Signs of a bad driving instructor can come in many guises. The problem is that bad instructors are going to say the same things as good ones so they’re not easy to spot.
With my 20 years of experience as a driving instructor and being one of the UK’s top driving instructor trainers, I’m going to show you what to look out for and the questions to ask driving instructors.
Learn what to look for when choosing a driving school.
Signs of a bad driving instructor
Here we go then with some red flags to look out for when choosing or using a driving instructor.
Read this guide and you’ll easily find the best driving instructors while avoiding the cowboys.
They don’t check your provisional driving licence before the first lesson
Did your driving instructor check your provisional driving licence online before your first driving lesson? If not then you could have been driving illegally without even knowing it!
It’s absolutely incredible how many driving instructors simply don’t bother checking driving licences. I’ve had many pupils come to me over the last 20 years that have been taking driving lessons elsewhere but when I ask to check their provisional driving licence they say they haven’t got one, ask what a provisional driving licence is and say they’ve been driving for months without one.
If you haven’t got a provisional driving licence then you’d be driving without insurance so both the driving instructor and you would get 6 points on your licence and a big fine if you were in a crash or caught by random checks.
The driving instructor would lose their job as they’d be removed from the DVSA ADI register. You could face crippling insurance premiums many times more than they would normally be and even have your driving licence revoked as soon as you passed. That means you’d have to take an extended driving test after passing to be able to drive!
Watch the video below to see me doing these checks with pupils. Just seeing a licence is no good because you can’t tell if someone has any points on their licence from just looking at it.
If you have a provisional licence with no points, or points that allow you to still drive, then you’re ok but how would your driving instructor know that without checking? I’ve had people come to me that lie and say they have a licence when they don’t.
Not checking your eyesight before letting you drive
Bad driving instructors don’t bother giving pupils an eyesight test.
I meet people every year that need glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision but they have no idea anything is wrong with their eyesight. Some are shocked and even a bit upset but they’re always thankful I made them aware of the issue.
I once had a pupil that couldn’t read a car number plate from 6 feet away but he’d been driving for months. No, I’m not joking. I don’t know how they didn’t know their eyesight was so bad as I wear contact lenses myself so I know what it’s like to have poor eyesight.
Many bad driving instructors just don’t care if you can’t see so long as you’re paying for the lesson.
You’ll always be given an eyesight test when you take your practical driving test and if you fail that then you’ll fail the whole test before you’ve even sat in the car. It can be quite embarrassing because if you read a car number plate incorrectly twice then they have to get a tape measure out and measure the exact distance for your third attempt!
The eyesight standard required is quite low. Learn about driving eyesight requirements here.
Learn some of the classic mistakes made by driving instructors.
Bad driving instructors don’t display their badges on lessons
Just as you must have a licence to drive, your instructor must have a licence to teach.
All driving instructors must by law display a badge like the one below in the windscreen of the car. Not doing this can result in a fine.
If the badge is green it means they’re fully qualified, a pink/red badge means they’re still training to be an instructor. If they don’t have a badge then they might not even be a driving instructor and could be teaching illegally. There are people that pretend to be instructors so they can get people into their cars to commit crimes so be careful.
Never assume that an instructor is genuine just because they work at a driving school. It has been known for some to fail their exams and not be allowed to teach anymore but they simply don’t tell the school or show a fake badge to begin with. Read about a fake driving instructor.
You can check if a driving instructor is genuine here. Type in their postcode and their details will come up. Not all instructors choose to be listed here because many companies misuse that database to make sales calls and send spam email messages.
Legal changes are coming in the summer of 2023 which force driving instructors to display their badges on driving tests. Read more about New Driving Test Rules in 2023 here.
Working at a driving school
Most bad driving instructors work at driving schools. This does not mean that all instructors at schools are bad or that all private instructors are great, it’s just a rule of thumb.
Bad instructors need to hide behind a big name because they can’t get their own work and would never last on their own.
Why would a great driving instructor work at a school? They wouldn’t.
Let’s compare two facts:
1) Private driving instructors like myself get work because people recommend us.
2) Driving instructors at schools get work because the school spends lots of money on adverts.
Which of those two reasons is the best for choosing an instructor?
Driving schools are sometimes nothing more than a bunch of bad driving instructors hiding behind a name.
There are no interviews to get into driving schools. There are no standards and they’ll just take on anyone.
Why? Because driving schools make money from instructors paying them a weekly fee to be supplied with work. Why would the school care how bad they are? Pay and you’re in! Driving schools often care far more about their instructors than their pupils because that’s how they make money.
You can read more about this on my driving school secrets page.
Teaching to use clutch before the gas
One of the surest signs of a bad driving instructor is that they teach you to move off using the clutch and then the gas.
It says in Essential skills, the official DVSA guide to driving which examiners mark by, that you should press the gas before the clutch. It says it in the car’s manual and doing the clutch first won’t work in many vehicles.
Despite this, many driving instructors insist that it’s clutch first.
Why? There are two reasons:
- Because they’re lazy.
- Because they don’t know what they’re doing.
Every pupil I have ever taught (over 1,000 of them!) wants to use the clutch pedal first. It’s just what learners do but it is wrong and can be dangerous.
A good instructor will constantly remind you that it should be the gas first.
A bad driving instructor can’t be bothered and will just let you do it because you don’t fail a test for it. They’re lazy and can’t be bothered to keep saying the same thing over and over.
To become a driving instructor you have to pass a test called ADI part 3. Until December 2017 that test involved teaching an examiner who was acting as a pupil. One thing they would do is constantly ignore what the instructor said to see if you kept saying it or gave up. If you gave up then you’d fail. You can read more about the old ADI part 3 test if you like.
That brings us nicely onto the next point but you can read more about using the gas pedal first on my gas then clutch page.
