The truth about being a driving instructor

Is it worth being a driving instructor?

Here is the truth about being a driving instructor from an independent instructor with over 20 years of experience.

I’ve taught over 1,000 people to drive, trained hundreds of instructors, been in non-fault car crashes on driving lessons (and a test), had my car stolen, been assaulted by an angry motorist and I’m a hypnotherapist helping people overcome driving anxiety online from around the world. When it comes to being a driving instructor I’ve seen and done it all!

Lots of schools seem to tell you the truth but use misleading tactics to sell you a course or franchise. Here is the raw truth from someone who isn’t selling you anything.

Big changes are planned for the driving test in 2024 that will affect all learners and instructors. Read the details here.

Questions about being a driving instructor

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

Is there a shortage of driving instructors?

The number of driving instructors in the UK has been steadily falling for years.

Many driving schools use this in their advertising: There’s never been more demand! They’re crying out for driving instructors!

What they don’t tell you is the reason WHY the numbers are falling:

Being a driving instructor has become unbearable!

Some of the things that now make the job so bad are:

  • New driving test rules mean you get retested or lose your job if pupils fail driving tests.
  • Driving test waiting times of over six months across the UK. Waiting over a year is common.
  • High fuel prices.
  • Pupils want an electric car and you have a manual car (or the other way around).
  • Self-driving cars coming in.
  • Fewer people choosing to drive than ever before.
  • Speed limits are being cut to 20mph
  • The whole anti-car sentiment and campaigns against motorists.

Giant planters like these are being dumped across roads in many parts of the UK to make it harder to drive and encourage cycling.

Are fewer people learning to drive?

Yes, so why are training providers telling you the industry is booming?

Let’s look at the truth and what’s really happening behind the statistics.

The latest figures available in July 2023 show the number of provisional driving licences issued in the last year is up by 6%. There are however fewer active provisional licence holders. That means more people are applying for licences but not so many are using them.

People get provisional licences for all sorts of reasons such as wanting a form of ID or having it ready for when they want to learn to drive at a later date.

Lots of provisional licences being issued doesn’t mean lots of people learning to drive.

The reason it seems like so many people are learning is that we’re still dealing with the backlog from 2020.

Lots of people didn’t start learning then which created a concertina effect where it now seems more people than ever are starting. They’re not, we’re just catching up from 2020.

Learners are getting older

Data from the DVSA shows that the age of people passing their driving test has risen. Most new full licence holders are now aged 23-29 whereas it has long been 17-20.

The switchover from fossil fuel cars to electric is also causing some people to wait. Some don’t see the point in learning a skill that will become obsolete; using the clutch and gears will soon be a thing of the past because electric cars don’t have them.

There are also a growing number of people that don’t want to drive cars powered by fossil fuels for environmental reasons. This isn’t such a big issue but people have cited it as a reason for not starting lessons.

All of this means there will most likely be a dip in the number of people learning over the next few years followed by a possible increase as more people choose to learn in electric cars.

What driving instructors really think of the job

Forget staged videos with a company’s instructors saying how great it is!

Here is a far more accurate view of what’s really happening in this once-great industry.

The DVSA ran their annual ADI survey in June 2023 and had only 5,795 replies. That means only around 15% of all ADIs (about 40,000 in total) could be bothered to reply. This shows the level of apathy in the industry.

The number of driving instructors continues to fall year and year with more leaving the job now than ever before.

Big schools are using this to advertise the fact there is a shortage of driving instructors but as mentioned above, notice how they don’t say what’s making the current instructors leave!

The DVSA makes an excuse for the low reply rate in the email announcing these figures which also contained an amusing Freudian slip. It says “We know how busy you are helping learner drivers prepare for their test.”.

It ought to have said, “We know how busy you are helping learner drivers become safe drivers for life.”

All they care about now is passing a test as proven by them naming their latest campaign Ready to Pass instead of Ready to Drive. See the email here https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKDVSA/bulletins/36347ce

However you look at it, fewer people are learning to drive, more instructors are leaving and many are losing faith and trust in the DVSA which cares more about teaching people to pass a test than safe driving.

How much does a driving instructor earn?

Most driving instructors earn between £20,000 to £25,000 a year after paying expenses.

The figures of £30,000+ from driving schools are what you get before you’ve taken out your expenses such as the car, fuel, insurance etc.

Don’t listen to anyone telling you that you can join their school and earn 40k from day one. They are just saying it to sell you a course and the only one making money will be them from your franchise payments.

What you can earn is not the same as what you keep.

