Learning to drive: the complete guide

The prospect of learning to drive is exciting but, in the beginning, the whole process can seem a bit daunting. After all, you’ve probably got a bunch of questions that need answering. 

How old do you have to be to learn to drive in the UK? Do you need insurance when you’re learning to drive? Are there any medical restrictions for learners? What’s the deal with booking theory and practical tests?

And aside from the practical sort of questions, we bet you're also wondering about what driving lessons with an instructor are like, how long it'll take you to learn to drive and what it will cost you.

We could go on. It’s intimidating, but we’ve got your back.

Jump in quick...

A 12-step guide to learning to drive

A plan that covers all the rules, jobs and info you need to know.

FAQs about learning to drive

Let's bring you up to speed with getting behind the wheel and having lessons.

Step 1: Get that provisional licence

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to drive is make ensure that you’re legally allowed to take lessons in the first place.  

Basically, anyone can have lessons so long as they are 17 and hold a provisional license in either Great Britain or Northern Ireland. You can apply for a provisional license when you’re 15 years and 9 months old.

It currently costs £34 and can be applied for online via the official Gov UK website.

Step 2: Do some housekeeping

Are you medically able to drive?

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell the DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving and you could face prosecution if such an issue causes an accident. Every learner must meet the minimum eyesight rules. 

That means you need to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away (and if you normally require glasses or contact lenses, they always need to be worn when you're driving). 

And aside from eyesight, check here to see if you have any health issues that will affect your driving. 

Step 3: Start your journey

Let’s move onto the actual instruction itself.

It's now time to have some tuition and if you're wondering what's in store, our helpful article will tell you what to expect from driving lessons.

We've also got an awesome guide on intensive driving courses if you'd like to pass your test quickly.

Either way, if you want to practice driving with a friend or family member, make sure they're aged 21 or over and hold a full driving license (which they’ve held for at least 3 years).

The person accompanying you must also be qualified to drive the type of car you want to learn in.

For example, they need a manual license if they’re supervising you in a manual car. 

Step 4: Note some extra rules

If you're a learner who wants to hit the road with a friend of family member at any stage, here are a couple of other things that you need to know.

It’s illegal for your friend or family member to use a mobile phone while supervising you. In terms of passengers, you can drive with as many as the vehicle can legally hold.

You’ll also need insurance if you’re practicing in a car that you actually own, but if you’re driving someone else’s car, be sure to check whether their policy covers you before turning on the ignition.

For what it's worth, most policies will allow learner drivers to get behind the wheel of the insured vehicle, but it’s worth noting that some insurance companies require the person supervising to be over 25 years old.

And finally, remember that any vehicle you take on the road must display L-plates at all times and be registered with the DVLA. It also needs to be fully taxed and roadworthy (with a current MOT certificate).

Step 5: Get the essential driving guide

It’s a good idea to grab the Highway Code as soon as you start driving lessons. The Highway Code contains information, advice and mandatory rules for all road users in the United Kingdom.

You can buy a copy online or from most bookshops. It has everything in it you need to know in order to pass both your theory and practical tests, but it will take some time to absorb the contents so start reading it immediately.

And if you're really keen, there are a couple of other documents that are worth investing in and reading - Know Your Traffic Signs and The Office DVSA Guide to Driving.

Step 6: Start thinking about the Theory Test

As your driving skills improve, you need to consider the Theory Test. This is a compulsory test and it needs to be passed before you're allowed to even book a practical.

And unfortunately, it's fairly tricky. In fact, more people fail it than pass. However, check out our epic guide on how to pass your Theory Test and you'll greatly increase your chances of success. 

Step 7: Book your Theory Test

Okay, you've check out our guide on how to pass your Theory Test and you're ready to take the exam. Head here to book a spot on the next available test (it will cost you £23). 

Step 8: Book your practical test

By now, you should be in good shape. Your driving skills are improving, your Theory Test is in the bag and the end is in sight.

When your driving instructor thinks you’re ready, it’s time to book your practical test.

The practical test costs £62-75, depending on whether you want a daytime, evening or weekend test.

Even the most experienced learner can mess up their test, so we've got some great tips to save the day.

Step 9: Prepare for the big day

With your practical test looming, it’s a good idea to run through the Highway Code again and have a dummy test or two with your instructor.

