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Teaching a learner how to drive

If you thought learning to drive was a challenge, wait until you try teaching someone else.

Nervous passenger giving driving lesson

According to the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA), learners need an average 47 hours of formal lessons to pass their test.

While a bit of private practice with someone you know can be a good way to save money, it can be a challenge for both parties.

So here are a few tips and skills you’ll need to teach a learner how to drive, and to keep your cool while doing it.

If you can’t, you shouldn’t teach

First things first: if you're going to teach someone how to drive, you need to know what you’re doing.

If you’ve been driving for years you’ve probably picked up some bad driving habits that you won't want to pass on e.g.:

  • Crossing your hands over the wheel.
  • Slipping from the nine and three o'clock positions.
  • Not using the handbrake when stopped.

These might seem minor to you, but they could lead to a fail for a learner.

So take a moment to brush up on your own driving skills, and cut out the bad habits you've picked up along the way.

The same applies to the theory side of learning to drive. Read up on your Highway Code if you're a little rusty on your road signs, and the rules that could catch your protégé out.

Put yourself in their shoes

Couple quarreling during a driving lesson

The thought of putting your life in the hands of a learner can be daunting to say the least, but they probably feel just as nervous about having you in the passenger seat.

Remember how you felt when you were learning to drive? What did you find most challenging, and what made you most nervous about being on the road?

Work on these things to help put you both at ease. Staying calm and relaxed will help your learner to get comfortable and relax into driving.

It might be worth waiting to have your first practice session until after they've had a few hours in the car with their driving instructor.

Let them get used to the basics before you get in the passenger seat, as building some confidence with a professional instructor first is safer, and can make a world of difference.

Get the balance right

Making the transition from family or friend to driving teacher can be tough. It's difficult to know exactly how hands-on or laid-back you should be.

Getting the balance right is crucial - it’s no good yelling at a learner until they can’t see the road signs through their tears. Patience and advice is usually much more helpful.

Make sure you work together. Ask what specific skills they'd like to cover in your lesson and talk about what they've been doing with their instructor.

Keep your cool

Couple arguing in the car

It's crucial to keep calm in the car and not let things get heated. If either of you start to lose your cool, take a five-minute break apart and then try again with a clean slate.

If it's not working, don't keep trying. Sometimes the best thing to do is to admit defeat. You could be the best of friends usually, but the teacher-pupil relationship just might not work.

If this is the case, it’s better that the learner finds someone else to do their private practice with than burn any bridges.

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