The truth about being a driving instructor

Driving instructor training questions

Here is the truth about being a driving instructor with answers to common questions people ask.

I’m a 100% independent driving instructor trainer with 20 years experience in the job. I tell it like it is, I’m not selling you a franchise or a course and have no hidden agenda.

For more information read my detailed pages on how to become a driving instructor and if you’d like to train with me then see my driving instructor training pages.

Watch my standards check videos and see if you have what it takes to be a driving instructor.

How much does a driving instructor earn?

A typical income for a driving instructor is around £1600 per month after paying your expenses. It depends on so many things that it’s impossible to give an exact figure and it will vary each year.

If you work for a driving school you’re likely to earn around £15,000 to £20,000 a year.

If you work for yourself you’re likely to earn around £20,000 to £30,000 a year.

Can you earn 40k as a driving instructor? Discover the truth on my page how much does a driving instructor earn?

I’ve made the above figures comparable to a traditional salary in an employed job. Your tax and national insurance aren’t taken out but those figures show what you have for yourself after you have paid expenses such as the car, fuel, franchise etc.

It comes down to how much you want it. I used to work 36 to 40 hours a week when I first started teaching. I was working 930am to 1130am, 1pm to 3pm then 6pm to 8pm Monday to Saturday with the odd Sunday as well.

There are 3 main factors that affect how much you will earn:

  • The rate you charge per hour
  • The number of hours you work
  • Your expenses

Independent driving instructors like myself generally earn more money than those working at schools because we don’t have a franchise to pay.

That isn’t always the case though. Some independent instructors struggle and have to charge low prices. Some driving schools charge a high hourly rate and once an instructor has paid for their fuel and franchise then the rest is theirs to keep.

In summary: it’s possible to earn whatever you want but you have to make it happen. You won’t be paid a fixed salary so it’s up to you to make your business succeed, whether that involves going independent or working through a franchise.

What’s a franchise?

A franchise is when you pay a company for using their name. Many fast food restaurants are not owned by the big company you think owns them: they’re run by people who pay an amount of money per month or per year to use that companies name, logo and everything else. Look at the bottom of the receipt you get from these places and you’ll see an individuals name or the name of the company running the franchise.

Many driving instructors work for driving schools through a franchise system. You pay the school a set weekly/monthly amount to be given a car and supplied with work.

The potential downside is that you have to pay this amount no matter what. Despite the fact they may not be supplying you with pupils and you have no money coming in you still have to pay the franchise fee.

How much does a driving school franchise cost?

A typical driving school franchise will cost you about £150 to £250 per week. Driving schools sometimes include the car, work, support and everything in the weekly fee. Not always though, remember to check.

Some franchises seem cheaper by only being £50 per week (I saw one for £5 a week!) but that won’t include a car or other expenses.

Here’s how the franchise breaks down:

  • A car is at least £100 a week
  • Insurance is about £25 a week
  • Tyres, servicing, repairs etc.
  • Your £50 franchise fee
  • The profit the school makes

As well as your franchise you’ll need to pay for fuel. If you work around 24 hours a week it’ll be about £50 per week. If you work 36 hours per week it’ll be around £80 per week.

Some instructors like the security that being at a driving school offers and are happy to pay the fee. This is often a false sense of security though because no driving school can guarantee they’ll always have work. Many people don’t trust big companies and prefer to deal with private instructors.

Some like myself would rather go it alone but it is very risky and you’re going to have to be very good to survive.

Is it better to work for a school or be on your own?

Being on your own is not easy and I recommend you spend at least two years at a driving school before trying it. To last on your own you need a strong business plan. If your only ideas are to build a website and put adverts in shop windows then you’ll be gone within weeks of starting. The ways of getting work change constantly and if you can’t change with them then you’ll be yet another failed instructor.

When I began back in 2005 it was cheap and easy to advertise online but things have changed. When you advertise online in search engines, your advert is displayed for free and you only pay when someone clicks on it. It works like a bidding system; you say how much you’re willing to pay per click and the people offering the highest have their adverts shown in the highest positions. The problem is that now everyone is online it costs big money.

When I began I paid 5p to 10p for each click. Since 2012 this has amount has rocketed and people are paying up to £27 per click. You may check your account at the end of the day and you’ve been charged £7 a click for 15 clicks. If none of those people even contacted you then you’ve just lost £105 which is more than you’ve earned from a days work. It has been known for instructors to repeatedly click on adverts to try and put their rivals out of business with a huge advertising bill. It won’t work but they waste hours doing it.

Can you get your own work for free?

Surely there must be a way of getting advertised online for free? Yes there is but you’ll either need to pay an expert to do it for you, in which case you may as well be paying for adverts, or you’ll need to have spent time learning how to do it.

You’ll see lots of adverts on TV saying how you can get a free website made within minutes. Great! But now how do you get people to actually find it? It’s not as easy as people would have you believe and it can take years to get noticed.

Going solo isn’t for everyone. You need nerves of steel, good business acumen, a good reputation and the most important thing in any business – a bit of luck.

How many hours does a driving instructor work?

Most driving instructors work around 20 to 25 hours a week. It’s mainly up to you but remember that pupils will cancel lessons and you might not be charging full price for all your lessons because of all the “Five lessons for a fiver!” style deals.

