One of the first steps in learning to drive is finding someone to actually teach you. Most learners opt to go with a professional, but a simple Google search for driving instructors and schools near you will bring up thousands of results. When you’re putting so much trust in someone to help you learn such an important and responsible skill, though, you want to know that they’re going to be good. You want to know whether they’ll help you pass your test, give you confidence in driving and, hopefully, make your lessons enjoyable.
So how do you choose who to go with? Here are our top 6 tips for finding a good driving instructor.
① Make sure they’re legit
First and foremost, you need to make sure the driving instructor you choose is fully above board and legal. You’re allowed to practice with family or friends, providing they meet certain criteria, but it is against the law to pay for lessons with anyone who’s unqualified. This might see like a strange rule, but driving instructors don’t just have to prove that they’re able to teach; they must also be DBS checked to help to keep pupils safe.
You can check whether an instructor is legitimate on the government register: only qualified professionals who have passed the relevant exams will appear here. Your instructor must also display their driving instructor’s licence clearly in the windscreen during all lessons. This can be green or pink, but must be within date.
Green licence holders are those who have successfully passed each aspect of their ADI tests. Instructors displaying a pink card are trainee instructors. This means that they’ve passed their first 2 ADI tests, and have completed at least 40 hours of training. Trainee instructors are allowed to build up their experience before they become fully qualified—something they must do within 6 months of gaining their pink instructor’s licence.
You can also check out the individual driving instructor’s grade to see how they are rated professionally.
② What about their car?
When looking into instructors, it’s not just about the person. You also have to get along with their car.
It’s time to decide whether you want to learn in an automatic, or whether you want to get yourself a licence that allows you to drive manual cars as well. Unsure? Take a look at the pros and cons of each.
In terms of car model and make, there’s not usually a huge amount of difference: most driving instructors opt for newish, fairly standard cars. Of course, a good instructor can usually teach you to drive in any car, and if you’ve learnt the techniques correctly, you should be able to transfer those skills to another vehicle.
One thing that might affect your decision is whether an instructor has a dual control car. Almost all do, even though they don’t, technically, have to—but it might be wise to check. Dual controls (or the lack thereof) can affect your mutual confidence, and if you want to be able to go on the motorway during your driving lessons, dual controls are a legal requirement.
③ What do others think?
Just like when you’re buying anything, it’s useful to ask for recommendations from people whose opinions you value and trust. Pupils or ex-pupils of a particular instructor will be able to share details with you about their experience; you can then weigh up their comments in light of what you know about your friend, bearing in mind that we all place emphasis on different things.
You can usually also do further research online: even if you’ve never heard of the instructor, or the driving school they belong to, then you should be able to find some reviews for them. Good reviews might be posted on the website, but for a more representative overview, take a look at their ratings from other sources. Check out any reviews they’ve got on Google or their Facebook page—you’ll be able to read the good, the bad and the ugly!
Of course, some reviews might miss the mark, or refer to a specific problem that might not affect you. If you’re looking at a driving school, they will have multiple instructors on their books, so an issue with one individual instructor may not be relevant to you. On the other hand, check whether there’s any evidence that the instructor or driving school tried to deal with the issue. If they’re willing to learn from negative feedback, that could well count as a positive.
④ Are they professional?
Just as it’s rude for you to be late for your own lessons, it’s downright unprofessional for driving instructors to fail to be punctual. Bear in mind that they have traffic to contend with—but you should not miss out because of this; if your instructor is late, they should make the time up to you.
Equally, you want an instructor who is reliable. If they’re always cancelling on you last minute without a good reason, it might be more than inconvenient. It can affect your relationship with them and ultimately delay your progress.
You also want your driving instructor to be paying their full attention to you and the roads—not only is that their job, but it’s also the law: they are ultimately responsible for you while you learn. If your instructor is texting on your lessons, this can be enough to lose them their licence. Make sure you know the rules about phones instructors have to follow so that you know your rights as a pupil.
⑤ Any personal preferences?
You may have some individual preferences when it comes to choosing an instructor. For instance, you may prefer a female instructor—be that for religious reasons, or simply because you feel more comfortable with one. Similarly, if you’re nervous about learning to drive, you might be able to find an instructor who has a proven track record with learners suffering from anxiety—someone who is particularly good at building confidence.
If you have a specific requirement in instructor, make sure you let your driving school know, so that they can accommodate you. Be aware that particular requirements might see you waiting longer to start your lessons, but that’s be a small price to pay to end up securing the best driving instructor for you.
⑥ Do your expectations match?
One crucial thing to check is that your potential instructor is on the same page as you. If you have a specific time frame in which you want, or need, to learn to drive, check that they will be able to accommodate your timetable. Remember that it’s ultimately up to you to pass the practical, so if you’ve only allowed time for one attempt, then failed, it doesn’t usually mean that your instructor failed you.
Check as well that they are able to pick you up and drop you off at mutually agreed locations—although, again, your requests shouldn’t be totally unreasonable.
If you have problems with your instructor
If you aren’t getting on with your instructor, it’s good to identify exactly why this is. Are they unreliable, or is it a matter of personality clash? Perhaps it’s nobody’s fault, but their teaching technique simply doesn’t suit you—after all, we all learn in different ways. Once you’ve established the problem, it might be that you can talk to them—or to the driving school you booked through—to resolve the issue together.
For this to be a productive conversation, try to keep a note of any issues you have, so that you can talk specifics.
What to do if you want to change instructor
If you really can’t reconcile with your instructor, it might be time for a change. Switching instructors may slow down the process, but sometimes it’s better to cut your losses in the long run. Your driving school may be able to offer you an alternative instructor, taking into account the nature of your complaints; otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board. Work your way through our top tips for choosing a great instructor again, and hopefully, this time, things will work out.
We’ve already done all the hard work for you: we have over 500 hand-picked instructors, and the areas we cover keep growing. Get to know some of them a bit more with our ‘Meet an Instructor’ series of blog posts.