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Learn to drive for less

Felicity Hannah

Petrol, insurance, maintenance… Driving is a pricey affair. But for many people, simply learning to drive is unaffordable.

From the £50 fee when you apply for your provisional licence to the high cost of getting insured as a learner, the journey to fully-fledged driver is an expensive one.

In fact, the Driving Standards Agency states that the average person needs at least 47 hours of lessons and 22 hours private practise before they’re ready to pass their test.

With the AA reporting that the average cost of a lesson is £24, that’s at least £1,128 simply to get a licence. Ouch.

So how can you keep the cost as low as possible? Read on…

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Immerse yourself in driving

While you’re learning to drive, make it a priority. Think over each lesson carefully and make notes if it helps. Watch the traffic when you’re a passenger, thinking about what you would do at roundabouts and obstacles and study hard for your theory test.

Consider booking two-hour lessons so that you can really get into the driving zone each time.

If you only think about driving in your once-a-week lessons then you’ll struggle to get yourself ready for a test.

Block-book your classes

Once again, buying in bulk can keep the cost right down. Most driving schools offer a discount per lesson if you book 10 or more in one go. For example, the AA will give you a £2 discount on each lesson if you book 12 together.

If you do end up needing 50-odd lessons before you’re ready for your test then that’s a saving of £100.

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Find a driving friend

The more you can practice driving, the more normal it becomes and the better chance you have of passing your test.

Find a friend or family member who’s willing to take you out and practice with them as often you can. If you can drive daily then you’ll find it easier to remember your instructor’s advice and it will soon become second-nature.

Don’t forget that you need insurance to drive someone else’s car, even as a learner.

Book the right teacher

Always get a recommendation or read online reviews for any instructor you’re considering. A good teacher might be the difference between passing and failing your test the first time round.

Given that it can cost up to £75 to take your practical test, a good teacher could really save you some money.

Never assume the cheapest instructor is the best way to save money – ask what their pass rate is. A more expensive but more experienced instructor might work out cheaper in the long run.

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Make the most of your student discount

Are you a student? Make sure you’re benefiting from any discounts. Lots of driving schools offer NUS members a discount on their lessons; for example, BSM and the AA both offer NUS Extra cardholders cheaper sessions.

Some driving schools will give a student discount only if the learner asks for one, so make sure you do. It’s a competitive market and so you could find you get a better price.

Look for a bargain

Even if you’re not a student, you could still benefit from a discount. Different driving schools are competing for your business, so make them work for it.

Watch daily deal websites like Groupon for special offers; just make sure they actually represent good value by comparing the deal to the standard prices advertised on the school’s website.

If you have loyalty vouchers then see if you can cash those in. For example, £40 of Tesco Clubcard vouchers can be cashed in for four hours of driving lessons.

Even just shopping around will help cut the cost as there can be huge variation in price between different driving schools.

Monitor your own progress

A good driving instructor will make sure you’ve had plenty of practice in all the different manoeuvres and skills. But you should be equally confident that you’re ready for a test before you fork out the cash for taking it.

The Directgov website has a fantastic ‘driver’s record’ that you can print and fill out. This will show you where you need to practice the most before a test and should give you more confidence in your exam.

Consider a crash course

If you’re in a real hurry or have a very specific budget then you could consider an intensive driving course. These are usually week-long intensive sessions and the cost varies considerably – absolute beginners will need more hours of lessons throughout the week and that’s reflected in the price.

You’ll usually pay between £300 and £800 for this kind of tuition. However, be careful and make sure you’re getting a good deal. Some of these courses don’t offer much of a discount per hour and you really deserve one for booking that many sessions in such a short period.

Unfortunately, an intensive course won’t give you the same road experience as several months of practice, so it’s worth investing in the Pass Plus course afterwards. That will even bring down your insurance once you’re in a car of your own.