How much does it cost to learn to drive?

One of the biggest milestones for most UK teenagers is turning 17 and getting out on the road on your own.

It’s an exciting time in anyone’s life and at 17 the wait is finally over and life on the open road is within touching distance.

But before you can strap on your seatbelt, ditch the L-plates and drive anywhere you want to, there’s a fairly long list of legal boxes you need to tick and money you need to spend.

We’ve looked at everything you need to do and everything you need to buy before you can get behind the steering wheel and drive off into the sunset or to McDonalds.

Getting your provisional licence

First thing’s first, you can’t learn to drive without getting your provisional driving licence.

You can apply for a provisional driving licence three months before your 16th birthday however you can’t begin lessons until you’re 17.

It costs £34 to apply online or £43 to apply via post. It should take two to three weeks to arrive so if you’re dead set on starting driving lessons as soon as you turn 17, it’s worth applying for one before the big day comes so you don’t have to wait a second longer than you legally have to.

When you eventually pass your driving test your licence will be updated for free to a full UK one but if you want to update your photo after you’ve passed, you’ll need to pay £17 for a new one.

Driving lessons

Once you’ve got your provisional licence, most people begin driving lessons with a qualified driving instructor.

According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the average learner needs 47 hours with an instructor and 22 hours of practice in order to pass their test.

While it’s advisable to learn with an instructor, if you do have your own car or are insured to drive someone else’s, one of the easiest ways to save money is to get a family member or friend to take you out practicing.

That family member or friend must be at least 21 years old, hold a full driving licence and have held that licence for at least three years. You must be insured to drive the vehicle you’re in and have Learner plates clearly displayed at the front and back of the vehicle you’re driving.

It’s also worth pointing out that it’s illegal for the driver who is supervising you to use a mobile phone while you’re driving.

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Learning to drive with a family member or friend can work out much cheaper than learning with a qualified instructor however driving instructors will have a lot more experience in helping people pass their driving test – probably more than your mum, dad, aunty or uncle.

Lesson prices vary countrywide so in the North-West you’d expect to pay around £18 per hour while in the South-East it could be more like £24, however you’ll often find that you will be offered a discounted rate if you buy a block of lessons at once.

The driving theory test

Before you can take a practical driving test you will need to complete and pass your driving theory test.

You can take your driving theory test once you’re aged 17. It costs £23 and is valid for two years. If you don’t pass your practical test within the two years that your theory test is valid, you will have to take and pass your theory test again.

It consists of two parts:

• Multiple choice questions – You have 57 minutes to answer 50 multiple choice questions. The pass mark is 43 out of 50.
• Hazard perception – You will watch 14 short video clips and are awarded points for spotting hazards in the video. The pass mark is 44 out of 75.

You’ll receive a pass certificate if you’re successful and you’ll need your unique pass number to book and take your driving test when you’re ready.

If you don’t pass you’ll need to rebook the theory test, which you can do after three working days.

Your driving practical test

Once you’ve passed your theory test and you’re confident your driving is up to scratch, you can book your practical test.

It costs £62 to take your practical test on a weekday while tests on a weekend or in the evening cost more at £75.

The test will last around 40 minutes and you’ll pass if you make less than 15 minor driving faults and no serious or dangerous faults – also known as majors.

If you pass you can legally drive a car or van weighing less than 3.5 tonnes, anything bigger than this and you’ll need to take another test, specifically designed for driving a larger van or lorry.

Buying a vehicle

Lots of newly qualified drivers get on the road as an extra on their parent’s car insurance policy but if you’re able to afford a car of your own, it’s a whole other expense to think about.

If you’re shelling out for a brand new car then you can expect to pay upwards of £8,000 for a simple four door hatchback or around £1,000 for a second hand one.

As is the case with anything, it’s wise to shop around when you’re buying your first car and it’s also worth being mindful of what influences the cost of your car insurance.

For example, a small city car with a 1.0-litre engine is likely to be cheaper to insure than a powerful sports car.

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Car insurance for new drivers

Ask any recently qualified driver and most of them will tell you that the priciest part of getting on the road was their insurance.

Unfortunately for those new to driving, insurance premiums tend to be higher, especially for those younger than 25.

This is because statistically, the less experience you have the more at risk you are of having an accident and the more likely your insurer will have to pay out for a claim.

We looked at quotes made on mustard.co.uk between January and September 2017 to find out the average insurance premium for learner drivers:

Avg. learner car insurance premium = £1,315.32

Avg. learner van insurance premium = £4,04.93

There’s no way of getting around insurance being expensive for new drivers and you can’t drive uninsured, however there are ways that you can save money on your car insurance.

Running costs

Now you’ve passed your test, your insurance is sorted and you’re ready to hit the road, you might think everything is sorted but there are a few more things you need to sort before getting in the driving seat.

Vehicle tax (often referred to as road tax) is another legal requirement before you can drive and it’s not the most straightforward system.

For cars, vehicle tax rates vary after the first year and are different for cars registered before 31st March 2017.

If you’re driving a car that was registered before the law changed, you’ll probably pay around £30 per year for your road tax, depending on your car’s emissions. If your vehicle was registered after that date, costs can vary.

See full details on tax rates and what you can expect to pay here.

You’ll also need to make sure that you get a yearly MOT if your vehicle is over three years old.

Currently there is a maximum MOT fee that garages can charge you so an MOT for your car will cost no more than £54.85.

Fuel is another important consideration, as there’s no point owning a vehicle and having it taxed and ready if you’ve got nothing to make it go.

The amount of fuel you use depends on the distance you travel, your car’s fuel efficiency and the cost of fuel at that time.

Anything else to think about?

The cost of getting on the road for the first time can be hefty, especially as young and inexperienced motorists are hardest hit when it comes to insurance.

As a result it’s important to shop around where possible and make sure you’ve got the best deal you can.