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FTD Guide: How to choose a driving instructor

FTD Guide: How to choose a driving instructor

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You are spending money on driving lessons, so it’s important to take your time over choosing a qualified driving instructor or driving school, and one that you feel at ease with.

In the UK, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) approves driving instructors. Only DSA Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) or DSA licensed instructors under training can charge you for driving instruction.

How can I tell if a driving instructor is DSA approved?

It is important to check the badge in the driving instructor’s windscreen. A green octagonal badge shows the instructor is fully qualified and an ADI.

A pink triangular badge shows the instructor is not yet fully qualified, but undertaking practical training. But they are allowed to charge you for driving instruction.

The DSA is working on improving the standard of driving instructors and have introduced grades for ADIs. Grade 4 is competent, and Grade 6 indicates a very high standard.

ADIs and DSA licensed driving instructors under training are also now checked to see if they have a criminal record with the CRB.

How can I find a driving instructor?

You can find a local driving instructor using the ‘find a driving instructor’ search box on the top right of this page.

Or, you can ask your friends and family to recommend a driving instructor or driving school. (But remember, they must be an ADI or a DSA licensed driving instructor under training if they are charging you for lessons.)

Driving schools or independent?

Some driving Instructors work by themselves, while others are part of bigger driving schools such as the AA, BSM or Red. Whatever type of driving instructor you decide to go with, make sure you talk to them directly (and not just their salesperson) to make sure you like and feel comfortable with them.

As with any service you pay for, it’s often best to shop around and compare at least two or three driving instructors (or driving schools) before you make a final decision.

What qualities should you expect in a good driving instructor?

Like any teacher, some driving instructors will be better than others. FTD heard of one driving instructor who had a penchant for 1970s’ heavy metal on the car stereo. Another driving instructor built in a trip to the butchers to pick up the shopping for his wife as an essential part of every driving lesson.  But luckily examples of driving instructors such as these are rare.

Good driving instructors should make the most of your lesson time. You should have their full-attention throughout the lesson, with no stops to pick up or drop off, fill-up with fuel or make phone calls. They shouldn’t shout or make you feel uncomfortable in any way, even if things go wrong.

Your driving instructor should always:

  • Be punctual
  • Arrive in a clean well-maintained car
  • Have a prepared lesson plan based on the DSA Syllabus.

Remember, you are the customer and paying to learn to drive.  If you are unhappy with your driving lesson or driving instructor, try and discuss it diplomatically to resolve any issues. If nothing changes, then you may decide to find a new driving instructor.

Driving instructor checklist:

We’ve made a handy list of points to consider when choosing someone to help you learn to drive:

Times and location:

  • Do they teach in your local area? For example, near your home, work or college.
  • Is the driving instructor available at times to suit you? For example, after work and weekends.

Driving lesson quality standards:

  • What grade has the DSA given the instructor (Grade 5 or 6 is ideal)? Ask your driving instructor to bring their certificate to your first lesson.  Or, if they’re still a DSA licensed instructor under training, can you negotiate a discount?
  • What car do they use and is it fitted with dual controls?  Learner drivers may find it easier to learn with a smaller car that’s in good condition and less than three years old. If you are particularly short or tall, then you may want to ask if the car is suitable for your needs.
  • How long has the instructor been teaching learner drivers?
  • Does the driving instructor pick-up other students during a lesson? (This could impact on your lesson time and divert the driving instructor’s attention.)
  • Do you know anyone else who has used the driving school or driving instructor? What did they think of their driving lessons?

Driving lesson costs and materials:

  • How much does the driving instructor charge (remember cheapest isn’t always best)? Does the cost cover a full-hour of tuition and exclude picking-up, dropping-off time?
  • How long does the driving lesson last? Some instructors will want to offer two-hour lessons. This can be a long time even for experienced drivers. It might be more convenient for the driving instructor, but a longer driving lesson could be tiring and demoralising for you,
  • Can you try an initial lesson out for free, or at a discount, to see if you will get on with the driving instructor?
  • Does the driving instructor offer a discount for block bookings?
  • What is the driving instructor’s policy if you cancel a driving lesson?
  • Are any additional study aids such as DVDs or workbooks included in the price?

You can find more DSA information on choosing a driving instructor at

Further thoughts:

  • If you’re eager to pass your test, make sure your driving instructor understands your expectations and you both agree a realistic plan.
  • If English is not your first language, would you prefer to learn with a driving instructor who speaks your first language?
  • Have you a preference for a male or female instructor?

More reading

Learn To Drive UK: Driving Instructor Grades – Is Asking For The Grade Of A Driving Instructor A Reliable Way Of Checking How Good They Are?

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