There are around 40,000 driving instructors in the UK, so where should you start when looking for someone to teach you how to drive? The usual route is to ask family or friends for recommendations or of course you can Google ‘driving lessons in Cardiff’ for example. You need to make sure you’ll be able to get along with your instructor as you’ll end up spending a lot of time with them!
How do I know which instructor is right for me?
Driving instructors typically either work as a sole trader and run their business independently or are part of a franchise. If they are part of a franchise, this means they work for a company with anything from 2-2,000 other driving instructors. There will be smaller local businesses and large national ones like the AA, Bill Plant, BSM and RED.
You can find a searchable database of instructors at gov.uk/find-driving-schools-and-lessons.
The main thing to focus on is the individual, as you’ll likely be spending a fair bit of time in their company and you want to learn from them in the most effective way, so picking someone you can gel with is essential. There are also 2 types of driving instructors in the UK; an ADI and a PDI.
What is an ADI?
ADI stands for Approved Driving Instructor. This means that the instructor has completed the full instructional course set by the DVSA. An ADI will display a blue badge in their car.
What is a PDI?
A PDI or Potential Driving Instructor is licenced to provide lessons andis teaching learners to drive to build experience before taking the the third of three tests to become an ADI. This is perfectly legal and can be a really good way for you the learner to save money (PDIs typically charge less for lessons). A PDI will have a pink badge in their car.
What should you look for when looking for a driving instructor?
We’ve provided a few questions to ask to get you started –
- Is the instructor fully qualified (an ADI)?
- If I have a PDI will I pay less?
- If I sign up for a course and we don’t get on, can I have my money back? All of it, or just some?
- Will I get the same instructor and car for each lesson?
- How long is each lesson? Can I choose between 60, 90 and 120-minute sessions?
- Can I take lessons at different times to build experience of different scenarios such as night time driving sessions?
- Can I change instructors if we don’t get on?
- Where will I be having my lessons?
- Can the instructor pick me up and drop me off at different locations (if required)?
- Does the instructor offer motorway lessons?
How to spot an illegal driving instructor
Anyone can set themselves up as a driving instructor, as long as they’ve got a car and some L-plates. Correct? Well, no, it doesn’t work like that. The driving instruction industry is heavily regulated to make sure that the standard of tuition is at a level that keeps our roads safe. It’s all down to section 123 of the Road Traffic Act (1988). This says anybody who accepts cash for providing driving instruction must have passed the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) three-part exam (or the first two parts if they are a PDI)
But how do you know that somebody has passed these tests and is legally allowed to charge you in return for driving tuition?
Easy; the giveaway is a badge which has to be clearly displayed in the windscreen of the car in which they teach you to drive. Which means your car, if the instructor isn’t using their own (an unlikely scenario, as your car won’t have dual controls).
What you’re looking for is a green octagonal badge which shows that the instructor is fully qualified; if their badge is a pink triangle they’re a trainee. The badges are made of plastic (not paper) and they measure 10.5cm across; they also have a date on them and a unique instructor number. There should also be a photograph of the instructor on the inside, taken within the last four years; if any of these elements are missing, be very wary. Be even more wary if there’s no licence on display and you’re offered lame excuses as to why not. By law the instructor has to show it when teaching and they can be fined up to £1000 for not doing so. If the licence is missing – or can’t be produced – it’s not just a question of the instruction potentially being rubbish; the instructor probably hasn’t gone through the enhanced CRB check which is required to qualify for a full licence.
You can report an illegal driving instructor online or on 0300 123 3248.
On average, one illegal driving instructor is reported to the DVSA’s fraud investigation team ever day. There are around 40,000 approved driving instructors on the DVSA register, so you’re not short of choice.