Thursday, 1 October 2015
I make a living out of teaching people to drive, so I shouldn't really be telling you this, but there are a number of ways you can save money when learning to drive.
1. Don't just think you are only learning when sat at the side of your instructor. If you study the Highway Code and other books frequently in the periods between lessons and get to know and understand the rules, you can spend less time talking and more of your lesson time experiencing the wide range of situations you'll need to deal with on your test. Result - fewer lessons
2. Practice with friends or family. As long as you're insured and the person supervising you is at least 21 years old and have had their full driving licence for 3 years or more then this is perfectly legal. Make sure you speak with your instructor first to ensure you are ready for private practice without the help of dual controls. Result - fewer lessons
3. Ask your instructor if you and a friend can learn together. You get to sit in the back watching and listening to your friend's lesson and therefore learning from any explanations the instructor gives or any mistakes your friend makes and vice versa. And you get twice as long for your money. Result - fewer lessons
4. If you can help it don't take 1 hour per week at the early learning stages. If you can afford it, try to fit at least a couple of 90 minute lessons in each week. This helps you retain more information over a shorter period of time. You can always reduce this when practising with friends or family. Result - fewer lessons
5. Watch YouTube videos. There are loads of good ones showing you what to do and there are even official videos showing you what to expect on the test. This visual way of learning helps you retain more information. Result - fewer lessons
6. Make sure you're ready for your test. There's the test fee to consider and the cost of a double lesson on the day. Don't go if you're not ready as this results in you paying for another test and more lesson time. Ask your instructor to conduct a number of mock tests and to keep you regularly informed on your progress. Result - fewer test attempts
7. During your lesson, listen carefully to what your instructor is telling you. Ask questions if you don't understand and make notes whenever possible. Reviewing these notes after your lesson will help you retain information longer. Result - fewer lessons
8. Avoid being suckered into cheap deals. As the saying goes, you only get what you pay for and you could end up spending more in the long term. Result - fewer tears before bedtime and fewer lessons
9. Tell your instructor if you don't feel you are progressing well enough and come up with a plan to help progress more. If this doesn't work you should consider changing your instructor. Styles clash sometimes and you may find a different style suits you better. Result happier lessons and fewer of them.
10. Make it important that you do well and learn to drive safely and responsibly. Being a good student and having the right attitude to learning means that you will achieve your goal sooner. Result - fewer lessons and fewer tests.
There you have it straight from the horses mouth. If you study well and find the right instructor for you, there's no reason for you to scrimp on quality, even if you are on a tight budget.
When you are working to a limited budget hiring a professional often appears to be a luxury. This is probably why DIY is so popular - it can't be that hard can it?
My garage is full of tools I've bought for a particular job and never used again, I've completed the job to a fair degree of satisfaction and saved some money but it never really looks like a professional has done it. My garage also has it's fair share of part completed 'projects' where what seemed to be a straightforward easy job turned out to be slightly more complicated than I'd imagined.
To a large extent this is the case with learning to drive. Loads of people can drive and therefore think it must be easy to teach someone to do it and part of me agrees - driving is not rocket science and even an amateur is allowed to teach you and there's a chance of passing the driving test, even when using techniques that are less than car or wallet friendly.
"If you think hiring an expert is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur"
So why pay a professional?
The difference lies in both the effectiveness and efficiency of learning from a professional.
The cost of learning is quantifiable and therefore it's really easy to see exactly what it costs and think "wow that's expensive." However, it takes a long-term view to see how the techniques taught by a good instructor could save you £1000's. The techniques an excellent instructor teaches you could save you even more.
Take for example the average driver's mileage of around 10,000 miles per year and the cost of fuel at 20p per mile, that's £2,000 per year. But what if you applied the fuel-saving techniques taught by your instructor and reduced this to 15p per mile, it would save you £500 per year.
I recently helped a pupil, initially being taught by her parents, get an extra 18 miles per gallon. Over a lifetime she could save enough money to buy a new car!
Added to these savings is the potential reduction in maintenance costs such as, amongst other things, replacing worn out clutches, brakes, tyres and steering and of course a reduction in insurance premiums by avoiding crashes.
You may not fail a driving test for using certain habits or techniques that are unlikely to be corrected when learning with an amateur, but over a period of time these are serial clutch killers. Habits such as 'riding the clutch' or occasionally unnecessarily 'slipping the clutch', or sitting at traffic lights in first gear with the clutch at the 'biting point' for long periods. These faults may not be deemed worthy of marking on a test but can take thousands of miles off the lifetime of the clutch. Considering that a replacement clutch is going to set you back a good £400-£600 these are expensive habits to have. This cost is comparable to around half of the current fee for learning to drive with a professional. The difference being, you only pay to learn to drive once. When treated well a clutch can last the lifetime of the car, yet if treated poorly may need to replaced regularly.
Another common habit we see that leads to additional wear and tear is changing down through each gear instead of using the more effective, and cheaper to replace, brake components . You really don't want to know what it costs to replace a gearbox.
I often recall a conversation I had with a friend many years ago. He was buzzing because he'd just taken his 4 year old car for a service and he still had 50% of his brake pads left.
"Not bad for 40,000 miles" he beamed.
I replied "that's interesting Rob, haven't you recently had your clutch replaced?"
"Yes" he said.
"How much did that cost you?"
"Oh, and how much would it have cost you to replace your brake pads instead? About £40?"
He didn't reply, but you could see the sudden dawning of realisation on his face.
You may have noticed that I've used the words 'could' and potential' a lot so far. This is because these savings rely on YOU doing what you've been taught, not just in the first few weeks of driving but for a lifetime (a lifetime that can be greatly reduced if you don't). And don't listen to that nonsense about learning to drive properly once you've passed your test, this just makes others more comfortable with their bad habits. You're as much an expert as they are.
Saving a few quid here and there may seem like a good idea in the short-term and I'm all for parents or friends helping out by giving learners the chance to gain experience in addition to driving lessons and actively encourage this, but a wise person should look at the money they are paying for an Approved Driving Instructor as a long-term investment in theirs or their child's future.
Something that has stayed with me is a phase my old House-master at school often said "the saddest two words in the English language when put together are...if only"
He's right you know.