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Learning to drive

6 things I wish I’d known about learning to drive

Most of us get sooooo excited as we hit 17 and can finally get our provisional driving licences.

But what no one tells you about learning to drive is that it's well complicated. Paperwork, money, tests, insurance...it's a lot.

I learned to drive 2 years ago and these are the 6 things I wish someone had told me about learning to drive.

  1. It costs SO MUCH MONEY

  2. I know you know learning to drive is expensive. But you might not know HOW expensive.

    Now, there's good reason for that: it's a difficult skill to learn, there's lots of admin and it's really important you learn properly.

    What does learning to drive cost?

    • Your provisional licence costs £34 online and £43 by post
    • Driving lessons cost an average of £24 per hour and the government recommends you have 47 hours - that's £1,128
    • Your theory test costs £23 (fingers crossed you pass first time!)
    • Your practical driving test costs £62 for daytime and £75 for an evening or weekend

    Total: £1,247. And that's without getting insured for private practice, revision books or apps and any test retakes.

    It's expensive. But rushing your learning to drive process can just end up being a false economy. You take the cheap option (not buying the theory test revision guide or fewer lessons with a driving instructor) but you fail a few tests or end up crashing in your first year and losing your No Claims Discount.

    It's not something to scrimp on, I promise you. Your life is priceless so learning to drive properly is a worthy investment.

     
  3. You might not like it

    Yep. You might really hate learning to drive. It's built up so much by your family, by the media, by your friends...and then it's really hard and you're getting up early for lessons and it's expensive and stressful and it goes on and on and on.

    On the other hand, you might really enjoy the process. I loved my driving instructor and we had a reet laugh - I just couldn't bear the stress and pressure of getting ready for the test.

    There is nothing wrong with you if you find learning to drive stressful. To be honest, it's not something that should just be a bit of a laugh: you're learning how to stay safe. It's a very serious business. Just know that it's all worth it in the end.

  4. Private practice is REALLY important

    Private practice is any driving you do outside of driving lessons. It's not to teach you how to drive; it's just for going over what your instructor thinks you can practise without them.

    The majorly important thing about private driving practice is variety. You have to adapt to a different car, a different supervising driver, different times of day, different kinds of traffic. It tests you and helps you learn how DRIVING works - not how the one car you've driven with your instructor works.

    Doing private practice is like reading the book you're set for GCSE instead of just memorising the study guide. You get to apply what you've learned to the real world, which will help you prepare for anything the driving test throws at you - and beyond!

    We don't all have the luxury of getting driving practice outside of lessons - I didn't until I'd already failed 4 tests. After that fourth fail, I bought a car and finally asked my mum for help with driving practice: in the dark, on different roads, in bad weather.

    I passed on the next go. If I hadn't put off buying a car and asking for help, I would have spent far less on driving lessons and tests.

    If you need to explain to your parents how important driving practice is, here's an article just for them.
  5. Most people fail the driving test first time

    There's SUCH a stigma around not passing your driving test but it's in the numbers: only 21% of people pass first time.

    I talk to people every single day who are too embarrassed to tell their friends or parents that they've failed their driving test. Why? Learning to drive is bloody hard and the driving test is an uncomfortable, unnatural and high-pressure event.

    If you're feeling worried about how many tests it'll take you, I'm a better, safer driver for failing a few. I think if you pass first time you're given a dangerous level of complacency because you feel like you've aced driving. When really, that test pass is just the beginning of the learning you do on your own.

  6. You won't magically be an amazing driver after passing

  7. Most of the time if someone gives you a certificate, it means you've aced something. Like, you've mastered trampolining or something.

    That's just not the case with driving. Your driving test pass certificate means you've reached the MINIMUM legal standard for driving alone. That's it. Not 'you've won at driving'. Not 'you are REALLY good at this'. The minimum standard of safety.

    And that means the learning isn't done. You're now allowed to start learning to drive alone, in the real world of no dual controls and no comforting L-plate (although P-plates may help you while you get used to it).

    For quite a while after you pass your driving test, you may find yourself doing ridiculous things you never did in the lead-up to test time. This is totally normal. Learning how to navigate the road safely and without someone there to help you is a big deal. Go easy on yourself and don't set your goals too huge for a while. That road trip to France? Maybe not the day after you pass.

     
  8. The spending doesn't end once you've passed

  9. Obviously I knew I'd have to spend a bit of money to get on the road. It just didn't occur to me how much or how many bits of admin would be involved.

    If you've passed at 17 or 18, this is probably the first time in your life you're faced with this many big payments.

    Here's the driving costs you'll be encountering:

    • Buying a car - tempting to buy the cheapest you can find but it needs to run and keep you safe!
    • Road tax - probably £100 to a couple of hundred a year
    • Car insurance - the average is around £2,000 for a new driver (but £1,500 with ingenie!) and if you already had provisional, you'll need to call your insurer to upgrade and pay the difference BEFORE you drive
    • MOT - once a year and about £50 before any work you need (the legal max is £54.85)
    • Service - as often as your owner's manual says, at about £100
    • Maintenance - oil, coolant, windscreen fluid, tyres...
    Save where you can and go with black box insurance. Our drivers save around £450 compared to their next cheapest quote.
     

    Don't cut corners

    The most important thing to know about learning to drive is that it's not a quick or cheap process. You're learning one of the most important skills you'll ever need: literally, how to stay alive.


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Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .