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 over 20 years of experience and I tell it like it is.

Lots of companies pretend to tell you the truth but they miss things out or use misleading phrases to sell you a course or a franchise. Here is the raw truth from someone who isn’t selling you anything.

I chat with Wayne about becoming a driving instructor

I’m going to answer the questions below which you can click on to go to the answer.

How much does a driving instructor earn?

A typical income for a driving instructor is around £2,400 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 £20,000 to £30,000 a year. This is by charging £25 an hour, working 30 hours a week for 48 weeks of the year and paying £600 a month for your franchise and £200 a month for fuel.

If you work for yourself you’re likely to earn around £25,000 to £40,000 a year. That’s charging £30 an hour, working 30 hours a week for 48 weeks of the year and paying £400 a month to rent a car and £200 for fuel.

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.

Those figures are very realistic and easily achievable. £25 an hour is a low rate where I am and I charge up to £40 an hour for lessons. Working 30 hours a week is hardly working around the clock, is it? That means doing lessons from 0900-1100, 1200-1400 then 1500-1700 Monday to Friday. You’ve got every weekend off and you’re only working 9-5 Monday to Friday with 2 hours of break time per day. From doing this job for 20 years I can tell you that all of those things can easily be achieved consistently throughout the year.

Can a driving instructor earn 40k?

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

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 from 0930 to 1130, 1300 to 1500 then 1800 to 2000 Monday to Saturday with the odd Sunday as well.

There are 4 main factors that affect how much you will earn:

  • The rate you charge per hour
  • The number of hours you work
  • Your expenses
  • Other income streams (YouTube videos, ADI training etc.)

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.

This can be a real issue at times such as during the pandemic of 2020. Some driving instructors had nothing coming in for months and yet still had to pay their franchise fees of up to £300 per week.

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.

There’s no point having a cheap franchise if your pupils are only paying £10 an hour for lessons!

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.

Watch these videos to see what driving tests are really like.

Dealing with car crashes as a driving instructor

Working as a driving instructor means it’s a case of when, not if, you’re going to be in a car crash.

The most annoying thing about this is that if you’re an independent instructor not working with insurance provided by a franchise, it’s your insurance policy and you end up paying even if you did nothing wrong. Let’s look at an example.

You’re on a lesson when a car zooms up behind and drives too closely. The driver is on their phone and not paying any attention at all. You draw the pupils attention to this and tell them to continue driving and not to brake at all when you reach the junction that is coming up. You explain that you’re going to do the braking because the other driver is too close and they must not touch the pedals at all. The pupil does the complete opposite of what you said, slams the brake pedal down and the car behind crashes into you.

The pupil can walk away from this paying nothing because it’s your policy. The other driver, although at fault, will often just drive off. Even if they stop, you’ll get abuse, threats and they’ll give you false details. I always find it odd how they threaten you as the instructor and not the person behind the wheel who was actually driving the car! I’ve experienced all these things and you can watch the videos here. I can’t put them on this site as they’re age-restricted so only show when you go to YouTube.

This is why I strongly recommend you get CCTV in your car. Only a fool teaches without it these days.

It’s your policy so it affects you – even though you’re the only one that did nothing wrong! The pupil ignored what you said, the other driver was on their phone and tailgating you but it’s you that pays. If the other driver is honest and they pay the costs then you can still end up paying in the form of a higher insurance premium due to the fact you have been in a crash, your fault or not.

In fairness, my premium has never gone up because of a non-fault crash but you only have to search online to find hundreds of stories of times when it has.

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 doing it. You’ll need a strong business plan to last on your own and 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 started 1stDrive 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. It isn’t quite that simple and you don’t always get higher for paying more.

The problem is that everyone is now online so the cost of adverts just keeps going up.

When I started I paid 5p to 10p for each click but 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 but 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 put their rivals out of business with a huge advertising bill. It won’t work because Google can detect when people are doing that and you can cap the daily amount.

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 0930 to 1130, 1300 to 1500 and 1700 to 1900. 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 cut that grass.

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.

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.

Instructors that don’t save each month will one day find themselves with no car and no way of paying for a new one.

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 getting 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 £2,500 but remember it’s different for everyone.

The following example is based on a trainer charging £30 an hour.

  • 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 £1,311

That comes to a total of £1,973 and assumes that you pass each test first test with the minimum number of hours. If your trainer is charging only £30 an hour then I wouldn’t give much chance of that happening!