It's all about preparation from here on in. If you put the work in, you’ll probably find everything a breeze.

But this is a question of mentality. The test is there to ensure that you can drive confidently and safely – you can already do that, so try not to be nervous.

Remember that the driving examiner knows that you’ll be on edge; they’re not trying to catch you out.  This short video shows what to expect from a practical.

And look, if the worst happens and you fail your test, don't give up. We've got an action plan specifically for learners who have failed their test.

Step 10: You've done it

Okay, so you’ve either breezed through your test, struggled over the line or something in between… either way, many congratulations.

You’re now legally able to drive in the UK. It's a huge accomplishment and something you'll remember forever.

You’ve got independence and freedom, so wave goodbye to jam-packed trains, tiring bikes and smelly buses – now you can drive wherever you want, whenever you like.

Step 11: Get a car

Of course, that's assuming that you've got the cash to buy a car. If you haven't, start saving and resort to driving your parents' motor in the meantime.

After passing your test, you're going to be desperate to have your own set of wheels, but you know what? There's really no rush. 

If you’re a new or young driver and you’re thinking of getting a new car, there are lots of different models out there, each with various pros and cons.

Plus, getting insurance might be tricky and expensive, so take some time to do some research.

Step 12: Consider extra tuition

Is that the end of the journey?

We think it’s just the beginning. Hopefully you’ll become a more skilled driver as you continue to get behind the wheel and see more stuff on the roads.

If you’d like to build on your driving knowledge, consider taking the Pass Plus course. This is an official course that can be taken any time. in your life. It lasts at least 6 hours and specifically expands on like hazard awareness and driving in different conditions.

As well as helping keep you safe, completing this course will save you money on your insurance with most companies. Find out more about the Pass Plus course here.

Frequently asked questions about learning to drive

Okay, so that's an action plan which covers the practical side of learning how to drive. Let's now cover off a few other things that you might be wondering.

What are driving lessons like?

This is the start of an exciting time. If you have traditional lessons with a driving instructor, then you'll have a jam-packed lesson for an hour or two every week.

You'll cover all the important elements of the syllabus, one thing at a time. Eventually, when your instructor thinks you're ready, he or she will suggest arranging for your test and then it's go-time.

However, bear in mind that reaching this stage might take a while. The stats show that most people take over a year before they're ready to take a practical driving test.

If you're taking an intensive driving course, things will move a lot quicker. You'll learn the same stuff, but depending on the course you choose, it's possible to learn to drive in a week.

How many driving lessons will I need?

I'm sure you're desperate to know how long takes to learn to drive. As you can imagine, the number of lessons a learner requires in order to pass their test varies hugely on the individual.

However, according to the latest statistics, most people buy 52 hours of professional lessons and take over 14 months to pass their test. Of course, you'll always find someone who nails their test quickly, but they're exceptions...

... just like the learners who have 100s of lessons, take dozens of tests... and still can't pass.

Although good instructors will back themselves to teach a novice how to drive in 40 hours, you can't argue with the stats. Fact is, 52 hours is the national average in the UK and, all things being equal, that's the ball-park timescale that you're initially looking at.

But if that seems like a long time, there are other options. Consider the nature of the tuition. The average of 52 hours of lessons is for learners who typically have weekly sessions with their instructor.

If you were to take a crash course that was specifically designed to engineer a quick pass, you can save lots of time and money. Quite simply, intensives build up driving knowledge and skill in a rapid, reliable way that weekly lessons can't.

What is the average cost of learning to drive?

Are you wondering how much driving lessons cost? Driving lessons prices vary somewhere between £20-£35 depending on where you live in the UK, with the national average being £24.

Obviously the cost of learning to drive depends on how many lessons and tests you end up taking, but we can work out an approximate figure to use as a rough guide.

Most UK learners require 52 hours of lessons, so that's 52 x £24 = £1,248 for the tuition. On top that, you've also got fees for the Theory Test and practical test (assuming you pass first time.

Since most learners will take over a year to become test-ready, a lot of people opt for an intensive driving course instead. You'll learn the same stuff, but it'll only take about 40 hours for a total beginner (saving a significant amount of money).

Given that intensive courses usually comprise of 4-hour sessions per day, they'll also save you a lot of time, too. A 40-hour crash course can be completed in 2 weeks. 

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.