Mirror, signal, manoeuvre is least of troubles

learner driverMy 17-year old cousin, Becky, has just started to think about learning to drive – but mirror, signal, manoeuvre has been the least of her troubles.

First she had to make sure that she picked the right driving instructor and with so many driving schools now operating this was a challenge in itself. Should she choose a female or a male driving instructor? A local, independent instructor? Or a well known driving school?

We have a neighbour, Julie, who is a driving instructor and she has had a few pupils that have come to her after having bad lessons with other instructors. Julie told me to tell my cousin that she should be really cautious when choosing an instructor and to check their licence – which should be displayed clearly in the windscreen with his or her photographic identification.

I can remember that I didn’t really enjoy learning with the first instructor that I chose. After a few lessons with him I switched and went on recommendation and learned to drive with a female instructor. I’ve advised Becky to ask for recommendations from friends as this is one of the best ways to choose an instructor – by seeing who your friends get on with and who they pass with.

I’ve told Becky to choose an instructor that she feels comfortable with and someone that she can communicate easily with.

The trouble doesn’t end there for my cousin though because then there’s the whole expense of it all. According to 2010 figures a novice driver will spend an average of £5,731 to get on the road, according to research from Gocompare.com. This is a huge cost that I don’t think my young cousin is yet prepared for.

A provisional licence, lessons, test charges and licence fees can mount up to quite a costly sum. Lessons are likely to cost my cousin around £24/£26 an hour and subsequently her mother an arm and a leg – especially when you consider that on average it takes 45 hours of professional training to pass the driving test.

When my cousin is ready for her test then there are of course more fees she must pay. First there’s the theory and hazard perception examination to shell out for and then the practical. The theory test costs £31 and the practical test costs £62 Monday to Friday, rising to £75 on evenings and Saturdays. There is no set figure on the cost of learning to drive but if Becky doesn’t pass first time things will really start to become expensive.

I wish I had mapped out my finances better when I started to drive. It’s important to do this because there’s the risk of running out of money and having to stop and start lessons which will be more expensive in the long run.

I’m on hand with plenty of advice for my young cousin, but I must admit that I’m not looking forward to telling her that when she does eventually pass there will be a whole lot more to pay out for. New, young drivers face sky-high premiums on top of buying a car. Lots of us consider driving a necessity but just getting on the road nowadays is quite an achievement.

Despite all this, my cousin is very excited to get on the road and so she should be. Driving will not leave her with much money but it will give her independence, freedom and hopefully a lot of fun.

By Gemma Senington

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