On average, it takes people 45 hours of driving lessons and a further 22 hours of practice, usually taken within a year, to learn to drive. This works out to at least 5-6 hours of driving per month.
Government data* secured by Adrian Flux reveals that over 67.7% of learner drivers get their full licence within a year of first receiving their provisional. Only 18.5% manage it in less than six months and these people are more likely to be experienced, older drivers than new drivers.
From finding an instructor to taking your theory test, there are many stages of learning to drive – and each one takes time. While the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) says that you need approximately 45 hours of lessons and 22 hours of practise, this figure doesn’t account for any time spent outside the car. How long does it take to find an instructor? Are there waiting lists for lessons? Can you book a test as soon as you feel ready?
These unanswered questions are why Adrian Flux put in a Freedom of Information request to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – to find out how long, in months, it actually takes to drive. This offers learners more insight into whether they have time to learn before moving for university, when they will finally be able to take a road trip with their best mates or when they can put a case forward to their parents about getting a new car.
*Data shows time taken for a driver to claim their full licence from the date they obtained a provisional licence from 2017 until 4 May 2019 by age range and postcode. Source: DVLA.
How age plays a factor
Data obtained by Adrian Flux shows that age plays a big role in how long it takes to learn to drive. While those aged 44 and under are most likely to get their licence in six to 12 months, older drivers are most likely to be quicker (less than six months). In fact, 51% of 65-70-year-olds have less than six months between getting a provisional and a full licence.
The slowest learners are 25-34-year-olds.
By 18 months after first registering their provisional licence, 92% of 16-24-year-olds have got their full licence. This falls to 89% for 25-34-year-olds – the smallest percentage across all the age groups. This could suggest a golden window of opportunity for those aged 25-34 and that if you don’t finish learning in the first 12 months, you’re more likely to take 18 months or longer.
In contrast, 99% get their full licence within 18 months in the over 70s group. Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that only 100 over-70s got their full licence in the time period we reviewed.
The length of time it takes to drive also varies by location
Where you live in the UK also has an impact on the length of time it takes to learn to drive. Learners in Llandrindod Wells are not only almost twice as likely as average to get their licence within six months (36.3% compared to 18.5%) but have an overall pass rate of 66.2%. That’s over 20% higher than the average pass rates for the UK as a whole and the second-best pass rates in the country. Not a bad record for a small spa town in central Wales – perhaps there really is something in the water?
East Central London, West London, Western Central London, South West London make up the rest of the top five fastest-learner locations. When looking at the data for those getting their full licence in six to 12 months, Llandrindod Wells still tops the list (with 82.9%), this time with Galashiels, Aberdeen, Guildford and Taunton completing the list.
On the other end of the spectrum, Halifax, Oldham and Wolverhampton appear in the ten worst areas for getting a licence with six months and 12 months. It’s likely not a coincidence that these places also appear in the top five worst pass rates in the country.
There is also a link between the insurance risk of a location and the length of time it takes to learn to drive. Using our own data, we can see that five of the 20 postcodes that we deem the highest risk (based on previous claims) also have the lowest percentages for getting a licence within six to 12 months.
Essentially, the data suggests that the higher the insurance risk in your area, the less likely you are to get your full licence within 12 months.
How it all breaks down…
Now you know how long overall it will take to get your licence, but how does that break down into each stage of the learning process? Below, we offer you an idea of how long each step will take, so that you can plan your exciting journey to become a fully-fledged driver.
Before you get behind the wheel
From applying for your licence to planning your lessons, there’s plenty to think about when you learn to drive, even before your first lesson.
Getting your provisional licence
You can get your provisional licence by completing an online application form or picking up a paper version from an eligible Post Office (ask for form D1). It will cost you £34 to apply – or £43 for postal applications – something to bear in mind if you need to save up first.
Once you’ve applied, you should receive your licence within one week. It can be longer if the DVLA require further checks, but this is only in certain cases.
