Finding a driving instructor: what should you look for?

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It’s quite some time since I passed my driving test and I can’t remember how I found my driving instructor. It probably involved Yellow Pages (which dates me for a start!). It was definitely a case of more luck than judgement. But did you know that ‘trainee’ driving instructors are legally able to teach and charge for their lessons. And while it’s a legal requirement for driving instructors to display their badge, not all of them do. So, where should you start your search?

Check the qualifications
There’s one qualification that driving instructors have to pass, but if they haven’t completed it yet, they may still be able to work as driving instructors. The Parent’s guide to Learner Drivers, explains what these qualifications are:

– ADI or Approved Driving Instructor. Fully qualified driving instructors will have passed three tests, the first of which is a multiple choice theory test, the second of which is a bit like a driving test (but more advanced!), while the third tests them on their ability to teach people of different ability. If they’ve taken all three exams, they’re able to display a green, octagonal badge on their windscreen.

SAVVY TIP: If the instructor doesn’t display his or her badge and can’t produce it, they are committing an offence. They can be fined £1,000 for not having a badge. The badge should have their name, ADI number and a photo (on the reverse).

– PDI or Potential Driving Instructor. Driving instructors who are PDIs have taken two out of the three tests required. The licence lasts for six months and lets them get teaching experience before taking the final driving instructor exam.

SAVVY TIP: The PDI badge is pink and triangular in shape. Because third exam – which a PDI won’t have taken – tests him or her on how to teach, it’s a really important part of the overall qualifications.

Ongoing assessments
Once a driving instructor is fully qualified because they have reached ADI level, they are regularly assessed (or check-tested) by the Driving Standards Agency.

– Find out his or her grade. The instructor will have been given a grade between four and six. Four is ‘satisfactory’, five is good overall and six is outstanding.

SAVVY TIP: This testing should happen every few years, but the Ingenie Parent’s guide says that it can be a slow process and the DSA grade may be an out of date reflection of the instructor’s abilities.

How many lessons will I need?
Hmm. It’s impossible to give much of an indication because it will depend on your and the driving instructor’s abilities. The Direct.gov website says that, on average, those who’ve passed have had 47 hours of professional instruction and 20 hours of private practice.

Richard King, founder and chief executive of Ingenie says: “The most important lesson we’ve learned is that the critical time for a young novice driver is in the first few weeks of passing their test. It’s so important for parents to consider lessons that continue after the test has been passed, as too many young drivers have a crash in the first few weeks of driving without instruction.”

Driver’s record
The Gov.uk site also suggests using a driver’s record, which you can download from their website. It’s designed to help you and your instructor to identify areas where you need extra help and to track your progress.

SAVVY TIP: The driver’s record has a list of 24 key skills that are covered in the practical driving test.

How much should I pay?
The hourly rate will depend on the instructor, who he or she works for (although most instructors are self employed, some work for larger, recognised names in the sector and these may charge more), where he or she is based and the level of competition in the area.

Having done a quick bit of Googling, the going rate seems to vary between £10 and £20 for a lesson. Several firms offer half price introductory lessons, or half price lessons if you book a block of three or five.

SAVVY TIP: Be wary of signing up for a block of lessons until you know that you ‘gel’ with the instructor. There’s no point in committing yourself to five hours of instruction if you and he/she don’t get on.

Related articles:

Telematics or black box insurance can cut costs for young drivers

Saving money on car insurance

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