Truth about being a driving instructor
Driving instructor training questions
Here are the answers to some common questions that people ask. I’ll tell it like it really is based on over 15 years of experience in the job.
Some driving schools and training colleges will make it all sound great just to sell you a training course but here’s the truth.
You can find out much more about the job in more detail when you visit all the pages in my instructor zone.
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 £10,000 to £14,000 a year.
If you work for yourself you’re likely to earn around £15,000 to £20,000 a year.
I’ve made the above figures comparable to a salary that you’d be given if you were looking for a traditional employed job. Your tax and national insurance isn’t taken out but those figures show what you have left for yourself after you have paid expenses such as the car, fuel, franchise etc.
There’s often a figure of £30,000 talked about when it comes to what a driving instructor earns. Some jokers even claim you can earn £40,000 or more but don’t listen to these stupid figures, they sound great in theory but it’s not going to happen.
Those figures are what you COULD earn BEFORE you have paid for the car IF you work stupid hours every day that can make you ill.
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.
So how do franchises work for driving schools? You pay the school a set weekly/monthly amount to be given a car and supplied with work. The big problem 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 by law.
How much does a driving school franchise cost?
Even if you did earn the mythical £30,000 a year then you’d be giving at least £10,000 of it back to the driving school in the form of a franchise. That’s if the franchise was just £192 a week and many of them are a lot more than that.
Franchises you see for £50 a week will rarely ever include a car so you can add on £100 a week for that. What you thought was £50 a week is now £150 a week and there can be other costs too.
This is why lessons with these schools cost so much. Pupils often think it’s because they have the best instructors but the high prices are really because the pupils are paying for the instructors training and/or franchise.
So what happens if you only earn £20,000? You still have to give them the £10,000 taking your earnings down to below the minimum wage.
What if you earn £5000 or nothing? You still have to pay it because that’s what it says in the contract you signed. Every driving school contract I have seen has it written in the small print that they make no guarantees that they’ll be able to supply you with work but you have to pay the franchise fee no matter what.
Even if you fail the training and never work as a driving instructor you can still be liable to pay up to two years of franchise fees to the school you signed up to train with. It has been known for people to start training, fail at the first test and then be sent a bill for £8000. Can’t pay? They’ll start legal proceedings and could even make you sell your house to make payment. Read more about my driving instructor training scams.
How do holidays work for driving instructors?
Many driving instructors end up working every bank holiday, over Christmas and throughout the summer.
As of 2018, I have worked every weekend and bank holiday for the last 15 years. I worked evenings Monday to Friday for the first 10 years just to survive. The last holiday I had was in 2005.
You won’t get holiday pay when you’re self employed. If you usually work 30 hours a week at £20 an hour then taking a week off means you won’t get that £600. You’ll need to not only save up the money for the holiday but also the money to cover your lost income from not working.
What else do I need to consider?
Have you considered how you will budget your income? It’s not like being employed where you get paid a lump sum at the end of each month. You’ll be paid hourly. You may have 6 pupils all pay £500 up front so you’ll have £3000 go in your account but you’ll have to make that last for as long as those pupils are with you. What if one of them wants to cancel and asks for a refund? Does your answer comply with the law? Have you got the correct paperwork signed?
Being self employed involves many hours of unpaid work. What about doing your books, website, answering emails and phone calls?
The work doesn’t just supply itself, you have to generate it and book people in on your diary. A school would do this for you but then you’ll be driving from one side of your area to the other with 5 minutes between lessons! Trust me – I’ve been there and done that.
You need to keep track of every penny for your tax return. You won’t have it done for you, even if you have an accountant. It’s still up to you to provide receipts, statements, balance sheets etc.
Do you know what terms such as turnover, gross income and net income mean? If not then you’ll need to learn those things and much more.
How many hours does a driving instructor work per week?
Most driving instructors work around 20 to 25 hours a week. It’s mainly up to you but remember that pupils will cancel lessons, some will quit and some won’t turn up. You won’t be charging full price for all your lessons as well because of all the “Five lessons for a fiver!” style deals around so many times you will work an hour but only get paid for 15 minutes of it.
