Learning to drive is an exciting and stressful time in anybody’s life.
The prospect of freedom and independence is balanced by the need to learn your stuff and practice to be safe on the road.
A key part of learning is picking the right instructor, especially since new data shows that pass rates vary around the country by as much as 50 per cent.
The vast majority of driving schools and instructors are completely trustworthy and there to help you but there are a handful looking to take learners for a ride.
You can get a feel for a driving school by comparing its prices and pass rates with other instructors but there are also some scams to be aware of. With the help of Asher Ismail, CEO of driving school service Midrive, we’re picked out some of the tricks to be aware of.
Not letting you drive in the first lesson
Every lesson costs the pupil money; scam schools will tell their instructors to drag out the learning process so that they can gain more money from each student. If you don’t spend at least part of your lesson actively driving then it may be time for you to look elsewhere.
Making the right choice of driving school will get you on the road without unnecessary costs. Picture: Shutterstock
Confusing intro offers
It is common practice for driving schools to have introductory offers in place in order to entice new pupils. However, a lot of the offers can be confusing to get your head around. This is so that schools can rip you off without you realising it. Make sure you completely understand the offer before taking it to save you from losing any unnecessary pennies.
Misleading pass rates
Some schools will preach that a person who fails on a number of occasions and finally passes is a success. This ‘allows’ them to say they still have that 100 per cent pass rate, but if you take all the fails that led to that pass into account, the percentage would drop drastically. It’s important to take perfect pass rates with a grain of salt as it’s likely they are bending the truth.
Guaranteeing a pass is impossible; there is no absolute guarantee that the school you have chosen can pass you. Ultimately it comes down to your ability to learn to drive and how you perform on the day of your test. Regardless of how many of your friends and family they pass, or how great their pass-rate is, there is no way they can tell you for sure that they will pass you.
If a driving school has said to you that you’ll definitely pass with them, red flags should start waving.
When undertaking driving lessons, the pupil puts a lot of trust in the instructor to not only help them progress as quickly as possible, but to also keep them safe. Your instructor should be a fully qualified ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) or PDI (Potential Driving Instructor who’s still in training). If you do learn with a PDI, you should make sure that the price reflects this and ask for a discount if they do try and charge you full price. They are still in training so should not be charging as much as someone who is fully qualified.
Using a qualified instructor is important in learning the correct skills and methods. Picture: Shutterstock
If your instructor doesn’t have either of these qualifications (ADI or PDI badges) then they are not qualified to guide you on the road.
If you’re suspicious that your driving instructor is not qualified, ask to see their badge. If they do not produce this or you ever feel unsafe in their presence, immediately stop your lesson.
Dropping the previous pupil back
When you do your lesson, you should be the only pupil in the car. You should never be put in a position where you are dropping the previous pupil home during your lesson, as you are paying money to learn, not to act as a taxi.
Cutting lessons short
When you are paying for lessons you should expect to receive the full lesson. Imagine paying for a chocolate bar and only getting three-quarters of it. Driving lessons should be no different. It is important for your development (and your bank account!) that you get the full allocated lesson that you’re paying for.
Safety issues with the car
As a pupil, you trust that everything will be in working order when you get in the instructor’s car. It can be very concerning to get in a car and see that there are lights showing on the dashboard. The instructor may be avoiding repairs as a way to save themselves some money, but that’s not comforting for the learner behind the wheel. If this does happen to you and you feel as if the conditions you are learning in are unsafe, end your lesson and ask for a refund.
If you’re concerned about the safety of your instructor’s car raise your worries immediately. Picture: Shutterstock
‘You’ll drive home on your first lesson’
No respected school can promise you will drive home on your first lesson; it would be very dangerous to allow a new driver to face busy roads when they are clearly not ready. A learner should start with a few lessons on quiet roads to get to know the car, the basics of driving and master that before they are taken onto the main roads.
Offering cheaper than usual lessons
A driving instructor has some basic costs before they take a profit. If an instructor is charging a lot less than the average, where are they cutting costs? Saving petrol by not actually letting you drive in your first lesson? Not attending courses? Budget tyres?
Look for a school with highly-rated instructors who pass your quality checks. There aren’t many ways to make this part of learning to drive cheaper, but bear in mind that you’ll save money in the long run if you have the right instructor who will teach you efficiently from the first lesson. A cheap instructor might seem like a bargain but if it takes longer to pass your test, then you will be paying more in the long run. It’s a false economy.
As highlighted, there are plenty of ways you can be scammed whilst looking for a driving school. It is important to take your time when choosing what school is the best for you and don’t be afraid to switch your driving school or driving instructor. If you’re not happy, you won’t learn to the best of your ability.