While you can’t start driving until you’re 17, you can apply for your provisional licence as soon as you reach 15 years and 9 months (and can read a number plate from 20 metres away). Doing so means you can skip this step when you reach driving age and head straight into the step below – finding a driving instructor.
If you’re planning to practise driving in a parent or friend’s car, you’ll also need to get insurance, which you can do once you have your provisional licence. Rather than being added as a named driver to someone else’s car, you may find it works out cheaper to get your own policy. Learn more about Adrian Flux’s provisional car insurance.
Finding a driving instructor
Unless you live somewhere very remote, you should have plenty of choice when looking for a driving instructor. In fact, there are around 40,000 driving instructors in the UK (Source: DVSA/DfT, June 2019).
If you want to find cheap driving lessons, it’s a good idea to spend a few hours comparing rates. Google is a good place to start, but also check discount voucher sites like Wowcher and Groupon to see if you can find a good deal. Of course, rates are not the only factor to consider when choosing a driving school. You may be spending up to a year learning to drive, so you should also make sure they are trustworthy and patient – online reviews are helpful for getting a sense of what the instructor is like.
You should also consider that not everyone will have availability straight away – areas where there are fewer driving instructors may have waiting lists. It’s therefore a good idea to have a backup option or, even better, plan ahead – start your research as soon as you send off your provisional licence application.
Saving up for lessons
It won’t be a surprise for you to read that learning to drive can be expensive. The average cost of a driving lesson is £26 per hour – and you’re likely to have about 45 hours of lessons. If you’re hoping to learn quickly, let’s say within six months, then you’ll need just under £200 per month to cover your costs.
Unless you have the money saved already, or your parents are coughing up the cash, it could take several months before you can get started. Planning ahead is important when you want to learn to drive – try to save money a month in advance of starting, and then keep saving, so that you know you can continue your lessons until you’re ready for the test.
You could also consider an intensive course, which usually works out cheaper per hour but needs to be paid in one lump sum. Another idea is to book lessons in blocks as soon as you get enough money.
Practical lessons and instructor time
Once you have your provisional licence, have found an instructor and booked your first lesson, the fun begins.
How long is a driving lesson?
A driving lesson is usually about 60-90 minutes long, although some instructors will offer lessons that are two or more hours. If you choose to take an intensive course, you’ll spend longer in the car during each session – expect five or more hours per lesson. You’re unlikely to find any lessons that are under an hour, as there isn’t enough time to learn a manoeuvre and practice it while the information is still fresh in your mind.
How often should I be taking lessons?
The frequency of your lessons really depends on how often you can afford them, your instructor’s availability and your personal schedule. However, if you plan to learn within a year, you should aim for around one or two lessons per week – more if you can manage it.
Don’t forget that most people spend 45 hours on lessons and 22 hours practising with a relative or friend. If you can’t afford to have multiple lessons each week, schedule as much practice time as you can. This will help keep what you’ve learned fresh in your mind, reducing the time spent going over past lessons.
How many driving lessons does it take to pass?
The average amount of driving lessons you need before you’re ready to sit your test will vary depending on the length of your lessons. If it takes about 45 hours of lessons to pass and you take two-hours driving lessons, then you’ll need to complete around 22-23 of them.
Data sourced by Adrian Flux suggests a similar number of lessons. If it takes up to 12 months to get a full licence and you have a lesson each week (minus four weeks for Christmas and holidays) we could estimate it would take around 48 hour-long lessons.
Age also plays a part. The data we have sourced suggests that older drivers learn quicker. For example, 43% of people aged 55-64 get their full licence within six months. Taking into account some holiday time, this is around 22 lessons.
Of course, everyone is different and you should take the test only once you are ready, even if this means 50 or 60 lessons!
Factor in the theory
Before you can take your practical theory and trade in your provisional for a full licence, you’ll need to pass your theory and hazard perception.
How long does it take to learn driving theory?
The length of time it takes to learn driving theory varies, but if you study for a few hours every week, you should be ready for some mock tests in about a month. You should then do several mock theory and hazard perception tests before you do the real thing, so factor in another week or so.
