Driving lessons: here’s what to expect

So, you’re about to get behind the wheel for the first time, slip the key into the ignition and start learning how to drive. The ultimate aim is freedom and independence.

It’s all pretty exciting, but the prospect of driving lessons might also make you feel a little nervous.

But look, preparation breeds confidence, which is why we’ve created this little guide on what to expect from taking driving lessons. Let’s pull back the curtain…

Is the first driving lesson really scary?

The thought of learning to drive for the first time is much scarier than the reality and it's perfectly natural to feel a little jittery. 

However, bear in mind that driving instructors have seen it all before. They know that everyone's different, so you'll always be learning at a pace that's right for you.

As with everything in life, some people will take to driving like a duck to water. Others will struggle because of one reason or another. And most people will fit somewhere in between the 2 extremes.

Nevertheless, a good driving instructor is adaptable. They'll quickly ascertain the best approach for you and tailor your lessons pretty quickly. In all probability, you'll find that you'll be really good at some things and less able at others. Whatever the breakdown, it's all completely normal.

How should I prepare for my first driving lesson?

Preparing for any driving lesson is common sense, really. Don't drink any alcohol the night before and avoid any Netflix marathons. Instead, try to relax and get a good night's sleep.

On lesson day, pick out comfortable clothes so that you'll feel relaxed when you're driving and be sure to wear flat-heeled, non-slip shoes or trainers so that you can feel the pedals easily.

Bring glasses or contacts if you have them and also remember to take a bottle of water to your lessons so that you stay hydrated (it's said that if you're just 2% dehydrated, your brain is 20% less efficient).  

What can I expect from my first driving lesson?

First of all, you'll be picked up by your driving instructor either at your home, college, university, place of work or from wherever you've arranged. Before you do anything, your instructor will introduce themselves and put you at ease.

They'll show you their qualifications, then they'll check your provisional licence to see if you’re legally able to drive (so bring it to your first lesson). If you don’t have a provisional licence yet, you can apply for one here.

Depending on where you live, your instructor will then drive you to a quiet spot and teach you the DSSM cockpit drill. This is an essential vehicle safety routine that should be performed before every drive.

  • Doors - are they securely closed?
  • Seat - is it in comfortable position?
  • Steering position - has it been established?
  • Seatbelts - are they on?
  • Mirrors - have they been adjusted?

After the cockpit drill, your instructor will then run through some basics by showing you how to work the clutch, accelerator, brakes, handbrake and indicator. 

You’ll also be introduced to the dashboard and all the various buttons at your fingertips.

At this stage, you might have some time left for a little driving. It might only be a gentle introduction to pulling away and stopping, but 5mph will still seem like 500 the first time you do it.

The idea is to start developing your ability to move a car from a stationary position and get used to speeding up and slowing down.

And as far as first lessons go, that's probably all you'll have time for. Your instructor will then take you back to your agreed drop-off point, discuss how the lesson went and schedule another session.

What else will you learn during your driving lessons?

With the first lesson done and dusted, you'll be feeling more confident next time around and your driving instructor will now introduce a number of key skills over the coming weeks and months. 

All the different driving topics are listed below and, although the order might vary a little depending on the instructor, this is generally the agenda most learners will follow.

There’s no rush, but when you can execute them all without any prompting, you’re ready for your test. 

  • Safe road positioning
  • Mirrors and signalling
  • Approaching junctions
  • Meeting traffic
  • Use of speed
  • Hazard awareness
  • Emergency stop
  • Roundabouts
  • Junctions
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Dual carriageways
  • Parking and reversing
  • Tackling different road conditions
  • Following directions

Normally your driving instructor will arrange your practical driving test, but that's something you can do that too.

There's usually a waiting list at most test centres around the UK, so just make sure that your instructor agrees that you're ready for you test if you're booking it.

Will I have any motorway driving lessons?

Your practical test won’t involve any motorway driving, so you don’t have to have any motorway driving lessons.

These lessons are a personal choice and it's a decision that you can discuss with your instructor.

For a long while, by law, UK learner drivers were not allowed to head out onto a motorway. They were expected to know the driving rules and regulations for motorways, but that was it. 

And that always seemed a counterintuitive stance.

After all, there are over 2,000 miles of motorway in the UK – we drive on them a lot it and it made no sense for novice drivers to have to experience motorway driving on their own first time out. 

But in June 2018, everything changed.

Now, learners can practice their motorway driving before taking their test and get to grips with increased speeds, changing lanes, overtaking slower vehicles and suchlike.  

Whether you have motorway driving lessons or not will largely depend on how your  lessons are going in general.

If they're going well and you’ve mastered dual carriageways, motorway driving won't be a shock to the system and it's probably worth having one or two sessions.

But if everything’s proving to be a bit more of a struggle, you might want to give motorway driving a miss until you’ve passed your test. Remember that you can always take motorway driving lessons at a later date after passing your practical.

Either way, don't worry. In many ways, motorway driving is the easiest kind of driving.

You’ll be driving at higher speeds so the temptation is to think that there’s more danger. In reality, motorways are the safest roads in the UK. 

Many people are anxious about motorway driving but you can’t argue with the stats - hazards pop up far more frequently in city and country roads.

Assuming that you can learn how to enter and exit a motorway safely, overtake slow-moving vehicles, use lanes correctly and understand motorway-specific traffic signs, then you’ll be fine.