Teaching you how to pass a driving test
A bad driving instructor will justify everything by saying that you’ll fail the test if you don’t do it.
Pupil – “Why do I need to check my blindspot?”
Bad instructor – “Cos you’ll fail your test if you don’t.”
Now here’s how it should be…
Pupil – “Why do I need to check my blindspot?”
Good instructor – “Because there might be something there that stops you from moving off. If you don’t look you could cause a crash.”
Can you see the difference?
A bad driving instructor only cares about getting you through a test. A good driving instructor cares about you being safe after passing.
Just look at how many schools even use the word pass in their name. That is a sign that all they care about it passing and why I chose the word drive and not pass for the name of my school.
This is why bad instructors don’t care about teaching you to use the clutch pedal first; you don’t fail the driving test for it because the examiners don’t mark it. As long as you move off safely on the driving test then the examiner won’t care how you did it.
Silly isn’t it? You can pass a driving test for doing something that only works in your instructors car. That’s just how it is and bad instructors will use that to justify being lazy.
Bad driving instructors compete on price not quality
If you want the best things in life then you have to pay for them.
You’re not going to get the best mobile phone for £100.
You’re not going to get the best food at a 5 star restaurant with a 2 for 1 offer.
I never compete on price and make no secret of the fact that lessons with me are not cheap. That’s because people can see how good I am and are willing to pay for quality.
Bad driving instructors will be desperately flogging lessons with offers like 5 lessons for £50 or 10 lessons for £99.
You can read more about this on my page about driving school intro offers and why to avoid them.
The cheapest isn’t the best. If that was true then the most expensive would be the worst. What sense does that make?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had pupils come to me that have paid £2,000 at a cheap school for lessons that went on for years and they’ve learnt nothing.
After 1 hour with me, they say they’ve learnt more than in 2 years with the other instructor.
Bad instructors have no videos
I was the first instructor to have a driving lesson channel on YouTube. My videos have had over 10 million views and I hide nothing. You can watch me in crashes, going through the good and the bad.
Other instructors have since copied me but bad instructors won’t have videos at all.
Why do you think that is?
They’ll say they aren’t good on computers or that it’s because of privacy rules etc.
We all know some instructors don’t make videos because they just don’t want you seeing how rubbish they are!
Delaying the theory test
You should have your theory test done when first starting lessons or even before.
You see, the whole point is that you pass the theory and then put it into practice on the road.
One of the signs of a bad driving instructor is that they’ll tell you to delay the theory. Just leave it, don’t do it yet! You’re not ready!
What’s the real reason? They need to drag your lessons out because they haven’t got much work.
You can’t book your practical driving test until the theory test is passed. That means delaying the theory delays your practical test and makes them more money.
You often have to wait months for a practical test so you should book it well in advance. If you wait until you’re ready for a practical test and only then take your theory, you could be taking for lessons for months longer than needed as you wait for your practical test to come round.
Pass rates (one of the major signs of a bad driving instructor!)
Bad driving instructors throw out made up pass rates to try and impress you.
The simple fact is that pass rates mean nothing because driving instructors can choose whether or not a pupil’s driving test result is recorded.
Think that sounds daft? Watch this video to learn more.
Having the best car
Bad driving instructors often have the best cars to hide the fact they’re rubbish.
You’ve probably heard jokes about how small men buy massive cars with huge engines to compensate for their smallness. Well, the same is true for driving instructors!
I see some instructors driving around in top of the range Mercedes, Audi’s and BMW’s and it makes me laugh.
My car is a Ford Fiesta because my teaching skills are what matter. I don’t need a fancy pants car to make up for a lack of skill.
That’s not to say my car isn’t great because it is. It has some great features like being able to call for an ambulance after a crash and can even steer itself to keep you in your lane.
It’s just that I don’t feel the need to advertise “Learn in a BMW! Learn in a VW Golf!” because I’d rather let my great teaching do the talking.
The very best instructors are often found driving old bangers or basic little cars. Is it because we cant afford a better car? No.
We get on with teaching people quietly while these other “best instructors” rely on their car’s technology, gimmicks and badges to impress people.
Choose a great instructor, not a great car.
They’re just driving instructors or not just driving instructors
Many of the worst driving instructors are just driving instructors and nothing else.
While there’s nothing wrong with just qualifying as a driving instructor and that’s it, those of us that are really keen go way beyond just the basic qualifications you need to become a driving instructor.
You can do extra training in teaching, coaching, take further advanced driving courses or any number of things.
In my case, I’m also a professional therapist so I know how your mind works. I fix people’s driving fears and phobia just by talking to them over the internet. I live and breathe my work and it isn’t a job to me, it’s a way of life.
Some instructors barely ever work as instructors and only have it as a backup job for when demand for their other work is low. Many instructors are builders, electricians, plumbers and all sorts. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but if you are keen on finding the best then you’re hardly likely to get the best from someone who only teaches for a few weeks each year and whose heart isn’t really in it.
Look for a driving instructor that is dedicated to teaching people, doesn’t do it just to make money and has additional skills that complement being a driving instructor.
Those are the signs of a bad driving instructor
So let’s sum up the main points:
- Choose a driving instructor not a driving school
- Make sure they’re teaching by the book not by their opinion
- Focus on learning how to drive not how to pass a test
- You get what you pay for so don’t choose a cheap instructor
- Get your theory test done ASAP and don’t use any instructor that tells you not to
If you follow my advice above then you’ll avoid the majority of bad driving instructors.
Remember though that what is bad for one person may not be bad for another. I once had a pupil that left me and went to another instructor because he let pupils crash the car and she thought that was fun.
If you want to read about more things like this then visit my page on why driving instructors charge more for driving tests.
If you’re in Birmingham then you can book your driving lessons online with me now.