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Learning to drive: from driving lessons to taking your driving test

Learning to drive is an exciting but stressful time in practically all young people’s lives. As soon as you turn 17, there’s a lot of pressure to be the first of your mates to pass. Everyone’s asking questions like ‘How many lessons have you taken now? and ‘Have you booked your test yet?’ and with people struggling either to fund learning to drive or struggling behind the wheel, it can quickly become overwhelming. If you want to ease the stress, we’ve pulled together the ultimate UK learner driver guide to answer some of your frequently asked questions.

How do I get a provisional driving licence?

A provisional licence allows you to learn to ride a moped or light quad bike at aged 16, and to learn to drive a car at aged 17. With a provisional licence, you can’t drive in a car without a driving instructor or someone else who fits the legal criteria.

To apply for your first provisional driving licence, you must be at least 15 year and 9 months old and must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away. Apply for your licence at the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) online here. It will cost you £34 and you’ll need to provide an identity document (i.e. your passport), addresses where you’ve lived over the last three years, and your National Insurance number if you know it. It’s as simple as that!

How much do driving lessons cost and how many hours does it take to learn to drive?

The cost of driving lessons vary depending on where you live but you can expect to spend roughly £25-£30 per hour to learn to drive, according to the I. There’s no minimum number of lessons you must have or hours you must practise driving. However, the average driver needs around 45 hours of driving lessons to pass.

If you want to save some pennies and decide to learn to drive with your parents, instead of an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI), then you can do that. Although this option is far less common, it is legal. However, there are some potential issues with taking this route! For example, your parents may have picked up bad driving habits over time that they could pass onto you. Similarly, they may not be up-to-date with traffic laws or what driving tests require nowdays! 

A best of both worlds approach is usually the best option. Take lessons and improve your driving by practicing with a parent.

How much do theory tests cost?

Theory tests cost £23 for cars and you can book your test online via GOV.UK.

What is a theory test and what happens in them?

A theory test is a test you need to take before you can get your full driving car licence, which you can take from your 17th birthday onwards. There are two parts to the tests: multiple choice questions and hazard perception.

You’ll have 57 minutes to answer 50 multiple-choice questions, but don’t worry, before you start you’ll have the chance to do some practice questions to get used to the screens and formats! Three of the questions are about a short video which will show a normal driving situation such as driving through a town centre or on a country road.

The hazard perception part of the test is a similar video test about spotting hazards on the road. You’ll watch 14 video clips which will feature everyday road scenes and will contain at least one ‘developing hazard’ but one of the clips features two developing hazards. You’ll get points for spotting the developing hazards as soon as they start to happen. So what is a developing hazard? Well, a developing hazard is anything that would cause you to take action, like changing speed or direction. Keep an eye out for emergency vehicles, sudden braking, parked vehicles, cyclists, roadworks and more!

How can I practice for my theory test?

When swotting up to pass your theory test, you can use the Official DVSA Learning Zone to guide you. The DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) are the body that carries out driving tests in the UK. Within the Learning Zone, alongside tips, they have practice exams and hazard perception tests that you can try out ahead of time. Available on all devices (including your smartphone), prices start at £15 for one month.

How much do practical driving tests cost?

Driving tests cost £62 on weekdays and £75 on evenings, weekends and bank holidays. You can book your test online via GOV.UK.

What happens in a driving test?

Your test will last around 40 minutes and your driving instructor will walk you through everything you can expect to happen in a driving test. However, if you want to know ahead of the time, here’s a handy overview.

There are five parts to the driving test:

  • An eyesight check
  • ‘Show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions
  • General driving ability
  • Reversing your vehicle
  • Independent driving

Let’s walk through these parts in more detail!

Eyesight check

Firstly, the easiest part of the test is the eyesight check – all you need to do is read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres. Easy peasy!

‘Show me, tell me’

The ‘Show me, tell me’ part of the test is all about vehicle safety! All you’ll need to do for this is memorise and regurgitate some answers in your test. The ‘tell me’ question will be asked before you start to drive and the ‘show me’ question will be asked while you’re driving.

