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How to become a driving instructor: a step-by-step guide

6-minute read

Driving instructor teaching a student
Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones

4 April 2023

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Teaching people to drive can be rewarding both emotionally and financially. And with the freedom of a flexible work schedule and the chance to be your own boss, it’s a profession with many upsides.

Wondering how to become a driving instructor? This guide explains everything from how the test works to setting up as self-employed.

How to become a driving instructor: a step-by-step guide

1. The pros and cons of being a driving instructor

If you’re considering a career as a driving instructor, it’s important to understand what attracts people to the trade as well as some of the common challenges.

Pros

  • flexible working hours – you can set your own schedule and work around your personal commitments
  • job security – people will always need to learn how to drive so the job is relatively stable and secure, even during times of economic uncertainty
  • rewarding – you get to help people achieve an important milestone in their lives. It can be satisfying to see your students progress and gain confidence behind the wheel
  • be your own boss – you have control over how you teach, who you teach, and where you work

Cons

  • potentially stressful – you'll be in the car with people who are just learning to drive, which can be nerve-wracking, especially in busy traffic
  • car maintenance – you'll be spending a lot of time in your car, which means it will experience a lot of wear and tear and it’s your responsibility to fix it
  • solitary – while some driving instructors may work for driving schools, many operate independently. This means you spend a lot of time alone in the car with your students, which can be isolating

2. Complete a driving instructor course

The next step is to become a driving instructor trainer. Gov.uk has a list of approved driving instructor courses on their website.

When you’re ready, you’ll need to take your approved driving instructor (ADI) test, which has three parts:

  1. theory
  2. practical
  3. instruction

Part 1 – theory test

The theory test for driving instructors is very similar to the one you take when learning to drive. But as you might expect, the questions are more difficult than the standard theory test.

It’s split into multiple choice questions and a hazard perception test.

There are 100 multiple choice questions and the pass rate is 85 per cent. This covers things like road procedure, driving law, traffic signs and signals, and teaching techniques.

And there are 14 hazard perception questions – you’ll need to get 57 points to pass this part of the test. This will test your driving awareness and reaction times by showing you a number of video clips with at least one hazard to spot.

If you fail your theory test, you can re-take it as many times as you want until you pass. Once you pass, you can book the second part of the test.

Part 2 – practical driving test

In this section of the test, you’ll need to demonstrate your driving ability. You’ll be assessed on these skills:

  • dealing with difficult road situations
  • awareness of pedestrians and other road users
  • understanding of lane discipline and road procedures
  • excellent handling of the vehicle
  • judgement of speed and potential hazards

Being able to show a high level of skill when manoeuvring the vehicle is important as you’ll need to explain this to a learner. During your test, you’ll be asked to perform two manoeuvres such as:

  • parallel parking
  • reverse bay parking
  • driving into a bay then reversing out of it
  • stop on the right side of the road, reverse for two car lengths, then rejoin traffic
  • pull up next to a car and reverse into the space to the rear of the car – you need to stop near the curb within two car lengths of the car

To pass this part of the test, you’ll need fewer than five minor and no major faults.

Part 3 – Instruction ability test

The final section of the test will examine your teaching ability. You’ll be teaching a real learner a lesson you’ve planned, while an examiner assesses your teaching skills.

You’ll be judged on your lesson planning, risk management, and teaching strategies.

To pass this section, you’ll need to score at least 31 out of 51 – any less and you’ll fail.

Visit the government's site for more details on what areas you’ll be marked on.

3. How long does it take to become a driving instructor?

The amount of time it takes to become a driving instructor will vary depending on how much time you dedicate to it. On average, it takes between six and 12 months to become a fully qualified instructor.

Logistically, you can be delayed by DBS checks and availability of exams too. It’s best not to rush the process and make sure you’re prepared for each stage.

And as you gain more experience, you might consider opening your own driving school.

4. Driving instructor salary

So, how much does a driving instructor make? This depends on a range of factors. Most driving instructors charge by the hour, so the amount of hours you work plays a big part in your earning potential.

According to the National Careers Service, a typical working week is between 30 to 40 hours and the average salary for an experienced instructor is £30,000 a year.

Bear in mind that you’ll need to pay tax on this amount and there are lots of overheads you’ll need to cover.

5. How much does it cost to become a driving instructor?

There are multiple costs associated with becoming a driving instructor. You’ll have to pay for the tests as well as official certification. The tests cost:

  • £81 for part 1
  • £111 for part 2
  • £111 for part 3

You’ll also need to have a trainee driving instructor licence to complete part two and three of the exams – this costs £140.

Then it’s £300 to get our official approved driving instructor certificate once you’ve completed the tests. Bear in mind that you’ll renew this certificate every four years and it’ll cost £300 each time you do.

It’s worth considering the cost of having a car with dual controls (the extra set of pedals in the passenger seat for the instructor).

You can buy dual controls and have them fitted to your personal car, but many instructors avoid this if they can. Alternatively, you can buy a car that already has the pedals installed.

6. Start planning lessons

You need to take many things into consideration when planning a lesson. These are the kinds of things you’ll want to think about:

  • choose an appropriate route for the learner
  • make sure its suits the learner’s level of experience
  • recognise where the student needs to improve
  • be ready to adapt your approach to what the learner wants to focus on
  • make sure you give yourself enough time to get from lesson to lesson

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has certain legal requirements that you’ll have to meet to become a licensed driving instructor. You must:

  • be over 21 years old
  • have had a licence for three years that’s in the category you want to teach in (car/motorcycle/lorry)
  • have fewer than five points on your licence
  • not have been convicted of a violent, sexual, drug-related, or financial crime
  • not be banned from working with children
  • be able to read a licence plate from 27.5 metres away (with or without glasses)

8. Register as a self-employed driving instructor

Once you’re a qualified ADI, you’ll need to register as self-employed and pay tax through the Self Assessment process by 31 January every year. You can also work for a driving school but many driving instructors work for themselves.

Going self-employed sometimes seems like a big step but it also opens up a lot of opportunities for you to grow in a trade.

9. How do you find students and grow your business?

Once you’re a qualified ADI and ready to teach, building your customer base will be a priority.

There are traditional marketing strategies you can use to connect with potential customers but there are other techniques to consider:

  • signage on your car – this is a common way to advertise your services. It can attract attention from potential students when you’re driving on the road in your local area
  • partner with driving schools – if you’re looking for learners right away, an established driving school in your area may refer students to you
  • offer an introductory discount – this can attract new students and encourage them to try your services

10. How much is driving instructor insurance?

Managing risks is one of the main responsibilities for driving instructors and having the right insurance can give you peace of mind when teaching your student.

Driving instructor insurance typically includes:

You could also choose to add excess insurance in case you need to make a claim.

More useful articles for the self employed

Do you have any unanswered questions about how to become a driving instructor? Let us know in the comments.

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Zach Hayward-Jones

Written by

Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with six years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. Zach specialises in covering small business and landlord insurance. He has a particular interest in issues impacting the hospitality industry after spending a number of years working as a pastry chef.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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