One of the great perks of being a driving instructor is that you get much longer lunch breaks than in most jobs.

Imagine that you do two hour lessons at at 930am to 1130am, 1pm to 3pm and 5pm to 7pm. You’d have 90 minutes between the first two lessons and two hours between the second and third. You can go home, go for a walk or whatever you want to do.

There’s a lot of downtime and I have known some people struggle with this. It can feel like you’re a naughty kid at first, bunking off school and spending time at home. It gives you great flexibility to plan deliveries or get that grass cut.

If you have children then this is the perfect job to fit in around school hours. You could drop them off at school then go and do lesson from 930-1130, come home and have lunch and then pick your children up on the way back from your second lesson.

How do holidays work for driving instructors?

It’s up to you how much time off you have. Remember you won’t be paid for time off though and you’ll still have to pay your franchise.

This is all offset by the fact you never have to work full time. I do four hours a day on average so every day is a holiday!

Is it better to rent or buy a car?

Renting a car takes away a lot of the stress and makes your income more predictable. Costs such as servicing, brakes, tyres etc. are all included in your monthly rental. The rental is far less than you’d pay if you bought the car from a garage on finance. If you buy a car you’ll have to pay for all those things yourself.

Many instructors falsely think they’re saving money by buying a car. Why? Because they aren’t paying out an amount per month.

What they forget is that the car isn’t going to last forever. They have to be saving £300+ per month ready to buy a new one so all they’re doing is putting money into a saving account each month instead of paying the rent.

There is one huge advantage of renting that many instructors are unaware of: when you rent a car it is classed of being “off books” which means it won’t show up as personal debt as it would when you buy a car. This can help you massively when it comes to taking out a mortgage or even just a pay monthly phone contract because the amount of debt you have plays a big part in whether or not you’re accepted.

If you buy a £20,000 car from a garage and pay it off monthly then you will have £20,000 of personal debt shown on your credit report. Good luck trying to get a mortgage or any kind of credit with debt like that. No debt shows up when you rent a car.

A famous billionaire once said “If it appreciates, buy it. If it depreciates, rent it”.

How much does it cost to qualify as a driving instructor?

It’ll cost around £2500 but remember it’s different for everyone.

  • Part 1 is £81 for the test, £50 for all the books so that’s £131
  • Part 2 is £111 for the test and takes around 14 hours of tuition so that’s £531
  • Part 3 is £111 for the test and takes at least 40 hours of tuition so that’s £1311

That comes to a total of £1973 and assumes that each hour of tuition was charged at £30 an hour and you pass each test first test with the minimum number of hours.

Of course, that is not going to happen for everyone. I would realistically expect to spend another £300 to £500 on part 3 lessons.

It will take a minimum of 40 hours training for part 3 and it can easily be 60 to 100 hours tuition. Until you start doing it you may not understand why but it takes time to develop your skills and it’s not as easy as you may think.

When I took my part 3 test I had done 60 hours with my trainer, spent 40 hours watching videos and had done 600 hours of lessons with real learners. After all that I just scraped through with the lowest grade.

You may have to pay for fuel and tuition insurance while you’re doing parts 2 and 3. You might have to take time off work for your training or pay baby sitters etc. These are costs you need to consider.

You then have to pay £300 to join the register so it’ll easily cost £2500 if not a bit more to do it properly.

Do not listen to schools telling you it’ll cost under £1000. They don’t include everything (even if they make it look like they do!) and there will be many extra costs that pop up once you start.

What are my chances of qualifying as a driving instructor?

If you train properly there is no reason why you can’t make it. The pass rates are so low because there are so many rubbish schools who churn out poorly trained instructors like a sausage factory.

Let’s look at how pass rates can be misleading and give you the wrong idea. Imagine 100 people begin training as instructors and see how many make it through based on official DVSA pass rates for April 2017 to April 2018.

Part 1 – 50% pass so 50 people will make it to part 2

Part 2 – 47.6% pass so we’ve just lost 23.5 people and have 23.8 left to go to part 3

Part 3 – 21.6% pass so 5.14 of the 23.8 people from part 2 qualified.

See my page on the truth about ADI pass rates to see why these figures are not as bad as they look.

So is it worth it?

Congratulations if you’ve read this far down the page. I’m going to reward you with some vital information that many people who just read the first few paragraphs miss.

Being a driving instructor is a brilliant job. You can earn good money but don’t expect it to be easy.

Lots of people see adverts for becoming a driving instructor and think they’ll pass the exams in a week and be on £30,000 a year to start with. Those are the people that wouldn’t have read past the first few points on this page and are already now looking for their next get-rich-quick scheme.

There are people who invest time, effort and money into becoming the best instructor they can. They go on to grow successful businesses and do make good money from this job.

I hope this page has helped you make a decision. Do you think being a driving instructor is for you? Let me know.

Remember that I’m not a financial adviser and you shouldn’t take any of this as legal or financial advice.

For more information read my page on how to become a driving instructor.

See my pages on ADI part 1, ADI part 2 and ADI part 3.

If you fancy watching some videos then check out my ADI training videos on my YouTube channel.