Realistically you must expect to spend another £300 to £500 on part 3 lessons. I can’t tell you how many times I have been emailed by people that wanted to save money on training and are now desperately wanting help after failing their second attempt at part 2 or 3. If they’d just spent an extra £1,000 in the first place they’d have passed and made the £1,000 back in two weeks. Instead, they’re thousands out of pocket with nothing to show for it and are now looking for another job.

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 £2,500 if not a bit more to do it properly.

How to choose a good driving instructor trainer

There’s an old saying that goes “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”.

It means people that can do a particular skill will just get on with doing it. People who have tried to do the same skill but failed end up teaching it to others to hide the fact they can’t actually do it themselves.

Let’s take driving instruction for example. I work as a driving instructor teaching learner drivers and I also occasionally teach people to be driving instructors. I’m doing both the teaching of learners and the teaching of new instructors.

A bad trainer spends all of their time just teaching people to be driving instructors. The thought of teaching a real learner terrifies them because they couldn’t do it.

Choose a trainer that currently works as a driving instructor. Not many do because they can earn £10+ an hour extra spending all day with trainee instructors that can already drive, won’t be stalling all the time and are often using their own car/fuel.

If they don’t do the job themselves then they have no right to go barking orders at other people telling them how to do it. Would you walk into a karate dojo and tell the head black belt instructor how to fight when you have no training yourself?

Another tip is to choose a trainer, not a company. Never go to a big school thinking you’ll get a good trainer just because they must be good because they’re big. I can tell you now that the biggest schools often have the worst trainers – and instructors!

If these trainers working at schools are so good then:

  1. Why don’t they have their own school? (Because they’re rubbish)
  2. Why don’t they teach learners as well? (Because they can’t)
  3. If they are telling you that there’s lots of money to be made from teaching learners, why aren’t they doing it themselves? (Because they make more giving bad ADI training).

Instructor trainers working at driving schools are not always bad, they’re just not the best.

A common trick used by “cheap” ADI training providers

Do not listen to anyone telling you it’ll cost under £1,000 to become a driving instructor. They don’t include everything (even if they make it look like they do!) and there can be extra costs once you start.

Here’s an example: Train to be a driving instructor for just £995*

Do you see the asterisk (*) at the end? In the small print it says one of several things:

* You must already have passed ADI part 1 and ADI part 2

* ADI part 3 only. ADI part 1 and 2 sold at additional cost

* When you sign a 6 to 24 month contract

Only part 3 training is included for £995. What about the rest?

Signing a contract means you get the training cheap because you’re signing a 6 to 24-month contract to pay them a franchise fee.

The big problem with this is that you may still have to pay the franchise anyway even if you quit the course or fail. Yes, that’s right:

You may have to pay them months of fees whether or not you pass!

I’m not joking. I have met people that failed their exams or had to quit the course for other reasons and were sent a bill for £7,000 or more which can be legally enforced. The amount grows because it can be paid over several years at high-interest rates like 29%.

Do you see how some training companies make money?

Never train with anyone that makes you sign a contract. I do all of my ADI training on a pay as you go basis and there is nothing to sign at all. You can quit or leave any time and it won’t cost you any extra.

These videos show the test you must pass to become a driving instructor

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 that just churn out poorly trained instructors so they can get them paying a franchise as soon as possible.

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.

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

What does the future hold for driving instructors?

As I write this in December 2020 the future looks very bright for driving instructors.

The demand for lessons is soaring thanks to a baby boom in 2003. All of those babies are now turning 17 and wanting driving lessons which means there’s plenty of work! Read a news article about this here.

The number of driving instructors has been falling steadily over the last 7 years with 12% leaving the job due to retiring or not being able to pass the new ADI standards check.

High demand and low supply mean that this is a fantastic time to become a driving instructor. There are always people that are full of doom and gloom, saying how it’s the end and it’s all over. Let those negative people go and get a 9 to 5 job while you launch a thriving business!

What about driverless cars? You still need a driving licence to have one so if anything that will only fuel more demand for driving lessons. There is a new driving test coming around 2024 and it may even feature driverless cars. Watch the video below for more details.

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 will 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. You can be one of them.

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

To find out more about how to become a driving instructor see my pages on ADI part 1, ADI part 2 and ADI part 3.

Find more free pages of information on becoming a driving instructor in the instructors tab in the menu and see things such as how to become a driving instructor, the good and bad of being an ADI and how much a driving instructor earns

Subscribe for free to my YouTube channel and see more free ADI training videos.