1 September 2017

Parents’ guide to helping choose a driving instructor

Learning to drive is one of the major milestones in many people’s lives, opening up loads of possibilities. Plenty of young adults across the UK are still keen to start taking lessons as soon as possible after turning 17, but there are quite a few other things they’re not legally able to do at that age, plus they’ll potentially spend a big chunk of hours in a smallish car with what is often a stranger.

As part of the regular guides we provide for parents and other responsible adults, we’re looking this time at tips for choosing the right driving instructor – which coincides nicely with the DVSA improving the ‘find driving schools, lessons and instructors’ section of its website.

Recommendations from relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues and others are often a good way of identifying instructors with reputations for being professional, friendly, effective teachers with strong pass rates.

Otherwise, testimonials and reviews on instructors’ websites and particularly on independent and impartial websites can help you shortlist some driving schools to consider.

Make sure any recommended instructors are registered with the Driving Standards Agency as an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) by asking them, reading any online or printed information available, and checking for a green hexagonal badge in their windscreens. They should also have up-to-date Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

Meeting or at least speaking with prospective ADIs before your young family member starts lessons is quite common, so don’t worry that you’ll come across as over-concerned. It’s a great opportunity to ask them about their experience, approach and successes.


Automatic driving school cars might very well be easier to drive but learning and then passing a test in one will limit a newly-qualified driver to only driving automatic cars from then on, so this is something to weigh up. Also, check out what make and model is used by the driving school – although it’s fair to say that most ADIs nowadays drive fairly new and therefore safe and reliable small cars.

Flexibility is desirable from an ADI in case your son or daughter occasionally needs picking up from college, uni, work or elsewhere to start their lesson, instead of the instructor always insisting on lessons starting from home. Letting them know as far in advance as possible is obviously courteous, though. It’s also advisable to ask about lesson cancellation policies, just in case.

Pricing isn’t priority but choosing the right instructor is. Cheaper ones aren’t necessarily less professional just like more expensive instructors might not always be the most experienced and the best teachers. Rock-bottom prices and offers of incredible block-booking discounts are often a bad sign, though.


Discounts for multiple lessons paid for upfront are commonly offered by many ADIs, but just bear in mind that this could prove expensive if your young relative doesn’t gel with the instructor for whatever reason. It’s best for both parties to give each other a chance, though, so it’s often sensible to book 3-to-5 lessons as a commitment compromise.

If a learner really doesn’t like having lessons with a certain instructor, perhaps because of their attitude, availability or the car they provide, there’s no reason to feel bad about finding an alternative ADI to move on to.

It takes most learners just over 40 lessons to pass their driving test, which is worth keeping in mind when planning the timing and payment of tuition. Scrimping on lessons to save money could result in more expense medium-term because of having to take extra lessons and retests.


Trainee driving instructors with pink triangles displayed on their windscreens may be able to offer slightly cheaper lessons and they will likely be keen to build good reputations and testimonials, so they’re definitely worth considering.

Regular practice with other qualified drivers over the age of 21 with three years or more driving experience is a great way for learner drivers to keep their new skills sharp. Bad habits can easily rub off, so get across to your young relative the importance of remembering what their instructor has been teaching them. If the practice sessions are with an older driver, it may be worth them brushing up on the latest rules of the road.

As a parent or guardian, we hope you found this guide to choosing the right driving instructor useful. If you have any questions or experiences, get in touch with Carrot on Facebook

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.