How to become a driving instructor

Driving is an important life skill that gives many people a sense of freedom and, importantly, the opportunity to do the job they want.

That means, however, that there's a need for people to help others master the motoring skills they need to get behind the wheel on their own.

Indeed, in the first quarter of 2017 alone there were more than half a million driving tests taken across the UK - and each person taking their test has, on average, 47 hours of professional tuition.

If you think you'd like to make a living as a driving instructor, our guide lets you know how to become one.

Who can become a driving instructor?

If you're over the age of 21, have held a driving licence for at least three years, can read a licence plate at 90ft, and can pass a criminal records check, then the good news is that you can apply to become an approved Driving Instructor (ADI).

But, as you might expect, there is a bit more to becoming a driving instructor than this.

As well as passing the technical requirements, anyone considering becoming an instructor should possess skills and personality traits that will make the job enjoyable and rewarding.

You will need:

  • To enjoy driving!
  • A deep understanding of driving and the rules of the road
  • A flair for teaching students with a wide range of abilities
  • A clear communication style
  • Patience and calm
  • Time management
  • Motivation to be your own boss

Beyond these soft skills, there are some more practical elements you'll need to consider.

As a driving instructor you'll need to be comfortable working evenings and weekends, with long hours in the summer months when students are off school.

Bookings may well be spread out, which could mean waiting around between lessons.

Can I become a driving instructor with a criminal record?

Having a criminal record does not automatically exclude you from becoming a registered driving instructor.

As part of the application process, you must be considered a "fit and proper person" by the awarding organization.

If you have been disqualified from driving in the last few years or have been found guilty of a serious driving offence, you're unlikely to be found a "fit and proper person".

Whilst some non-motoring convictions may not stop you from becoming an instructor, if you have been found guilty of a crime that involves sexual assault, pornography, assault, or if you are on the sex offenders register or barred from working with children under the age of 18, you're unlikely to be successful in your application.

You will have to undergo a criminal record check when apply to become an instructor, and again every four years as you renew your ADI registration.

Should you receive a conviction after qualifying as an ADI, you will need to write to the ADI register within 7 days.

Becoming a qualified driving instructor

To become a driving instructor, you need to apply through the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency. To begin your application, you will need to:

  • Be 21 or over
  • Have held a driving licence for at least three years
  • Pass a criminal record check
  • Pass a sight test

You will then also need to pass a three-stage examination process:

  1. A theory test. This costs £81 and is a two-part test with multiple choice questions on the rules of the road and instructional techniques followed by a hazard perception test.
  2. A practical driving test. This costs £111 to sit and is a test of your general driving ability - including maneuvers.
  3. An instructional ability test. This also costs £111 and is a test of your teaching abilities. You need to take a pupil with you and show skills in lesson planning, teaching strategies and risk management.

The Government keeps an official register of driving instructor training (sometimes known as ORDIT) which you can use to find where to take your tests.

Once passed, you need to pay £300 to join the approved Driving Instructor (ADI) register - and a further £140 for a trainee driving instructor licence.

Materials to help you to become a driving instructor

There are a number of resources available to help you with the tests you need to take to become a driving instructor. These include:

  • The Highway Code
  • Know Your Traffic Signs
  • The Driving Instructor's Handbook
  • The Official DVSA hazard perception and theory test pack (including DVD)
  • Practical Teaching Skills for Driving Instructors
  • The Official DVSA Guide to Driving - the essential skills

These can be purchased in most bookshops and online.

What to do once you're qualified as a driving instructor

Once you're qualified as a driving instructor you have two options when it comes to securing students.

You can either:

Work for a large driving school as a franchisee

Working for a franchise will provide you with a vehicle and admin support - and allow you to join a recognised name that attracts a list of customers for you.

However, you do need to pay a fee to operate as part of a franchise and this could be more than £200 a week.

That said, there are some perks to being a franchisee, such as fuel cards, discounts on mobile phones, accountancy services and cash back deals.

