So, your offspring has finally reached that age where they’re ready to take the wheel. But rather than spend some terrifying hours in the passenger seat of your own car, trying desperately to avoid numerous accidents as your child tries to learn the basics, you’re better off entrusting their driving development to a proper instructor. Here’s how to find a good one.
Chances are if your child is ready to drive, there will be other youngsters in the area who are either looking to learn or already having tuition behind the wheel. Therefore, get your child to speak to their friends and see who they recommend. If you know the parents of the teenagers who are learning, speak to them and see who they found, and why they chose that particular instructor. This is basically ‘word of mouth’, the best form of advertising you can get.
An extension of this idea is that you should check out any single instructor or driving school online. If they’re a reputable sole trader or business, they should have a proper website with a testimonials section where you can see what other people think of their skills, pricing and attitude. Obviously, a testimonials section is rife for a bit of abuse (as in, the instructor’s partner might be on there, making up ‘false positives’), so make sure you also check out independent customer review platforms like Feefo, Trust Pilot and Google Reviews to get a true flavour of whether or not an instructor/school is respected by their customers.
LOOK AT THE ALTERNATIVES
You might spot an instructor who lives around the corner from you and think that’s the obvious choice, but don’t be forced into just taking the most favourable, geographically speaking. While the logistics of picking a driving instructor who lives 80km away are clearly not straightforward, there ought to be at least two or three choices within a more local area to you – even if you live in one of the remoter parts of the country. Also, check prices… and don’t assume that ‘cheapest equals best’, because it might well be that the least expensive rate per hour means the instructor isn’t hugely experienced or well regarded. Team your information on hourly pricing with the online reviews and word of mouth recommendations you should already have gleaned.
CHECK ON FLEXIBILITY AND AVAILABILITY
Ask the instructor how flexible they are about meeting your child for lessons – can they pick up from the local school or college, as well as from home? What are the cut-offs for cancellations of lessons without incurring fees? Is there any ability to move pre-booked lessons in a day at reasonably short notice? Things happen in life that can mean you need to rearrange things in a short space of time and the last thing you want is an intransigent driving instructor, demanding that lessons take place come what may, in such instances. They’re reasonable people, mind, so they know that things can change but they also have to manage their own hectic diaries if they’re teaching multiple teenagers; so talk to them first to see how busy they are and how flexible they can be.
CHANGE HORSES MID-STREAM
Driving is a universal skill and there are plenty of people who can teach that skill. So if you take the plunge, book an instructor and then your child says, after five or six lessons, that they’re not getting on with the instructor, look to make a change. In the course of reasonable dialogue, it would be sensible to address any concerns you might have about an instructor with them directly before making any change, to see if the concerns can be resolved, but if it’s simply an issue of your child’s and the instructor’s personalities rubbing each other up the wrong way, try someone else as a tutor. The most important thing when learning to drive is that your child is relaxed and able to concentrate on the instructions given and what other road users are up to; if they’re all tense and not happy with the person sharing the car with them, they’ll drive worse.
CHECK THE INSTRUCTOR’S CAR
It’s not realistic that an instructor is going to turn up in a BMW M4 with L-logos on it for your child to learn in, but as instructors can choose their own cars, there will likely be variety in the type of vehicle they might turn up in. Smaller is better when it comes to first-time drivers – little hatchbacks are used as the most common learner vehicles for a reason, so try and find out what make and model of car the instructor you’re looking at uses – if it’s a large saloon, perhaps look elsewhere.