driving test you will need to make:
- No more than 15 minors
- No majors
What is a major?
There are three types of majors you can make:
- A dangerous fault – this involves causing a fault that is a danger to you, the examiner, the public or property.
- A serious fault – something that is potentially dangerous
- A driving fault – this is not potentially dangerous, but if the same fault is continuously made, it can be marked as a major
What is a minor?
- A minor on the other hand is still a driving fault but one that doesn’t cause danger. You are allowed up to 15 minors but you don’t want to make too many that you don’t pass.
A continuous minor that is the same mistake made at least three times will be classed as a major.
To get a better understanding of this, you can read our full list of examples of minors and majors here.
Step 6: What do I do after I have passed my test?
Your examiner will now arrange for your provisional photo card to be sent off to the DVSA and your full driving licence card will be sent in the post. You do not need to wait for your card to arrive, you can start driving on your own straight away (as long as your car is taxed and insured in your name).
Getting your car insurance
If you are wanting to drive straight away, you will have to update your learner drivers insurance as you have now passed. If you are still looking for your first car, once you have bought one you can get a free quote for your new car here.
Will my car insurance be expensive as a new driver?
As soon as your licence turns from a provisional to a full driving licence, it is guaranteed that your insurance price will increase. This is due to the fact that you are now more likely to be driving alone and as a new driver you are at higher risk. According to Money Super Market, the average annual premium for new drivers in 2019 is £979, which is around £82 per month.
Our other articles that might come in handy to you as a learner driver
- Automatic or manual gearbox?
- Revising for the theory test
- The day of the theory test
- Minors and Majors
- The benefits of an intensive driving course
- Can learner drivers drive at night?
- What to consider when choosing a car
- Supervising a learner driver: what you need to know
- Are P plates mandatory?
- What happens after you have passed your test
If there is anything that we have missed or if you have any questions about learning to drive or insurance then please do not hesitate to message us on social media.