Being able to drive a car will give you freedoms you don’t have with public transport. It can improve your job prospects, make it easier to for you to follow your hobbies, and to see places that are just difficult to get to by bus and train.
Unless you’re flush enough to have a chauffeur, you’ll need to get your car licence. The basic cost to apply for your first provisional licence is £34 if you apply online or £43 if you apply by post.
But once you’ve got it, what other expenses are there?
You can practice for your theory exam for free on this website by clicking the link above to Car Tests.
You can book through the official test booking system for £23.
Take both parts of your driving licence (photocard and paper counterpart) to the test otherwise it will be cancelled. If you’ve got an old-style licence you also must take your (valid) passport.
Driving is like playing the piano or playing a computer game: you start at level one and you build up your skills until you can deal with the complexities.
It’s strongly recommended that you get lessons with an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). Examiners will spot those who have been taught bad habits by parents and friends
Some driving instructors (ADIs) will offer introductory lessons and bonus packages as cheap as £10 per hour. At this price there really is little point in using your own car as it will cost you close to that in petrol and wear and tear. If you can get a deal like this from an instructor then they’re either desperate for business or are hoping to upsell you into more expensive lessons in the future. A more realistic price would be £25-30 per hour.
Some companies advertise that they will take you through the process of getting a driver’s licence in a short period of time, e.g. one to three weeks. These are usually intensive courses over around 30 hours of driving and while it might expose you to a wide variety of different driving scenarios, is hardly enough experience for anyone other than those that might have had significant driving experience around a farm or perhaps been involved in motorsport.
We wrote an extended guide on choosing a driving instructor here.
Driving instructors recommend you will need 30-50 hours, perhaps more. Let’s assume you take 40 lessons at an average of £25 per hour.
You should get additional practice When you’ve got your licence you are allowed to drive with a supervisor. This means that you will either need access to a car that is insured for you to drive it, or you will need to pay for lessons.
The cost of your additional practice will depend on the following:
- How economical your car is (affects how much fuel you use)
- Where you live (hilly areas will use more fuel)
- Your driving style (erratic driving and poor anticipation will use more fuel)
- How well tuned your car is (cars in poor shape will use more fuel)
- Whether your tyres are pumped up to the correct pressure (under-inflated tyres create more drag which uses more fuel).
According to NimbleFins, the running costs alone for a car could be 47p per mile (although it will be less in a smaller car that travels more miles). Let’s say it’s 40p, and you could easily cover 30 miles in a one-hour session, so that’s £12 per hour driven. It’s a good idea to do at least as much practice as you would have lessons with an instructor.
The practical test is £62 if you book through the official website, as per the theory test. Don’t purchase it through a third party or you will pay extra.
The test is in English or Welsh only. IF you take it in an automatic car you will be restricted to only driving automatic cars. Check out this article if you are still deciding whether to learn in a manual or automatic.
The test is usually around 40 minutes long and is conducted by a trained DVSA examiner. You will be observed under general driving conditions, plus you will have to do an emergency stop and manoeuvres such as reversing around a corner and parallel parking. There will be 20 minutes of independent driving where you are asked to follow directions to a route. You will also have an eyesight test and be asked about vehicle safety and maintenance.
When you pass your practical test then you will get your licence.
Pass Plus is a training system that includes town driving, all-weather driving, driving out of town, night driving, driving on dual carriageways and driving on motorways. Completing a Pass Plus course and earning an Achieved or Exceeded grade could entitle you to discounts off your insurance.
Some local councils offer discounts off Pass Plus courses. Expect to spend between £150-200.
Vehicle running costs
We haven’t included the costs of purchasing, insuring and maintaining your car, nor the cost of any time off work you might need to take your test or have lessons.
Tests: theory (£23) + practical (£62) = £85
Lessons: approximately £1000
Total without additional practice or car costs: £1109
Pass Plus: £150-200
Fuel: 40 hours at £12 per hour of driving: £480
Plus your car costs.