Learning to drive: everything you need to know


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Learning to drive is a rite of passage for teenagers and in the UK you can start having lessons the minute you turn 17.

Whether you choose to practice with your parents first or go straight for a qualified driving instructor, learning to drive is a big step into the adult world and it will give you the freedom to go wherever you choose.

According to the Driving Standards Agency, learner drivers usually spend at least 47 hours with an instructor compared to 22 hours with family or friends.

Not sure whether to learn with your parents or a driving instructor first? We spoke to Karen Bransgrove from the Driving Instructors Association (DIA) for her take on the difference between learning with a parent and learning with an instructor.

Whichever path you choose to take, there’s no doubt getting in some extra practise with your parents can help reduce the costs of learning to drive. Between lessons, learning materials and the tests, learning to drive can be quite expensive. But to help you keep as much of your cash as possible, we’ve put together a guide on cutting the cost of learning to drive.

Getting started

First up you’ll need to get a provisional driving licence, and if you’re keen, you can apply for this when you’re 15 years and nine months old! You can actually get behind the wheel when you’re 17.

A provisional licence allows you to drive on all UK roads except motorways, but you must be accompanied by a driving instructor, family member or friend who is:

  • Over 21 years old
  • Qualified to drive the type of vehicle you’re learning in
  • Held a full driving licence for at least three years.

You can get more information on the rules of supervising a learner driver in our guide.

And you must have an L plate (or a D plate in Wales if you fancy) on display at the front and back of the car you’re learning in. You can get up to six penalty points on your licence if you’re caught driving without L plates - not what you want on your shiny, new licence.

These restrictions are lifted as soon as you pass your driving test, even if you haven’t received your full licence yet.

What else do I need to know?

There’s no curfew when you’re learning to drive; as long as you’re accompanied by an adult who matches the criteria above you’re free to hit the roads whenever you want.

If you’re getting in some extra time behind the wheel with mum or dad, they should make sure their driving techniques are up-to-date so they’re not contradicting what your diving instructor is telling you.

Research by Admiral-sponsored Young Driver revealed one in five parents are unsure they’d pass their driving test if they took it again. Take a look at some of the outdated driving advice you should be aware of – and you could even give mum or dad a few tips!

And if your parents want some top tips on how to help you pass your test, show them our guide for parents teaching their son or daughter to drive. We spoke to a driving instructor with 22 years’ experience under his belt for his expert advice.

When it comes to the best time of day to drive, it’s a good idea to practice in both the day and the night so you’re confident driving in the dark as well as the daytime.

You can have passengers in the back – so if your little brother, sister, friend, aunt or uncle wants to come along and check out your driving skills, it’s absolutely fine as long as that criteria-meeting adult is sat up front again.

Do I need insurance when I’m learning to drive?

Yes, and you have a few options here. If you’re lucky enough to already have your own car then you’ll need your own insurance for that vehicle, but this could be an expensive option for new drivers. On the plus side, you’ll start building up your own No Claims Bonus right away which can lead to cheaper insurance in the long term. While you’re learning, it would be a good idea to add a parent onto your policy as a named driver so they can drive your car if they ever need to during one of your lessons. It’s important you don’t put them as the main driver if this isn’t true – this is called fronting and it’s against the law.

But if like most teens you’re learning in mum or dad’s car then you can get learner driver insurance which covers you in their car, and their No Claims Bonus won’t be affected if you need to make a claim for any bumps or scratches.

With Admiral Learner Driver Insurance you can choose a seven day policy or one, two or three months' instant cover. Our three-month option starts at just £1.96 per day and no matter which option you choose, the cover finishes as soon as you pass your test.

Finally, you can be added onto mum or dad’s policy as an additional driver but their No Claims Bonus won’t be protected if you need to make a claim.

The tests

You’ll need to pass your theory test before you can book your practical test. It currently cost £23 to sit the test and there are two parts to it:

  • The multiple choice section
  • The hazard perception section

You sit both parts on the same day and you’ll find out whether you’ve passed of failed on the same day and if it’s a thumbs up, you’ll be given your theory test pass certificate. You can book your theory test here.

Once you’ve got your theory test in the bag you can book your practical test – this costs between £62 and £75 depending on whether you want a midweek or weekend test.

There are five parts to the practical test:

  • Eyesight test
  • ‘Show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions
  • General driving ability
  • Reversing
  • Independent driving

The test is the same for both manual and automatic cars and takes around 40 minutes. As with the theory, you’ll find out there and then if you’ve passed or failed. And if it’s a pass, you’ll get another certificate!

No one wants to have to take their test more than once, but every year, more than half of UK driving tests result in a fail. So, to make sure you’re in the successful half of test takers, we’ve listed the top 10 reasons for driving test fails – make sure you practise these 10 moves extra hard.

You can sit your driving test in your own car as long as it meets a number of requirements such as being taxed, having no tyre damage or warning lights illuminated. For the full list click here

After passing your driving test

You can apply for your full driving licence as soon as you’ve passed your practical driving test and you should receive it within three weeks.

Any learner driver insurance you had will not cover you once you’ve passed your test so you’ll need to arrange new cover.

New and young drivers are considered ‘high-risk’ customers for insurers so will often get a very high insurance quote, not ideal when you’re just starting out.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, black box insurance could be your answer. It is aimed at new and young drivers who want to be recognised for their good driving habits; safe drivers can be rewarded with discounts on their premium.

Admiral’s LittleBox rewards safe drivers with upfront discounts; the small unit is fitted out-of-sight in your car and you’ll receive regular emails with feedback and advice on how to improve your driving.

You can also add a LittleBox policy to an Admiral MultiCar policy so your whole family could save money on their car insurance. MultiCar insures all the cars in your household on one policy; each driver earns a guaranteed discount and builds up their own No Claims Bonus. Find out if you and your family could benefit from a MultiCar policy

Need to buy a car? We’ve listed the top 10 cheapest cars for under 25s to insure with Admiral

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