Learning to drive is often seen as one of the most important milestones to take for many in the UK. In the rush to finally get a provisional licence and sit behind the wheel for the first time, however, it’s often easy to miss some of the intricacies involved in learning to drive. If you want to avoid any confusion or mishaps along the way, then, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with a few things all learner drivers should know.
We’re going to take you through 13 things no one tells you about learning to drive. We’ll also provide some handy advice to help make your journey that much easier. Get the full lowdown below!
1. The theory test is just as important as the practical test
Despite what you might have heard from your friends or family, the theory test isn’t common sense. It covers a wide range of important topics—from road signs to the rules of the road to hazard awareness. This means that you will have to put in serious revision to make sure you pass. The effort you put in here will pay off tenfold in the future. After all, learners with a good theoretical foundation are more likely to be safer on the roads.
The theory test is so important that you won’t actually be able to book your driving test until you’ve passed it. Learners need their theory test pass number to be able to book one. Additionally, in order to ensure your theoretical knowledge doesn’t deteriorate much over time, your theory test pass certificate has an expiry date. If you don’t pass your practical within two years of your theory, then you have to retake the theory test.
If you’ve not had the chance to take your theory test yet, we’d advise you swot up. Read up on our guides below and you’ll be in with a chance of passing first time:
- Prepare for success: how to pass your theory test
- Ultimate theory test revision resources
- Hazard perception mock tests
- Got your theory test tomorrow? 5 last minute tips!
2. It can be a costly affair if you’re not careful
If you’re not careful, the learning to drive can soon begin to mount up. Whilst the upfront cost of a crash course can seem steep, hourly lessons are often more of a drain on your finances. Worse still, driving lesson rates in certain areas can be as steep as £24 per hour!
As we’ve discussed when calculating the cost of learning to drive, the main issue with hourly lessons is that they never really give you enough time to truly master a skill. Once you get close to doing so, your lesson is at an end. So, whilst hourly lessons seem cheaper, you often need more of them to pass than a crash course. Intensive or semi-intensive courses, by comparison, enable you to speed up your learning and, due to a longer lesson format, get to grips with skills and retain them properly.
3. Perfect test dates can be hard to find
If you’re anything like our other learner drivers, it’s likely that you’ll be interested in getting your full driving licence as soon as possible. You might even be thinking about going in for your driving test in, say, a week or so. Well, prepare for your high expectations to be dashed. With examiner and test centre shortages, waiting times for driving tests can reach several weeks long, or even up to 3 months!
If you decide to wait until you’ve finished your lessons to book a test, you could end up shooting yourself in the foot—if there’s a big gap between your last lesson and your test, you might end up forgetting certain skills or routines. Timing is key here. Ideally, you should get your test date sorted out, and then work your lessons towards it.
Not interested in waiting? PassMeFast can sort you out with a fast-track practical test and cut down the wait by weeks or even months.
4. Some skills take a while to grasp
Unless you’re a particularly gifted learner driver, it’s likely that you’ll struggle with at least one major skill or area during your lessons. Take clutch control, for example. Some learners get it right from the start. Others, however, spend at least 10 to 15 hours trying to master it using top clutch control tips. (It’s why some learners simply opt to go automatic.) Similar problem areas include driving test manoeuvres, roundabouts and junctions.
Whilst it can be disheartening to struggle with a certain skill for a prolonged amount of time, it’s something that all learner drivers experience. Instead of panicking and deciding that driving isn’t for you, you should pay attention to your instructor’s advice and keep persevering. Trust us—you’ll have overcome your block before you even realise it! You might also find it useful to have a look at our top ten YouTube channels for learner drivers.
5. Learning to drive in your local area is important
We can’t stress the importance of learning to drive in your local area enough. You might be tempted to head further afield if you’ve come to the realisation that your local test centres have dismal pass rates. However, this would be a big mistake. Whilst pass rates might be better in rural areas, for example, learning to drive there would do you no good if you live in a city centre. Once you pass your test, you’ll be taking to your local roads unsupervised. If you’re used to completely different traffic systems and road features, then you could end up in a serious accident.
So, instead of dwelling on pass rates, choose a test centre that’s close to where you live. If you’re learning with a local ADI, they’ll help you get used to the area’s most challenging features and road types. By the time your test rolls on by, you’ll know the area like the back of your hand.
6. It can get more difficult with age
The longer you wait to learn to drive, the more difficult it can become. As we’ve shown in driving test pass rates by age, 17 year olds boast the highest pass rates of all age groups. As age increases, however, pass rates begin to decline. So, if you want to be in with a chance of passing straight away, it might be in your best interest to get on the road ASAP.
Of course, we don’t mean to put off older learners from getting on the road. Whilst they’re at more of a disadvantage when compared to younger drivers, passing is not impossible. As long as you put in the time and effort when taking lessons, you should pass your test with flying colours. Frequent lessons can be more effective with building up muscle memory, so if you’re an older driver, opting for an intensive course might help you beat the odds.