You may not have as much freedom driving for a franchise as other instructors, but you don't have to worry as much about marketing and running your business day-to-day.

Work for an independent driving school as an associate

Joining a small independent or national driving school as an associate is a great way to take advantage of the marketing and service of an established business, whilst giving you more freedom to operate as you wish.

For example, working as an associate will usually mean you need to secure and equip your own car.

This is good news if you have a family and want to have a five-door car or other options you wouldn't find on a standard instructor's car.

Associates can expect to pay a fee each week to the associated driving school, though this is generally much lower than a franchise fee.

But as an associate, you'll likely be locked into a contract with the driving school for a period of time, making it difficult to leave if their service does not live up to expectations.

Set up your own business

Starting your own business, on the other hand, gives you greater freedom and removes the franchise cost, albeit leaving you to fund your own car and do your own marketing.

As with running any business yourself, you have the chance to manage your own workload, what you charge and how you manage your business.

But the downside is that you are solely responsible for the success of your business, and learning to manage everything from diary management to basic accounting can be a steep learning curve.

Working for yourself as a driving instructor can also be quite lonely, so we'd recommend joining local ADI groups or instructor meetups.

What can you earn as driving instructor?

A new driving instructor can expect to earn between £15,000 to £20,000 a year, with more experienced instructors taking home above £30,000.

But how much you will earn as an instructor really depends on which route you take into the profession. If you choose to join a franchise, you will have ready supply of students and will not need to invest in marketing yourself, but franchise fees will eat into your revenue and could mean you earn less than other instructors who opt to go it alone.

Instructors who go it alone can expect to take home a bigger portion of the revenue they earn from lessons.

But striking out on your own means you are responsible for marketing your business and bringing in students.

Like any new business, things may start out slow, and you should have a plan in place as a backup should your revenues not pick up quickly enough.

Becoming an associate of a driving school is the middle ground between joining a franchise and going it alone.

You can expect to make more money as an associate than as a franchisee, but not as much as going it alone.

But with brand building and marketing taken care, many instructors are happy to sacrifice some earning potential to minimise the burden of running a business.

Choosing a car

If you are setting up your own business, you need to invest in - and maintain - your own vehicle.

You should look for the following:

  • Dual controls to make it easier to step in if/when a learner makes a mistake behind the wheel
  • Be in good roadworthy condition and able to cope with a lot of miles on the road
  • Be a hatchback or saloon - not a convertible as they don't provide all-round vision for the passenger

Many driving instructors choose to lease a vehicle for this purpose - and it is possible to purchase a package that takes into account the needs of a driving instructor.

Insurance for driving instructors

Finally, it's important to consider the insurance package you will need as a driving instructor.

If your car isn't working you are not earning, so it's essential that your insurance takes into account the unique requirements of a driving instructor.

Your policy will need to cover:

Any driver cover

As just about anyone could become a driving student, you must ensure your policy will cover any driver of your car.

This allows students, with the appropriate provisional or full driving licence, to drive your car, regardless of their experience.

Replacement dual control vehicle

Essential if you are an associate or self-employed instructor, should anything happen to your car you need to be back out on the road teaching as soon as possible.

Make sure that your policy can guarantee you a replacement dual control car for a reasonable period of time.

Modified vehicle cover

Chances are your car will have a number of modifications that normal cars do not have.

From an additional speedometer, extra mirrors, to rooftop signs and graphics, make sure that your insurance policy covers the cost of replacing these items should your car be damaged.

Hire and reward

Hire and reward cover will allow you to legally carry other people and their property in your car in return for payment.

This is not covered by standard insurance policies, but is legally required if you are to take payment for the lessons you give.

Where can I get more advice?

You can, however, turn to a number of bodies for support in establishing and running your own driving school.

These include:

  • The ADI Federation
  • Driving Instructors Association
  • Motor Schools Association

Whilst this guide focuses on the specific aspects that go in to being a driving instructor, if you do wish to set up your own business, then you should also check out our guides on the general steps needed to establish your own business.

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Disclaimer: While we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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