‘Tell me’ could be anything from ‘Tell me how you’d check that the brakes are working before starting a journey’ to ‘Open the bonnet and tell me how you’d check that the engine has sufficient oil’.

For ‘Show me’, you’ll be asked to show how to wash and clean the rear windscreen, operate the horn, switch on your dipped headlights or something else.

Driving ability

So this one’s pretty self-explanatory: throughout your test, you’ll be judged based on your driving ability, across various roads and traffic conditions. Don’t worry, there’s no motorway driving!

The examiner will give you directions that you should follow and you’ll be asked to pull over at the side of the road a handful of times. Two of those times you’ll have to pull out from behind a parked vehicle and do the infamous hill start! You might also be asked to carry out an emergency stop. Other than that, just try to drive perfectly. Piece of cake, right?


One of the most dreaded parts of any driving test is reversing. At some point during your test your examiner will spring a reverse on you so you best be prepared! You’ll be asked to do one of the following exercises:

  • Parallel park
  • Park in a parking bay, either by driving in or reversing in
  • Pull up on the right-hand side o the road, reverse for around two car lengths, and rejoin the traffic
Independent driving

For twenty minutes of your test you’ll need to drive independently by either following directions from a sat nav or by following traffic signs.

How do I pass my driving test? 

During your test, you can make up to 15 minors faults and pass. However, one major fault will qualify for an instant fail. There are 3 types of faults you can make:

  1. A dangerous fault – this involves actual danger to you, the examiner, the public or property
  2. Serious fault – something potentially dangerous
  3. A driving fault – this is not potentially dangerous, but if you keep making the same fault, it could become a serious fault

Examples of major faults include failing to properly signal, failing to stop at a red light, poor car positioning and forgetting to check your blind spots.

What do I need to take with me to my driving test?

All you need to bring is your theory test pass certificate and your provisional driving licence!

Driving as a leaner driver

Can you drive with a provisional licence?

Yep, you can drive with a provisional licence! But only if you’re accompanied by someone over 21 who’s had a full licence for at least three years. You are not insured to drive on your own.

What are the learner driver insurance rules?

So the first question is ‘Do you need car insurance as a learner driver?’ and the answer is one big yes! It’ll hopefully come as no surprise that it’s illegal to learn to drive without insurance as learner drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents.

Driving lessons alone may not be enough to prepare you for your bit test! This is why the DVSA recommends you clock in some additional hours of practice outside of your driving lessons. 20 in total, in fact. When driving privately as a learner, you’ll need to sort out your own car insurance.

Can I drive home from the test centre if I pass?

Yes you can but only if you’re correctly insured on your car. Your learner driver insurance ceases as soon as you’ve passed so you’ll need to invest in an annual car insurance policy or a temporary car insurance policy if you want to drive away from the test centre.

What’s the cheapest way to insure a learner driver? 

So you want to practice driving outside of your lessons? Great idea! But what is the cheapest way to insure a learner driver? Well, you’ve got a couple of options to choose from.

Firstly, you can become a named driver on an existing policy. If you’re borrowing a mate or family member’s car to learn to drive, this could be a good choice. However, this approach isn’t ideal for a handful of reasons:

  1. Your mate or family member’s insurance premium is likely to rise if you’re added as a named driver. This is because you’re considered a higher risk by the insurer.
  2. It’s illegal to drive in your own car on someone else’s policy. If the car is yours and you are the main driver, you must be the main driver on your insurance policy!
  3. You can start building up your No Claims Discount (NCD) as soon as you start to drive. But you can’t do this on someone else’s policy. So get your own and start building your NCD. It’ll save you money in the long run.

Secondly, you can take out your own learner driver insurance. You have three options to choose from; comprehensive, fire and theft, or third party only. What each of these types of insurance will cover varies depending on the insurer so do a little research and see what works for you!

So there you have it! That’s the end of this Learner Driver 101 guide. Feeling ready to get out on the road? We hope you pass with flying colours and are ready for a lifetime of adventures!