If you’re planning on doing 40 hours a week then forget it. Have you thought how you would fit 40 hours in? You’d have to work 9am to 11am, 12pm to 2pm, 3pm to 5pm then 6pm tp 8pm. That means working from 830am (you’d have to go out then to travel to your first lesson) to 830pm (after travelling home).
That’s a 12 hour day with no break at all because time between lessons is spent travelling to and from pupils. You are never going to get pupils to fit in like that! Everyone has their own schedule and you can’t just fit them in when you want, you must fit in with when they’re free.
Even if you had that much work and fitted everyone in somehow you’d only last a few days doing that before you became ill. Until you’ve worked as a driving instructor it’s hard to understand how tiring it is. Think we just sit down all day doing nothing? Think again. I’ve had many parents say that they did a one hour lesson with their son/daughter and it was the most exhausting thing they’ve done in years! You just won’t get it until you start teaching and experience it for yourself.
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 get 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 a 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 one business to get it’s staff to repeatedly click on other companies adverts to try and put them out of business with a huge advertising bill.
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 years studying IT like I did to know 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.
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 which is far less than you’d pay if you bought the car from a garage on finance. If you buy a car you’l have to pay for all those things yourself on top of paying more per month.
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. If you rent a car then no debt will show up because there renting isn’t seen as debt.
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 £3000. Let’s break that down…
- Part 1 is £90 for the test, £50 for all the books so that’s £140
- Part 2 is £111 for the test and takes around 20 hours tuition so that’s £611
- In 2017 part 3 will be replaced by a standards check but it costs £111 for the test and takes around 60 hours on average so that’s £1611
That comes to £2362. That’s assuming you pass each test first time which is unlikely unless you take more than the average number of training hours. You’ll then save money on the extra tests but will have spent it on more training. It’s easy for part 3 to take up to 100 hours tuition, or even more. It may seem a lot of money but remember you’re investing in a qualification that’ll last you for many years.
You then have to pay £300 to join the register so it’ll easily cost £3000 if not a bit more.
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 DSA pass rates from Dec 2010 to June 2011
Part 1 – 49.5% pass so 49.5 people will make it to part 2
Part 2 – 52.9% pass so we’ve just lost 23.5 people and have 26 left to go to part 3
(The part 3 is going in 2017) Part 3 – 36% pass so 9.36 of the 26 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.
How long does it take to qualify?
It takes around 5 years to become a driving instructor. Yes, 5 years and not 5 months as many places will tell you.
You need to have held a full clean licence for 4 years before you can be put on the ADI register.
I wanted to be an instructor right after I’d passed my driving test but I had to wait four years just to start. It’s funny how so many companies out there forget this and sign people up for courses only to discover they haven’t been driving long enough.
Never underestimate how hard it is to drive for four years while keeping a clean licence. You’ll also have to keep it clean during your time as an instructor.
How much income tax does an instructor pay?
Working out your income tax (roughly) is very easy. As a rough guide, let’s say you earned £20,000 in a year. Take out your car and fuel (£5000) and you have £15,000 of taxable income. The first £10,000 (roughly) is tax free so you’d be taxed on the rest at roughly 30% which is 20% tax and 10% national insurance so you’d pay around £1500 in tax.
One thing you must remember is that when you are self employed you have to pay two years tax in one go when you first begin. A £2000 tax bill is actually £4000. The rest of what you pay goes into a holding account ready to be put towards next years tax.
It was announced in 2015 that the tax system is changing and you’ll soon be able to pay on a monthly basis. You simply log on to the site, type in your income and you can pay tax month by month which will make things much easier.
You can read more about tax on the things training companies won’t tell you page.
I hope this page has helped you make a decision about whether or not being a driving instructor is for you. Remember that I’m not a financial adviser and you shouldn’t take any of this as legal or financial advise.
I am however someone who has been there, done it and met many people that have had things mentioned on this page happen to them.