Driving lesson prices jump as instructors struggle to cope with demand

Learners paying more and struggling to find lessons in wake of lockdown

Almost half of driving instructors have increased the price of lessons since the start of the Covid pandemic as they struggle to make up for lost earnings and deal with huge demand from learners.

A new survey which questioned more than 4,000 UK instructors found that 40 per cent had increased their charges this year, pushing the average price for a lesson above £30.

It also found that instructors had seen a three-fold increase in inquiries for lessons since 2020, resulting in many having to turn away students.

Learner drivers are struggling to book lessons and facing rising costs

In some cases instructors told the survey by learner driver insurance provider Marmalade that they had stopped taking on novice drivers entirely and were only accepting bookings from more experienced students and those with a confirmed practical test date. Almost a third (30 per cent) have also put a limit on the number of lessons a learner can book in order to manage their time and the same proportion reported turning away up to 10 new students every week.

A separate study by the Young Learner driving school found that a quarter of driving instructors had waiting lists of at least three months for new students, with one in six reporting waits as long as six months.

The Marmalade survey found that the average cost of lessons has jumped nine per cent since March 2020, rising from £28.47 to £31.15.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of instructors are charging between £30 and £34 and 21 per cent are asking between £35 and £40 - compared with just six per cent charging in that price bracket in 2020.

Many instructors say they have increased their working hours but are still struggling to meet demand for lessons
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The study found that despite limiting lessons and charging more, many instructors were working longer hours than ever as they tried to keep up with demand. One in five now works more than 40 hours per week, compared with just 7.3 per cent in 2020 and on average instructors are working an extra 4.87 hours per week.

Marmalade CEO Crispin Moger commented: “Learner drivers are still feeling the impact of the past 18 months. We have reported extensively on the instructor shortages in the UK and that ongoing issue doesn’t seem to be improving, which is having a knock on effect for learner drivers in that they have no accessibility to professional tuition.”

Learner drivers have been badly affected by the pandemic with lessons stopped and tests repeatedly rescheduled or cancelled and problems making new appointments. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) says it is doing all it can to create more test slots, including hiring more examiners, but students are still facing a wait of up to three months in some areas.

Some instructors have said the hold-ups in accessing test slots are partly down to third party apps which book up then sell on test slots. Such hold-ups have a knock-on effect, stopping instructors from freeing up lesson space for new students.

One told the survey: “Test availability is the biggest problem we have. These third party companies are buying up tests before ADIs [approved driving instructors] can get them via the online booking system. These companies are just selling test bookings to people – who are not test ready – for profit. This is no different than ticket touting.”

Mr Moger added: “Driving instructors have told us they are plagued by third-party apps which buy up all of the test slots meaning they have no way of their pupils booking a test and leaving their capacity tight. This is a vicious cycle that is only making the situation worse for all parties, leaving learners unable to get on the road to freedom and impacting instructors’ businesses and lives.”