Learning how to drive? Full guide

Passing your driving test gives you freedom. But learning how to drive can be complicated, and there are lots of things you need to know before you can actually take to the road on your own. Here’s what you need to know.

A driver learning how to drive

When can you start learning to drive?

Most people can learn to drive a car – and take a test – when they are 17 years old. Although you can’t drive at 16, like you can in some countries including the United States, you may be able to take experience lessons at this age.

You can check the minimum age to drive various vehicles on the GOV.UK website.

Before getting on the road, you need the following:

  • The correct driving licence
  • To be the minimum driving age
  • To meet the minimum eyesight rules.

You’ll also need to be supervised by a qualified driver and display L plates on the vehicle. In Wales, you can also use a D plate. There are full rules of the legal obligations of drivers on the GOV.UK website.


How good does my eyesight need to be when learning how to drive?

You need to be able to read – with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary – a car number plate made after 1 September 2001, from 20 metres.

Also, you need a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) on the Snellen scale, once again with glasses or contact lenses.

Finally, you must have an adequate field of vision. All of these can be tested by an optician.

For more information, visit GOV.UK.


How do I get a learners driving licence?

You need to be at least 15 years and nine months old to apply for your first provisional driving licence – but usually you can’t actually start learning to drive a car until you hit 17-years-old.

If you get, or have applied for, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) then you can drive at 16 years old.

A provisional licence costs £34 to apply online. You can pay by MasterCard, Visa, Electron or Delta debit or credit card.

Unless you have a UK biometric passport – which has an embedded microchip holding your information, as well as your photograph – you’ll need to provide extra information.

This will be:

  • A form of ID
  • Addresses where you’ve lived for the past three years
  • Your National Insurance number.
  • Your licence should take about a week to arrive.

Can I learn to drive with anyone?

A friend or family member can supervise you in the car. But they need to be over 21 years old and qualified to drive the vehicle in which you’re learning.

For example, they must have their own manual licence to supervise you in a manual car.

They also need to have had their full driving licence for three years.

You can be fined up to £1,000 and get up to six penalty points on your provisional licence if you drive without the required supervision.

It’s also illegal for whoever is supervising you to use a mobile phone while you’re driving.


How do I choose the right instructor for my driving lessons?

You need an instructor that’s been approved by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

You can search for driving instructors using the DVSA tool.

You can also check to make sure your instructor is qualified by running their name and ADI number past the DVSA. Email customerservices@dvsa.gov.uk or give them a ring on 0300 200 1122.

It’s worth asking family members and friends for recommendations as well.


How many lessons do I need to learn to drive? 

You’ll usually need an average of 45 hours with a professional instructor. Whether this is enough will also depend on whether you can practice between lessons.

The cost of lessons will vary depending on where you live. But you can expect to pay around £25-£30 per hour.

This means professional instruction to get you ready for the test could be up to £1,350.


Do I need car insurance when learning how to drive?

You need your own insurance as a learner driver if you’re using your own car. Your family member or friend will also need to check they’re covered.

If you’re driving someone else’s car, their car insurance policy must cover you as a learner driver so check to make sure this is the case.

It’s worth remembering that some insurance companies require the person supervising you to be over 25 years old.

Buying insurance as a learner might be expensive. You’ll also have to decide on the level of cover: third party; third party, fire and theft; and fully comprehensive. It’s worth comparing all three as the price can change but make sure you’re aware of how much cover you’ll get with each.

It’s worth shopping around to find the best deals. You could consider annual learner driver car insurance that you can update once you’ve passed your test.

Alternatively, you can opt for a short-term policy that covers you just while you’re learning.

Whatever you choose, make sure you have the correct insurance. Failing to do so can result in an unlimited fine, a driving ban and up to eight penalty points.

Compare car insurance quotes


Can you learn how to drive before taking a theory test? 

Yes, you can. It comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer to do all the studying prior to their 17th birthday and take the theory immediately to get it out of the way.

Others prefer to have had real life experience on the road before sitting the test. Think about whichever suits you best.

You’ll always find someone claiming to have passed first time after a couple of lessons. If they’re telling the truth, they’re a rarity.

On average, learning to drive requires around 45 hours of professional lessons – and a further 30 hours of practice. That’s a lot of time on the road.


What is the theory test and how do I prepare?

There are two parts to the theory test. First you’ll take a multiple choice test, where you’ll need to get at least 42 of the 50 questions right. Then a hazard perception test where you’ll watch 14 video clips and you’ll need to spot a developing hazard within a set time.

You can find out more in our guide to how to pass your theory test.  


What is the practical test and how do I prepare?

Your practical driving test can be booked online, up to 24 weeks in advance. It costs £62 on weekdays and £75 on the weekend, evenings or bank holidays. 

There are certain items you’ll need to take including your driving licence and theory test pass certificate. You can find out more in our guide to passing your driving test the first time.    

What are the current Covid-19 restrictions when learning to drive?

Remember – when learning to drive you’ll need to follow coronavirus regulations. At the moment, you and any passengers should wear face coverings when you’re learning to drive. In Scotland, you could be fined £60 – reduced to £30 if you pay within 28 days - for not wearing a covering during a lesson.

For more information, visit GOV.UK.