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Driving School or Independent Driving Instructor?

Driving Schools: a modern take on lesson time

  • Driving Schools - How to pick the best one for you

Driving schools, despite their slightly misleading name, are simply companies that offer driving lessons, as opposed to individual instructors.

The main driving schools in the UK are mostly ones you’ll have heard of one way or another: the AA; BSM; Bill Plant; RED driving; along with a handful of others who offer lessons over a few counties or even countrywide.

The main advantage of using a driving school for your lessons is that, like any company chain, you get relatively consistent standards wherever you are in the UK. If someone in Essex recommends one of the national driving schools to you, you can be secure in the knowledge that you’ll get the same level of tuition from your local instructor in Cumbria as they did from theirs. What’s more, if your friend in Essex passed first time round and gave a glowing report of her experience, then going with the same company can often be a safe bet.

Driving schools are also popular because of their competitive pricing. Most of the national schools like BSM and the AA have special offers for new learners, such as the first lesson free, or 5 lessons for the price of three. These offers are fantastic if you’re nervous about driving, have little or no experience, or simply aren’t sure where to start. Their standard lesson rates are still fairly good, averaging at about £23 per hour (excluding London).

Another good reason to opt for a driving school is their flexibility. Despite being franchises (each instructor operates independently, earning as much or as little as they want) most driving school instructors are much more willing to adapt to your needs than individual instructors. This is especially useful if you intend to take lessons as part of your commute to work (and even more so if your place of work is a fair distance from your home). They can also be more flexible in terms of lesson times, as many franchise instructors will be employed by the driving school full-time. In contrast, many independent instructors teach part-time around an existing job (although in the interests of fairness we should point out that this isn’t always the case).

Peace of Mind

When it comes to choosing an instructor, opting for a driving school can give you a lot more customer satisfaction, too. Not only have you got a uniform quality of tuition to rely on, you can be sure that lesson pricing won’t change depending on your area or postcode. If you don’t like your instructor, it’s usually quite easy to switch to a different one (though they might be in a slightly different location) and if you have any serious problems or questions, as a national company it’s a lot easier to get answers and resolutions than it would be with an individual, independent instructor.

Of course, there are also some disadvantages to driving schools – the main one being that, by sheer dint of their popularity, your local instructor might be too busy with existing tutees that they can’t take on any new learners. You might also find that your lesson times are limited by other learners’ bookings, although it’s rare that this is a consistent problem.

As the schools are national companies, you can also get a sense of impersonality from your lessons – though this can happen just as often with independent instructors.

The key when it comes to making your choice is to read up on all your local options, and see which one you feel most comfortable going with. Just because they’re a big national brand doesn’t mean they’re the right driving school for you – you might not even opt to go with a driving school at all! But bear in mind all the reasons why driving schools are so popular around the UK – that many people can’t be wrong.

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