There's also the Theory Test to remember

Don’t forget that you’ll have to pass your Theory Test before taking a practical driving test. Most likely, you’ll be able to do that about halfway into the syllabus.

But aside from the Theory Test, that’s your schedule.

And now that you know what to expect from your driving lessons, you can relax a bit.

Try to keep things in perspective - mistakes are inevitable; that’s part of the learning process. It would be the same if you were learning a new instrument, language or card trick.

Ultimately, your mindset and attitude will play a huge role in how quickly you learn how to drive. Being a proactive learner will stand you in good stead, so get reports from your instructor at the end of every lesson and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What if I'm really anxious about my driving lessons?

From sweaty palms to full-on panic attacks, some learners really struggle with anxiety. And these feelings could be caused by a wide variety of things. Perhaps you’ve previously had a bad experience in a car (either as a learner or a passenger).

Maybe you’ve had a bad driving instructor in the past who didn’t bring out the best in you.

Meanwhile, some people are simply paralysed by the thought of making a mistake. Psychologists would probably call this performance anxiety. Or these sorts of feelings could have nothing to do with driving at all.

Perhaps you’re just naturally an anxious kind of person. Regardless of your personal situation, this is a barrier that must be overcome.

How can I control my nerves and emotions?

The first step to controlling any nerves and emotions comes with acknowledging your issues and identifying the root problem.

Take some time and think about what’s causing your anxiety.

Also, remember that tiredness will affect your ability to think rationally, so try to get a good night's sleep before having any driving lessons. 

Similarly, it’s vital that you stay hydrated and don’t have any driving lessons on an empty stomach. Quite simply, your brain will just not function logically if you’re feeling thirsty and hungry. 

Work on breathing techniques (especially when you’re placed under stress) and don't try to fit in any lessons around any other stressful events (like meetings with your boss or bank manager).

And lastly, remove all other potential causes of stress. Arrive for your driving lesson on time, switch your mobile phone off during the session and unwind properly afterwards.

Beyond all these tips, it’s also important to find a driving instructor that you can connect with and open up to about how you feel about learning to drive.

A good, experienced driving instructor will have taught all types of learners before and they’ll be able to tailor your driving lessons to cater for your anxiety. 

You see, whilst an instructor must a technically proficient driver, they also need to be a good teacher. As such, instilling confidence into you is also part of their job.

Luckily, it’s really easy to assess different driving instructors on our platform, so if you hook up with an instructor and things don't work out, you can move on and try a different teacher.

Remember, finding a driving instructor on our platform is just a case of entering your postcode, reading reviews and looking at different ratings.

How much are driving lessons?

Driving lesson prices vary depending on how good your instructor is and whereabouts in the country you live (so, an awesome instructor in London will obviously cost more than a good one in a little village).

The average cost of an hour-long driving lesson in the UK is £24 and the stats show that UK learners usually have 52 hours of lessons before they're ready for a test.

Therefore, expect to shell out around £1,248 and you won't go far wrong (or approximately £1,350 if you also include the cost of the Theory Test and your practical examination).

If you're on a budget, there are ways to save a few pennies. The most obvious way is by taking an intensive driving course.

Despite the sizeable upfront fee, intensives work out cheaper than regular driving lessons in the long-run and get the job done far quicker to boot.

Meanwhile, some driving instructors are willing to offer a free driving lesson as an incentive to work with them. It's not a huge saving, but every little helps and having your first driving lesson for free is great for a couple of reasons.

For starters, it allows the instructor to assess the learner's skills so, if they continue with the lessons, they'll have solid foundations. In addition to that, the free driving lesson also gives the learner a better feel for the instructor's teaching style.

And remember that our platform allows you to assess different driving instructors and pick who you want.

So you might find a good instructor who is new to the industry and offering cheap driving lessons as they build up their reputation. You can't get this sort of freedom and transparency anywhere else.

How many driving lessons will I need?

The answer to your question totally depends on a number of factors, such as whether you've driven before, how often you're having driving lessons, how comfortable and confident you are with driving, how quickly you pick things up and whether you're having additional lessons with friends or family.

However, you probably want a ball-park figure and, in the UK, the average learner has 52 hours of lessons before they're ready to take an official test. And if that sounds a lot, know that most instructors think that 40 hours is enough to get the job done.

Taking those numbers and all other things being equal, you can work out roughly how long it's likely to take you to learn how to drive and pass your test. 

Should I have manual or automatic lessons?

You might be considering automatic driving lessons, since automatic cars seem easier to drive (because they don't have gears, clutch control and biting points to worry about).

But the average learner requires 47 hours of automatic driving lessons before they're ready for a practical test (which isn't much lower than the 52-hour average for learners tackling manual cars).

At the end of the day, there's still a lot to learn and the driving test remains the same.

In addition to that, bear in mind you're long-term goals. If you pass your test in an automatic car, you won't be legally able to drive a manual car until you've passed a manual test.

This might not seem like a big deal, but there are loads of potential scenarios that could crop up in the future.

Perhaps you have to borrow a friend's car. If it's a manual, you can't drive it. Maybe you'll land a job in the future where you have to drive a company car. If they don't have an automatic option, you're screwed.

However, if you pass your manual test, you can choose to drive either a manual or automatic car. 

Plus, you know what? We're forgetting that driving manual cars is generally more fun. As a kid, a bike with gears is more exciting than one without. And it's the same with cars.

Ever considered an intensive driving course?

You'll save time and money. Hit the button below, register your interest and we'll arrange a no-obligation call to go over how everything works.