It’s a good idea to plan ahead. Get your theory test booked when you first start your driving lessons. Not only will this motivate you to revise, it also means you won’t have to wait to find a suitable time and date nearer the time.
You can start to learn driving theory as soon as you want – even before you have your lessons booked, if you like. However, the best time to start is at the same time you get behind the wheel. Learning the theory as you are putting the learnings into practice should help you to remember everything faster.
Sitting the theory test
The driving theory usually takes around an hour to complete. When you get to the test centre, you’ll be allowed a 15-minute practice before your test begins. After this, you will have 57 minutes to complete the theory section before moving on to the hazard perception. For this part of the test, you’ll be asked to spot hazards on 14 one-minute videos. The maximum time spent on the actual test is therefore an hour and 11 minutes.
Practice makes perfect
Taking the time to practice outside your lessons is incredibly helpful for learning to drive. It solidifies your learning, helping you to remember what you’ve been taught and allowing you to get out at different times of day.
As noted earlier, it takes about 22 hours of practice alongside the 45 hours of lessons to be ready for your test. This is a good example of why the 45-hour statistic can be misleading – it doesn’t factor in whether you have access to a car for practice, as not everyone does. The length of time is a better indicator for estimating how long it takes to learn as it doesn’t rely on learners having access to a practice car – it simply takes the average time between getting a provisional and getting a licence. It also shows that age is a factor – a teen learning to drive could take more practice sessions than an older person.
You may find that you learn quicker with a family or friend that understands what is expected of them and how they can help you. Check out our guide to supervising a learner driver (or pass it on to whomever will be helping you learn.)
Taking the test
On average, the practical driving test takes around 40 minutes, although it can be a bit longer depending on traffic. You will find out immediately whether you have passed or failed, so you’ll be able to head home straight away without hanging around for ages.
You will usually be asked to book two-hours with your driving instructor. This will include the time it takes to get to the test centre, getting checked-in, taking the test and then getting home. You may also get a chance for some last-minute practice.
Nobody wants to fail a driving test; with the right tips for passing first time, it’s possible that you’ll never experience this disappointment. However, statistics from the DVSA (June 2019) show that pass rates for a first attempt are about 50% for men and 43% for women, increasing slightly for the second attempt then dropping for subsequent tries. Keep in mind that if you do not pass first time, you’ll need to book another test, which may not be for several weeks or longer. While this might not sound reassuring, remember that the statistics we have sourced shows that most people get their licence within a year, regardless of number of attempts.
Knowing exactly what to expect on the day of your test can help to calm your nerves and give you the best chance of success. Read the Adrian Flux guide to passing your driving test.
Other common questions
How long does it take to get your licence after passing?
Once you’ve passed your test, it will take about three weeks for your physical licence to arrive in the post. However, as long as you are insured to drive on a full licence and your car is taxed, you can get out on the road straight away.
Can I reduce the time it takes to learn to drive?
As you’ll know from this guide, how quick you can pass your driving test depends on a number of factors. However, if you want to learn quickly, you should consider an intensive driving course. While the actual learning time will be similar to those taking weekly lessons, you can learn to drive in a month – or less!
Keep in mind that while most people pass within 12 months, 18.5% of learners across all age groups get their full licence within six months. For under 25s this figure is slightly lower at 16%. One way to speed up learning is to delay it for a few years, as 29% of people aged 25-34 learn within six months.
As mentioned earlier, practicing outside your lessons can also help you learn quicker.
Is learning to drive quicker in an automatic car?
An automatic car is generally easier to drive than a shift transmission – no clutch or gear changes to worry about. It’s therefore likely that you will learn to drive faster by opting for lessons in an automatic car. However, it’s important to note that taking a test in an automatic car means that you will only be able to drive automatics once you pass. If you change your mind and want to drive a standard stick-shift, you’ll need to take another test to prove that you can operate one safely.