Aftermath of Covid-19 still affecting those learning to drive

Driving lessons have increased in price since 2018 and now it is harder for people to learn to drive than it used to be.

Before the pandemic, the price of an hourly driving lesson averaged at £28.47, however since 2021 40% of instructors have upped their prices by an average of 9% across the board. 

At the start of 2020, 52% of instructors priced lessons between £25 – £29, however in 2021 this fell to 38%.

Due to a significant backlog since lockdown came to an end, 30% of driving schools have reduced the frequency with which somebody is able to book a lesson and 28% have had to remove or reduce special offers that were once in place. 

Alan Stanton, a learner driver, said: ”The cost of driving lessons has increased considerably since lockdown due to increased demand. Driving test wait times have quadrupled and those who lost their jobs or businesses, or had to retire early cannot afford to own a car.”

Data of the price increase for hourly lessons in Kingston since 2018
Source: Prices taken from company websites. Credit: Chloe Curd – Created with Flourish

In Kingston there are plenty of driving schools to choose from, however all of them have increased their prices since 2018, making affordability harder for those looking to learn.

Many driving instructors have had to increase their working hours to ensure they have time to accommodate all of their learners.

Philip Harris, a driving instructor said: ”After the pandemic a lot of instructors and examiners left their jobs, as they didn’t want to do a job which is one on one and in such a close proximity, hence the shortage.”

Instructors have become more likely to only take on those who have already got a test booked, rather than those starting from scratch.

”Now a whole group of ticket tout style agencies allow people to buy tests from them, sometimes for a day, a week or a month later for between £150-£300, which is totally legal. There is no law against booking tests in other peoples name and then selling those and changing the details,” said Harris.

In an attempt to reduce the strain on the instructors, the DVSA announced in June 2021, that driving examiners will return to carrying out seven tests a day in England, Scotland and Wales, to allow them to increase capacity across the national network by an average of 15,000 to 20,000 tests per month.

It also bought back the short-notice cancellation fee, which aims to limit the number of people who do not turn up for their tests and free up the slot for another candidate.

Despite efforts to lessen the backlog of aspiring drivers, the current waiting time for a practical driving test through the GOV.UK website is at least four to six months.

In 2023, they announced that there had been a 24.2% increase in the number of driving tests carried out compared to the December of 2022, which had helped bring down the wait of driving tests to 15.1 weeks compared to its previous average of 20.6 weeks.

Rose, who completed driving lessons in Ashford, said: ”I had my driving lessons just before the pandemic, so when lockdown was announced I had to stop. I had to restart from the beginning and it made learning to drive longer than what I had planned.

”I had to reschedule my test and my instructor said I would have to continue lessons while I waited at a price that was higher than I was originally paying before the pandemic.”

As a result of the backlog of lessons it takes people longer to learn to drive and the long waiting times to book tests means that those who are ready to complete their learning are having to continue to pay for lessons while they wait, adding increased financial pressure.

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