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10 signs you’re with the wrong driving instructor

We often have learner drivers come to us after they have already had lessons with another driving school or instructor, and haven’t wanted to continue with them.

Over the years our instructors have heard lots of stories from pupils about the frustrating and sometimes upsetting experiences they’ve had, including one who was told on their first lesson, “You’re the reason public transport was invented.” It would be 18 months before they plucked up the courage to book another lesson.

We believe learning to drive should be a fun and positive experience; if you dread the arrival of your weekly lesson, you might like to consider switching to a different instructor.

With this in mind, we’ve put together the top 10 reasons we’ve heard learners have wanted to change to our instructors – all signs of an instructor who is not delivering the level of service you are entitled to expect. We’re proud to say we don’t condone any of the following, and it’s not the experience you will have with How-2-Drive.

My instructor shouts at me

Getting shouted at is probably the most common complaint we hear from pupils who’ve ditched an instructor, and there’s simply no excuse for it. As with any kind of learning, it’s never an effective way to get the best out of someone. It is not something you should have to put up with, especially when you are paying good money for the lesson.

Although you might be nervous, driving lessons should be something to look forward to; you should certainly never arrive home in tears.

Part of becoming a driving instructor is proving to an examiner that they have learnt to deliver lessons in a ‘pupil-centred’ way. This means you are the focus of the lesson, and it is up to them to work out how best to teach you and communicate with you.

They should adapt their lessons to your individual skills and weaknesses, and through it all remain calm. If they feel like they have to resort to shouting at you to be understood, they aren’t doing their job properly.

I’ve done loads of hours but no manoeuvres yet; we spend more time talking than doing

This is a common complaint and must be hugely frustrating when you know you’ve spent money on a lesson and you want to progress, but you go home feeling like you’re no further forward.

You could talk all day about how a car works, the Highway Code, and who has right of way on a particular junction, but the truth is you will never learn how to actually drive until you get practical, hands-on experience.

Although you might not be driving here, there and everywhere, and performing every manoeuvre going on day one, you should feel like you are working towards an end-goal, and becoming competent at the things on which you will be tested.

At How-2-Drive, all of our learners have a handbook with a record of their progress. You should feel like there is a proper structure against which you can measure how you are doing, and know what is coming next.

This is also a complaint we hear sometimes when a learner has bought a discount deal. It could be the instructor doesn’t want to use much fuel in the lesson, so they can recoup some of the money they have lost in offering the deal.

If you find a deal that looks too good to be true, make sure you check what the lesson will entail and that you’re happy with what is on offer.

I was asked to pay up front for 40 lessons before even getting in a car

Learning to drive is a big financial commitment, before you even get on to buying and insuring a car. Many driving schools and instructors offer deals to block book lessons at a reduced price, as we do in offering 10 hours of lessons for £250. By signing up to the lessons, the instructor is able to block out the time over a number of weeks, and is happy to offer a reduction in price to know they have that commitment.

However, you should always have the chance to try out a lesson with an instructor, to make sure they’re a good fit, before commiting to a big payment. At How-2-Drive we offer your first two-hour lesson for the price of one, so you can try us out. Being asked to pay for dozens of lessons upfront seems very unreasonable to us, and likely impossible for most people to afford.

If you decide to go for an intensive course, you will usually be asked to pay up front as the instructor will be blocking out their calendar for you. But you should always get transparent details about what is included and possible additional charges.

I paid for more lessons than I needed and didn’t get the money back

If you do block book lessons, and pass your test before you have used them all, you should get the extra payment back from your instructor.

For example, if you book 10 hours of lessons with us, but you only use eight, we would refund you the two hours you haven’t used.

You might want to check this is the case with your instructor before handing over a large amount of money, especially if you are getting close to taking your test.

My instructor seems disinterested and spends a lot of time on their mobile phone

Driving instructors should not be using their mobile phone during a lesson, it is illegal. They might not be sat in the driving seat, but they need to be able to intervene if necessary, so it is as dangerous for them to be distracted by a phone as it is for you.