You’ll lose lots of money through introductory offers like 10 lessons for £99. The schools run these deals in a desperate attempt to drag in as many pupils as they can to feed all the people they’re taking on as instructors.

This has become so widespread that the deals keep getting stupider.

Problems with cheap introductory lessons for instructors

You lose money from these offers, not the school.

You’ll be working for less than £10 an hour with these deals, it’s actually around £3 an hour after you’ve deducted your expenses.

Once the pupils have had those cheap lessons they’ll often go to another school to get more cheap ones. They never get to pay the full price so you’re stuck constantly earning £3 an hour!

Big schools don’t shout about earning £3 an hour in their advertising, do they?

To get around this they say “Five lessons for x amount”. Notice how it’s not saying the first five.

If only these scammers put as much effort into providing a good, honest service that people would recommend we’d all be better off.

What happens here is that the pupil pays upfront but it’s only the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th they get cheaper. This is buried in the small print of the contract so pupils often won’t know.

After the second lesson, you ask them for payment. They’re confused thinking they had already paid for five, ten lessons etc and that’s when they get upset and the understandably angry parents appear. Enjoy dealing with that.

You can see another example of how little a driving instructor earns on my ADI training page.

These videos discuss things to consider before becoming a private driving instructor. Click the menu button at the top right to choose a video.

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.

What’s a franchise?

A franchise is when you pay a company for using its 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 company’s name, logo and everything else. Look at the bottom of the receipt you get from these places and you’ll see an individual’s 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 that 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.

This video shows the standard required to pass the dreaded ADI part 3 and standards check

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 in 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 pupil’s 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.

That exact scenario has happened to me several times.

What happens after a crash

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 get abuse and threats or they’ll give you false details. Yep, I’ve had all of these things happen!

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 who 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.

How much does online advertising cost?

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 day’s 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 from 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 do 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 a 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 lease or buy a car as a driving instructor?

This is a big choice for a private driving instructor so I made a whole video about it that you can see below.

Leasing can be a good idea if you are new to the job or just want a car for a short while as you wait for a new one that you’ve bought to arrive. Buying is generally better overall because it is far cheaper but watch the video below for the full story.

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 you pass the first time 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.

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 babysitters 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 long does it take to become a driving instructor?

It will take a minimum of 40 hours of training for part 3 and it can easily be 60 to 100 hours of 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.

Consider there is usually a 3 to 6 month waiting time for ADI part 2 and ADI part 3 tests.

New ADI test times pop up at random whenever they feel like it. You might look in the morning and there are none available. A few hours later there are times available tomorrow and one for next month. You go back on the system in 5 minutes and they’re gone.

It’s easier to predict the weather than to predict when ADI tests will be available.

Can you qualify for under £1,000?

Do not listen to anyone telling you it’ll cost under £1,000 to become a driving instructor.

They often won’t include everything (even if they make it look like they do!) and there can be extra costs once you start. See the costs I list in the point above to see how it doesn’t add up.

The most common catch is that they make you sign a contract where you agree to pay their franchise fee for 6 to 24 months.

This means you may still have to pay the franchise even if you quit the course or fail. Yes:

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

People have failed their exams or quit for other reasons and were sent a bill for £15,000 or more.

That’s because you signed to agree to pay £150 a week for 100 weeks (2 years with 2 free weeks each year).

£150 x 100 = £15,000.

That’s why the training is so cheap!

What happens if you can’t pay?

If you don’t have £15,000 they’ll let you pay it off over several years at high-interest rates like 29%. On a 4 year loan that would come to over £25,000 in total.

Do you see how some training providers make money?

The sad truth is that some training providers would rather you fail because then they make more money from you and get it sooner. Think about it:

  1. If you pass, they have to supply you with work for up to 24 months. They slowly get paid their fees over that length of time.
  2. If you fail, they get all the money now without having to supply you with work. Or, they get thousands more when you pay it back over several years.

Which is more attractive?

I recommend you 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.

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 they have no right to tell others how to do it. Would you enter a karate dojo and tell the head instructor how to fight when you have no training yourself?

Another great tip for choosing an ADI trainer

Never go to a big school thinking you’ll get a good trainer.

Choose a trainer, not a company.

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 there is 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.

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. This is of course 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. Let’s 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 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.

Now you know the truth about being a driving instructor

I’m not a financial adviser and you must not take anything on this page as legal or financial advice. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether being a driving instructor is right for you.

Find out more about ADI Part 1, ADI Part 2 and ADI Part 3.

You’ll find more free pages of information on becoming a driving instructor in the instructor’s tab in the menu.

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