LEARNING TO drive and pass your driving test is a landmark in many people’s lives. It offers you a level of freedom and independence that’s not possible if you rely on public transport or lifts from friends and family.
However, it doesn’t come cheap. There are a lot of costs involved, from applying to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for your licence to paying for driving lessons and your test, not forgetting the costs of owning and running a car. These can all stack up quickly.
Here we break down the essentials to help you budget for life behind the wheel.
To drive a car, you need to be 17 years or older, but you can apply for a provisional licence when you’re 15 years and 9 months. You also need to have been a UK resident for at least 185 days in the past 12 months, and you need to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away.
How much is a provisional licence?
Apply for a provisional driving licence online via the gov.uk website https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence and it costs £34, while applying by post costs more, at £43.
How long does a provisional licence last?
A provisional driving licence is valid for 10 years if you just apply for it and do nothing else. Pass your theory test and you have two years in which to take your practical driving test.
How to apply for a provisional licence
The easiest way is via the gov.uk website https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence. You’ll need an identity document (such as a passport), addresses where you’ve lived in the UK for the past three years and you may also need to provide a National Insurance number.
How long does a provisional licence take to be delivered?
It usually takes a week for a provisional licence to be processed, although it might take longer if the DVLA needs to check the information that you have provided.
How much are driving lessons?
Until recently, you would need to have budgeted around £25-£30 an hour for driving lessons. But strong demand caused by the pandemic has seen some instructors raise their prices. If you block book lessons with a driving school, then you can expect a discounted rate.
How many driving lessons do I need?
There is no minimum requirement, but the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) recommends 45 hours of professional lessons before taking your practical driving test, plus around 20 hours of practice under the supervision of somebody who has already passed their driving test.
How much is a theory test?
It costs £23 to take your theory test. However, you should also buy the books The Highway Code, Know Your Traffic Signs and Driving – The Essential Skills, because these cover all the subjects included in the theory test. You can also buy an official guide to the hazard perception test as an app, online software or a DVD, so you can practise that ahead of the official exam.
How long does a theory test last?
The theory test consists of 50 questions, and you have 57 minutes in which to complete them. To pass, you must answer 43 questions correctly.
How to book a theory test
You can book the theory test online, and all you need is your provisional driving licence number, an email address and a debit or credit card for payment.
Practical Driving Test
How much is a driving test?
The practical driving test costs £62, although that jumps to £75 if you want to take the test in the evening, at the weekend or on a Bank Holiday. If you fail your test, you have to pay the same again to book another one.
How to book a driving test
Again, you can book a driving test via the gov.uk website, between the hours of 6am and 11:40pm, and you can arrange a driving test up to 24 weeks in advance. As with the theory test, you will need your provisional driving licence number and a credit or debit card for payment, while you can also check your driving instructor’s availability if you have their personal reference number.
Other Costs to Consider
There are many additional costs that go with learning to drive, and one of the highest will be insurance. Premiums are steep, but you can reduce the costs with so-called ‘black box’ cover, which monitors your driving and should result in smaller bills.
Whatever you do, don’t insure a car under an existing driver and put a learner on as a named driver to try and cut costs – if the learner is the main driver, then this act is known as ‘fronting’, and could result in cancelled cover and a refusal to pay out if you do have an accident.
If you’re in the fortunate position to be able to buy a car to learn to drive in, get something modest and without much power while you learn the basics. If it’s a cheap car, then it won’t matter as much if it suffers from knocks and dings.
Road tax is an important factor, too. Cars registered after 1 April 2017 cost £155 a year to tax, but before then, there was a variable rate of road tax based on a car’s emissions, so you could end up paying next to nothing to tax a car registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017.
Total cost of learning to drive
There’s no concrete answer to the question of how much it costs to learn to drive. However, if you want to buy a car, insure it and pay for its upkeep, then pay for lessons and of course pay for your theory and practical tests, the total soon stacks up. Come up with a practical budget of around £5,000, and you could well be on the road to independence, assuming everything goes smoothly
- If you found our article on how much it costs to learn to drive useful, then you might also like our guide on the drink drive limits in the UK
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