In March 2017, the penalty for drivers caught using a mobile phone doubled, and it applies to instructors too. Being caught using a phone can land you six penalty points and a £200 fine, and instructors can be removed from the ADI register if they have six points on their licence. It could basically cost them their job.

Even if they aren’t playing on their mobile phone, your instructor should be fully focused on what you are doing during the lesson. It’s not just about safety, but making sure that you get the most from your lesson and feeling like they are invested in your learning.

My instructor gets more stressed than me when things are going wrong

An instructor who is more stressed than the learner driver is probably not in the right job. If they can’t remain calm and reassuring, how are you supposed to when something unexpected happens?

Training to become an instructor involves taking tests that hold them to a higher standard than the driving test you will take, to ensure they are really safe and competent road users.

A central part of their job is taking you out onto roads where you can face many different hazards and potentially dangerous situations. You need to feel confident that the person sitting next to you is going to remain calm under pressure, even if you sometimes feel like you’re struggling.

My instructor doesn’t do what I want – I’ve said I want to practice roundabouts but we keep doing T-junctions

Your instructor is ultimately responsible for teaching you everything you need to know to become a safe driver, equipped to handle whatever scenarios you face, and pass your test along the way. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take on board how you feel too.

If there is a manoeuvre you don’t feel confident on, but they are racing ahead to the next thing, you’re not going to get a chance to master it for your test. You should be able to talk to them each lesson about how things are going, what you would like to focus more on, and which things are now coming easily so you can move on.

As mentioned above, your lessons should be ‘pupil-centred’, so they shouldn’t be exactly the same as lessons your instructor delivers for other pupils. They should be based on you and your needs.

My instructor keeps turning up late and ending lessons early

This is clearly unacceptable and you shouldn’t have to put up with it. You’re paying for an allotted amount of time, and you should get the full lesson’s value. Losing time on lessons means you won’t achieve as much as you could each time, which will ultimately delay you in being able to book your test and cost you more money.

My instructor has a set mileage for every lesson

This is obviously an unfair way to deliver driving lessons – depending where you live and what roads and junctions you have around you to practice manoeuvres on, you could be seriously disadvantaged compared to other pupils paying the same money.

It could also make it much more difficult for you to get in the practice you need.

Lots of instructors will ask you to be reasonable about pick-ups and drop-offs, for example, if you live in North Norfolk but work in Suffolk, it’s unlikely your instructor will be able to accommodate going from one to the other.

But your lessons shouldn’t be limited by how many miles it takes to work your way through everything you need to do to become test-ready.

My instructor keeps cancelling lessons at the last minute

In the same way as your instructor would get annoyed with you, and most likely still charge, if you kept cancelling on them at the last minute, the same goes the other way round too. Once you have booked a lesson with them, you should be able to rely on them honouring the booking and turning up when they say they will.

Of course things happen from time to time, which may be unavoidable, but if it feels like it is becoming a habit and you can’t rely on them, especially as the test comes closer, it might be time to look elsewhere.

What can I do if I am unhappy with my instructor?

Whether you’re early on in your learning journey or close to being test-ready, if you aren’t happy with your instructor then you can choose to change. A good instructor will be able to quickly assess your skill level and work out what your remaining lessons need to focus on, so don’t feel like changing instructors will derail your learning.

At How-2-Drive, our team of instructors pride themselves on not behaving in the ways described in this post. In fact, we are sometimes gobsmacked at the stories we hear from pupils about their experiences.

We truly believe in pupil-centred lessons and in giving all our learners a positive experience. We want to help you become a safe driver and pass your test as quickly as possible, making sure we leave you feeling confident about getting behind the wheel on your own.

If you would like to try a lesson with one of our instructors, feel free to get in touch. If your previous lessons have left you feeling anxious about trying again, we’ll work with you to make your new lessons as relaxed as possible, and make you feel more confident.

If you want to make a complaint about an instructor to the DVSA, because their conduct is unsafe or unfair, you can follow their guidance.