There are many great, hard working trainers and companies out there who do all they can to train you to be successful as a driving instructor. Unfortunately there are also hundreds of cowboy companies who just want your cash and couldn’t care less about what happens to you.
None of these points are about any specific school, they are general points to watch out for whoever you choose to train with.
Promises of a guaranteed job
If you’ve been looking into ADI training you’ve no doubt seen things like “Train with us and we GUARANTEE you a job with our school!”.
When you work for a driving school you pay them a set amount to be supplied with a car and work. There are always clauses in the contract you sign saying that at no time do they ever guarantee you will be supplied with any pupils.
All this “guaranteed job” means is that they guarantee they’ll make you sign a contract to join their school. Then you’ll have to pay them £150 a week for a car and, possibly, some work. What it’s really saying is “Pay us thousands for your training and if you pass we guarantee that we’ll make you pay us thousands more!”.
“Guaranteed job” really means “guaranteed debt”. Once you’ve signed up on a minimum 2 year contract they’ll just throw you in the keep net and forget about you. You’ll often get no work, no contact, nothing at all because once you’ve signed they’ve got you. Keep paying that £150 a week though or else…
Anyone can be a driving instructor trainer
Anybody can legally train someone to be a driving instructor. Some instructor trainers are people that failed the courses themselves, as mentioned above.
Surely they’d have to be an instructor themselves? No.
Surely they’d need to at least pass a course? No.
Surely they must at least have a driving licence? No!
Anyone can just have a go; even someone who’s never done the job, never passed any of the exams and can’t drive!
The only legal protection you have is that nobody other than a driving instructor can take money for driving tuition. To get around this they either contract part 2 work out to instructors or do that part for “free” and add the cost into part 1 or part 3. The DVSA are trying to close this loophole by making ORDIT compulsory but that’s been going on for years.
You can make big money by selling training. Many people will happily pay £2000 up front so if you can get 10 people you’ve just made £20,000 overnight. Then comes the awful training, the failed exams and it all starts over again…
Not all schools and trainers are like this but this is what often happens.
Money back schemes
“Train with us and get £2000 cash back!”
The huge catch is that you have to pay one years of franchise fees to the school no matter whether you pass or fail. Here’s an example of exactly how much this can cost you.
You train with a school and fail at the part 3 stage. The next week you get a bill through the post for £7,800. This is because what you unwittingly agreed to was that you’d pay them a years franchise fee at a cost of £150 per week.
If we multiply £150 by the 52 weeks of the year that’s £7800. The fact that you have failed part 3 and have no job doesn’t matter to them. They will start legal proceedings through debt collectors to get the money and if can even result in your home being repossessed. Have a search online and you’ll see that this has happened to people.
It can end up costing a lot more than this. You can be tied into a two year deal with rates higher than £150 per week.
It makes me sick that people fall for these scams. They actually don’t want you to pass your part 3 because then they don’t have the hassle of finding you pupils. They just want your money. This became an even bigger problem when the recession began. The dodgy companies knew people were getting thousands in redundancy payouts and they were out to get it.
It might seem a great idea to work as an instructor while you’re practising for part 3. You can earn some money and get experience but there are some drawbacks that schools won’t tell you about.
Once you’ve got a trainee licence you are then tied to the school that is sponsoring you. You cannot leave or your licence will be taken away so the school has you right where they want you. They could increase the franchise fee every few weeks and there is nothing you can do. You are stuck with them. The only way out is to find another school that will take over the sponsorship but guess what? They’ll do just the same.
Finance offers or lump sum payments
Finance offers can turn out to be very expensive. You might be offered the chance to pay nothing until you have completed your training but the payments will be spread out over 4 years at 29.9% APR.
With that amount of interest you could end up paying back DOUBLE the amount that you borrowed. It has to be paid whether you pass or not. You may fail at part 2 and not even get to ever teach as an instructor but you’ll still owe over £8000.
Some schools have contracts that are so hard to understand that you have to pay a solicitor £200 to read through it with you. If you don’t then expect big trouble. You may have just signed up saying you’ll stay with the school for a minimum of 2 years, will pay them a leaving fee or any other silly thing.
Spreading the pupils
The aim of driving schools is to get as many cars on the road to earn more money. The pupils are spread so thinly that you’ll be lucky to get one new pupil a month. If 50 new pupils contact them in one month then they’d rather give 50 instructors 1 pupil each than giving about 10 instructors 5 pupils each.
There’s a national shortage of driving instructors
No there isn’t! What does this mean? It makes it sound like there aren’t enough people teaching and that learners are waiting months to start lessons, absolute rubbish.
Look at this map below taken from Google maps in 2010. It shows the result for “Driving school in Birmingham”.
Does that look like a shortage to you? Just look at all those red dots. Hold on though, that was only page 1 of many. Don’t forget also that some of those dots are schools, not instructors. Each dot could have 30+ cars on the road. Don’t forget to add in all the trainee instructors too. With all that the map would look like this…
It’s not all bad!
The aim of this page is not to put you off becoming a driving instructor but to show you what it’s really like. There are many good companies that do work hard to put good instructors on the road and they shouldn’t be given the same treatment as the cowboys.
My advice to learners is to choose an instructor not just a school. My advice to instructors is to choose a trainer not just a school. Good instructors/trainers can work at schools but the very best ones usually have their own business.
To see some video clips showing what happens during the job and to read the good and bad points visit my page about the good and bad of being a driving instructor.