7. You might not enjoy it
After the initial excitement of getting behind the wheel wears off, you might find yourself coming to the conclusion that you don’t really like driving. We know, pretty shocking, right? Well, it’s actually pretty understandable. Usually, the more excited you are to pass your test, the more disappointed you can feel when you start to struggle with certain skills. If you find that driving isn’t coming to you as naturally as you’d hoped, it can often cause you to start dreading your lessons. We do have some extra tips for those who hate learning to drive.
Once you get to the tail end of your course, however, you’ll soon change your mind. So, if you’re in this boat, relax! It’s normal for you to take a while to warm up to the experience of driving—as long as you’re comfortable with your driving instructor, that’s all that matters. If it’s your instructor that’s the problem, however, you should look into finding a different one.
8. Other drivers might not be so sympathetic
Though we hope you never have to experience it first hand, most learners find out the hard way that other drivers aren’t exactly the most understanding bunch. That is, when some drivers spot L plates on a car, they immediately turn into madmen—swerving in front, all because they’re suddenly in a rush to be somewhere. You’d be hard pressed to find a learner that hasn’t had to put up with this impatience on the road at least once.
Whilst it can be intimidating to have other drivers react negatively to you, all because you’re a learner, you shouldn’t dwell on it too much. As long as you’re driving safely and following the rules, that’s all that matters. Besides, not all drivers fit this stereotype. Some will look at your L plates and make a few allowances—they’ll likely be reminded of what they were like when they first started out learning to drive.
9. Practising outside of lessons is key
As important as it is to take lessons with a qualified driving instructor, it’s just as vital to practise outside of lessons with friends or family. If you want to master a skill or make certain aspects of driving feel like second nature, the extra practice will help. Please be advised, however, that your supervisor must be over the age of 21 and have a licence in the transmission you’re learning in (which they need to have held for at least three years).
That being said, you’ll undoubtedly find that your family and friends have a bunch of bad habits that your instructor would shudder at. It’s to be expected. Though you should listen to their advice, you should always listen to your instructor first—they know what you need to do to pass the test.
10. You need to be insured
Everyone needs insurance in order to legally drive on UK roads. Now, if you’re learning with a DVSA-approved instructor, they’ll automatically include the cost of insurance in their lesson price, meaning you won’t have to worry about it at all. If you’re practising outside of lessons, however, you’ll need to sort it out yourself. Don’t worry—it’s not rocket science. You can get all the information you might need in our handy guide to learner driver insurance.
Most learners opt to use their instructor’s car for their driving test. If you’ve decided to do so in your own car, however, you’ll also need to sort out insurance for the practical test. (You might also want to check out the rules for taking the practical test in your own car!)
11. You might not pass first time
Contrary to what you might have heard, not all learner drivers pass the driving test on their first attempt. Whether it’s nerves or an unexpected hazard on the road, there are plenty of valid reasons as to why a learner might end up failing the driving test. As upsetting as it might seem, however, it’s really not the end of the world.
It doesn’t matter if your best friend or sibling passed the driving test on their first attempt. Every driver is different. Instead of dwelling on the fact that you failed, you should concentrate on why it happened. Take a close look at your feedback sheet and you’ll be able to see which exact areas you need to work on before you take another test. If your confidence is shot, a refresher course might do the trick.
12. Passing your test doesn’t make you a perfect driver
It might be hard to believe, but getting your hands on a test pass certificate doesn’t automatically make you a perfect driver. All it means is that you’ve met the minimum standards set by the DVSA. Besides which, driving unsupervised can take some getting used to. Without your instructor hovering over your shoulder, it can be tempting to let your standards slip. You’ve got to remember, however, that you no longer have the safety net of someone with dual controls if you end up in trouble—you’ve got to be even more careful when driving alone.
Every driver on the road has room for improvement. Try to remember what you were taught in your lessons and, if you didn’t become a member of the zero minors club, try to be extra vigilant on the areas you picked up the most faults in.
13. It keeps on costing money
If you’re interested in getting on the road after passing your test, it will, unfortunately, end up costing you a pretty penny or two. For starters, unless you’ve already got one sorted, you’ve got to buy a car. It’s not something you should just jump into with reckless abandon—we’d advise you do some thorough research to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. You’ll find some helpful information and tips here:
- Should I buy a new or used car?
- Buying a new car: dos and don’ts
- Buying a used car: dos and don’ts
- Should I switch to an eco-friendly car?
And that’s not all! You’ve also got to sort out vehicle tax every year, unless you opt to buy a tax-exempt car. Your biggest expense, however, will undoubtedly be insurance. If you’re not careful, you could end up having to spend thousands each year on steep premiums. We’d recommend reading up on our insurance guides below to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into:
- Young driver insurance
- Black box (telematics) insurance
- What to check for when you’re buying car insurance
- What are the cheapest cars to insure?
For more insights into what learning to drive is actually like, check out 7 thoughts every learner driver has had!