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How long does it take to learn to drive?

Learning to drive is a milestone, and while you might be raring to go after a few spins around the car park, safely mastering driving can take a lot longer.

Last updated: 17/12/2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Learning to drive is a milestone for many Brits, whether they’re working toward their licence at 17 or later in life. But while you might be raring to go after a few spins around the car park, safely mastering driving can take a lot longer.

Most people learn to drive through a combination of lessons with a qualified instructor and practice with a licenced parent, family member or friend. There’s no mandatory minimum number of lessons or hours of practice, but the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) says it takes most people 45 hours of lessons and 22 hours of practice to learn to drive.

In This Guide:

How long are driving lessons?

Driving lessons usually last between 60 and 90 minutes. This gives you enough time to learn new skills and try them out under the watchful eye of your instructor.

If you take an intensive driving course, packing hours of lessons into a week or two, you should expect lessons lasting between two or six hours, with breaks.

How many driving lessons do I need?

There is no legal minimum number of lessons you need to take before sitting your driving test. But with the practical test costing £62, you don’t want to try before you’re ready. Instructors usually won’t suggest you book a test until they’re confident in your abilities.

According to the DVSA’s data, the average person needs 45 hours of driving lessons. If you take one or two lessons a week, it should take you between six months and a year to finish your lessons. 

Government data backs this up, showing that 67.7% of learner drivers obtain their full licence within a year of first receiving their provisional licence. Just 18.5% manage it in under six months.

However, everyone is different. Older drivers tend to pass more quickly, while those under 34 take a little longer.

Some people find it easier and quicker to learn to drive on an automatic vehicle, rather than one with a manual transmission. However, if you pass your test on an automatic, you’ll only be licenced to drive automatic cars.

How long does it take to learn theory?

While most drivers focus on the practical test, you’ll also be tested on your knowledge of the highway code, traffic signs and driving skills in the theory test. As with practical driving, the length of time you’ll need to prepare for the test varies, depending on how quickly you retain new information.

Most learners study theory a few hours each week over a month, then take a few mock tests online before sitting the real thing.

Once you’ve passed your theory test, your pass certificate is valid for two years. You must pass your driving test within that time or you’ll need to pass the theory test again.

How long does the test last?

The driving test should take around 40 minutes, including 20 minutes of independent driving from traffic signs or a sat nav. However, if you’re taking an extended driving test because you’ve previously been banned from driving, you'll need to allot 70 minutes.

During the theory test, you have a maximum of 57 minutes to complete 50 multiple-choice questions. You’ll then have to spot the hazards in 14 one-minute videos. This means the test takes a maximum of one hour and 11 minutes, although you may progress through it more quickly.

How can I speed up the time it takes to learn to drive?

While you shouldn’t rush learning to drive, there are a few steps that can safely put you behind the wheel as soon as possible:

  • Book an intensive driving course: Intensives allow you to pack many hours of lessons into a week or two weeks.
  • Find an instructor who fits your schedule: Want to take three lessons a week to learn more quickly? Find an instructor who has that availability and book your lessons in advance.
  • Practice at home: between lessons, you can practice driving with a family member or friend over 21 who has had their full driving licence for three years. A short-term learner driver car insurance policy will cover you behind the wheel of their car without impacting their insurance.
  • Study theory from the start: You can’t take your practical driving test until you’ve passed the theory test. So don’t neglect to study the rules. Taking practice theory tests can help you bone up.

Of course, you shouldn’t be afraid of slowing down and perfecting your driving skills. As a confident, knowledgeable driver, you’ll be more likely to pass your test on the first try and be safe on the road in the future. You can also turn your impeccable driving skills into discounts on your young driver's insurance policy through telematics.

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