Learning to drive

What you need to know when you want to learn to drive

Getting your provisional license

You can apply for your driving license three months before you turn 17, though it only becomes valid on your birthday. After that, you can legally begin to take lessons and head out on the road. Until you pass, you will need either a driving instructor or an experienced driver to accompany you. You’ll need to display an ‘L’ plate on both the front and back of the car you drive, and have valid insurance cover. You can book your theory test as soon as you have a valid license, which you’ll need to pass before you take the practical test, so get studying the Highway Code early.

Book your theory test

Driving instructors

Choosing the right instructor is crucial. You’ll be spending a lot of time with them, so do book an introductory lesson before paying for a block booking to make sure you feel comfortable with them and their style of teaching. If you don’t feel happy with your instructor, don’t feel obliged to purchase more lessons with them. Prices can vary considerably, depending on the instructor’s level of qualification. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for lessons with someone who’s got more experience. An instructor who is still in training will display a pink triangle badge in their vehicle, while a fully qualified instructor will display a green octagonal badge. They may also have participated in other schemes, such as our Engage programme, which provide additional training and skills.

Other useful questions to consider include: Do they offer a taster session? What car do they use? Where are they based? Does lesson time exclude pick up and drop off? What’s their cancellation policy? Will you always have the same instructor and car? Can a parent or friend come along to pick up ‘supervisor’ tips? Will they provide extra study aids?

To find driving instructors who are approved by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and check their grade (if they declare it) click here.
Approved driving instructors

How many lessons will I need?

This varies from person to person. The average is around 45 hours of professional instruction and at least 20 hours of private practice. It’s possible to pass with much fewer lessons, but remember you need to learn to drive safely, not just to pass the test. It’s possible to have intensive courses to get you through your test as quickly as possible, but in general it’s much better to take your time and gain experience in a range of situations before heading out on your own. Don’t be tempted to put in for your test too early. You may be impatient and feel you know how to handle a car sufficiently, but listen to your instructor if they feel you need a bit more practice to be really secure.

Driving with friends and family

We recommend that you have a few lessons with a professional first to cover the basics, but when you do decide to venture out with a parent or friend, remember that they will need to be over 21 and have had a full license for at least three years. Think carefully about who would be good to accompany you – are they a good driver themselves? Will they be calm and supportive? Not everyone is cut out to be a supervising driver. Don’t feel pressured into accepting practice drives with someone you don’t feel would be helpful.