Until you reach 16 or 17, your experience of driving will probably be as a passenger, but once you get your provisional driving licence (which you can apply for after you reach 15 and 9 months) you’ll be able to start learning to drive yourself. Read our page on driving age limits.
The upside of driving is the freedom to get around and travel independently; the downside is that it is extremely expensive. Driving lessons, buying a car (even a second-hand one) and the costs of running a car (tax, insurance, servicing, MOT, fuel) can add up to several thousands of pounds, and the costs are ongoing so obviously not everyone can afford it. There are much more cost-effective ways to travel but if you can afford to learn to drive and maintain a car, read on…
You will need to apply for a provisional licence before you can learn to drive and a full licence when you have passed your driving test. The licences and fees are detailed on the DVLA website here.
Learning to drive
Once you have your provisional licence, you can start driving lessons. While anyone over the age of 21 (who has held a full, clean licence for more than 3 years) can teach you to drive, don’t expect to pass your test without having at least a few lessons with a professional driving instructor. You will need an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) – to find one near you check the DVLA website here.
If you have a disability or impairment, there are driving instructors who have specially adapted cars and who are trained to teach people with additional needs. Disability Driving Instructors has a helpful website giving advice and can help you find an instructor near you.
Driving lessons can cost in the region of £25 per hour and you will need to make sure you have enough lessons to be confident and prepared for your driving test. The government recommends taking around 40 hours’ worth of lessons before taking your test but this will of course depend on how quickly you learn. You may wish to take some lessons with a qualified instructor and to practise in between with a suitable relative or friend. There are hefty financial and legal penalties if you drive without proper supervision.
While you are learning, you must display regulation ‘L’ plates (‘L’ or ‘D’ plates in Wales) on the front and rear of the car you are driving and make sure the car owner’s insurance policy covers you as a learner driver. Again, there are heavy penalties if you don’t.
As well as the practical side of learning to drive, you also need to learn the rules of the road. You’ll need to know ‘The Highway Code‘ (which you can download or buy as a book); the AA’s ‘Know Your Road Signs‘ is also helpful.
Taking your Driving Test
You need to take a theory test, which is in two parts, before you can take your practical driving test. Find out about booking and taking the theory test on the DVLA website here. You must pass your theory test before you can book your driving test. Read all about how to book and about taking your driving test here.
If you have a disability or impairment, it is important to let the examiner know when you book your test so that any necessary adjustments can be made to the test for you. Read more here.
Car drivers in the UK must be able to read a numberplate at a distance of at least 20.5 metres.
If you have a long-term health condition or are disabled, you may be eligible for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Find out more on the DVLA website here.
On the road
Once you have passed your test, take it steady and gradually build up the length of your journeys. Take an experienced driver with you when you first drive on a motorway or book a motorway driving lesson with your instructor.
Under the law, you are ‘on probation’ for the first two years of your full licence. If you receive six or more penalty points while you are on probation, you will lose your licence and have to retake the test. So, whenever you drive, make sure you switch off your phone, concentrate on the road (don’t listen to music too loud), familiarise yourself with the route before you set off, pay attention to speed limits and be safe. It will take a while to get used to driving on your own but it will be second nature before you know it. Read these safety tips for young drivers on the BBC website.
Scooters, mopeds and motorbikes
Riding a scooter, moped or motorbike may be more affordable than driving a car but there are downsides – you are open to the elements, you’ll need to wear specialised clothing and you can only give one passenger a lift.
Ideally talk to a friend or relative who rides on two wheels to find out whether it’s for you. Read this BBC website article about riding scooters and read the government website details of all the licences and testing requirements here.
Click on the links to the following sites for helpful driving-related advice:
- Money Saving Expert – advice on car insurance
- The Money Advice Service – advice on the costs of running a car
- The AA – advice on owning and looking after your first car
- Money Super Market gives advice about motorbike insurance here.