Testing times: The cost of a driver's licence

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The Independent Online

Manoeuvring the way through the challenges and costs of learning to drive.

Learning to drive isn't easy and it's not cheap either. The cost of becoming a motorist can provide you with your first taste of road rage as licence fees, lessons and test charges all add up. Before you start having lessons, you will need a provisional licence, which costs £45 from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. When you pass your test, you will upgrade free of charge to a full licence.

You can have lessons with an approved driving instructor or practise with someone aged at least 21 who has held their licence for three or more years. Research from the Driving Standards Agency shows that the average person will need 45 hours of lessons before they pass their test. The cost will vary according to where you live and the driving school you choose, but on average it is £24 per hour. This means you could be looking at a total bill of more than £1,000.

Maria McCarthy, author of The Girls’ Guide to Losing Your L-plates: How to Pass your Driving Test, says it is important to map out your finances before you get behind the wheel, “Otherwise you run the risk of running out of money and having to stop and start lessons, which will work out more expensive in the long run. “Statistically,” she adds, “it is cheaper to learn to drive when you are young, as people generally take double their age in the number of lessons they need. Someone who is 17 should pass in about 34 lessons but a 30-year-old will take 60. At an average of £24 per lesson, it would cost £816 at 17 but £1,440 for someone who is 30.”

The AA advocates two-hour lessons so learners have time to recap what they have previously learned, then acquire new skills and put everything into practice within one session. It also recommends lock booking to save money. For example, if you arrange 12 lessons with the AA, you get £2 off each one. But McCarthy is wary about paying upfront for a lot of lessons. “I would advise against block booking until you are sure you get on with your instructor.”

When you are ready for your test, there are more fees to pay. You can take the combined theory and hazard-perception test before or after you start learning to drive. However, you must pass the test, which costs £28.50, before you book the practical. The theory exam consists of multiplechoice questions on subjects such as the Highway Code and traffic signs, and you will need a mark of 43 out of 50 to pass. In the hazard-perception test, you are asked to respond to a series of video clips and the pass mark is 44 out of 75. Fail either part of the exam and you will have to resit the whole thing. Pass and you will get a certificate that lasts two years, so you must do the practical within this time.

In the 40-minute road test, an examiner will judge your ability to drive safely and competently. A weekday test costs £48.50; evening or weekend tests cost £58. If you’re learning to drive with an instructor, insurance will be included in the lesson cost. However, if you have your own car and a friend or family member is teaching you to drive, you will need your own cover.

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