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How to become a driving instructor
10 min read

How to become a driving instructor

If you’re people-oriented and you love to drive, you might consider pursuing a career as a driving instructor. This article will look at the legal requirements you’ll be expected to meet, the training that you’ll need to succeed, and the different paths you can take once you’re finally a qualified driving instructor.

Who can become a driving instructor?

Successful driving instructors need to have a specific set of skills as well as a certain type of personality. Naturally, you should be a confident and competent driver with a firm grasp of the rules of the road if you want to become a driving instructor. You’ll also need the following skills and attributes:

  • Patience
    You should also be a patient person who can make other people feel comfortable and confident as they learn to drive.
  • Communication skills
    Strong communication skills are very important in this profession. You’ll be expected to explain how to drive in an accessible, easy-to-understand way, and you’ll have to provide your clients with the constructive feedback they need to improve.
  • Time management skills
    As you’ll be juggling multiple clients at once, the ability to manage your time effectively will also prove crucial.
  • Trust
    Clients will expect high levels of customer service and commitment from you. To attract and maintain clients, you’ll need to be able to build relationships with diverse people and earn their trust.

In this way, personal qualities are just as important as qualifications when it comes to being a successful driving instructor. In addition to these traits, you’ll also need to undertake formal training, obtain qualifications, and meet legal requirements.

A driving instructor is a job with a lot of responsibility, which is why it’s strictly regulated.

Can I become a driving instructor with a criminal record?

Technically, you can still become a driving instructor even if you have a criminal record. However, it really depends on the nature, frequency, and severity of your previous offences. Understandably, motoring offences are likely to rule you out entirely from becoming a driving instructor. Likewise, if you’ve ever been disqualified from driving, your application for ADI registration will be quickly rejected.

When the ADI Registrar assesses whether you’re a “fit and proper” person, your criminal record will be taken into consideration. This is part of the application process because a driving instructor is a job with a high level of responsibility. Not only are you coaching people through potentially dangerous experiences, but you’re also entrusted to spend time with them as a figure of authority in a one-to-one setting.

For the above reasons, a history of violent or sexual offences is incompatible with the ADI Registrar’s definition of a “fit and proper” person. This kind of criminal record would mean that you aren’t able to become a driving instructor.

Remember, even if you don’t disclose your criminal record directly, the ADI Registrar will perform background checks to assess your suitability. They will have access to your DVLA records and an enhanced disclosure check will be undertaken.

Becoming a qualified driving instructor

To prepare for your assessments and become a qualified driving instructor, you’ll be expected to undertake additional training and education in three areas: theory, driving, and teaching.

  • Theory
    To become a qualified driving instructor, you’ll have to demonstrate that you understand and can apply the rules of the road. Brushing up on the Highway Code is a great idea, and you’ll also need to revise the meanings of all traffic signs. You’ll also need a confident, in-depth understanding of the theory behind driving safely – for example, how to approach driving in different weather conditions. 
  • Driving
    It goes without saying, you’ll also need practical driving skills. Driver instructor training courses are available to help you strengthen your abilities and perfect your manoeuvres.
  • Teaching
    You don’t just have to prove that you can drive to a high standard both in theory and in practice. Teaching skills are also required. Many people can drive very well, but that doesn’t mean they’re well equipped to teach. Teaching necessitates a certain personality type and knowledge of instructional techniques. Your students will each have their own learning style, and it’s your job to identify and cater to that style. A big part of being a successful driving instructor is planning effective lessons. A good driver instructor course will cover this. It will help you learn to be a driving instructor.

How are instructors assessed?

As per the three elements listed above, you’ll face three assessments on your way to becoming a qualified driving instructor. Click on the dropdown buttons to reveal more on each. 

  • Theory test

    First, you’ll take a theory test. This is like the theory test that all new drivers have to take, and it includes multiple-choice questions to assess your knowledge of the rules of the road. It also includes a hazard perception test. What differentiates it from the typical test is that its content refers to instructional techniques.

  • Practical driving test

    Next, you’ll take a practical driving test. Again, this can be compared to the driving test you took when you first got your license. Driving instructors are expected to pass this test at a high level. If you have a weakness in your driving abilities – for example, you struggle with certain maneuvers – it would be sensible to work on this before you book your test.

  • Instructional ability test

    Finally, you’ll take an instructional ability test. Unlike the other tests, this focuses on teaching, not driving. This is a practical test that seeks to evaluate how you’ll perform as a driving instructor in the real world. You’ll plan and deliver a class to a pupil, using specific teaching strategies. This test will also assess your ability to manage risk as you teach.

How can I prepare for my driving instructor assessments?

To prepare for your assessments, you should undertake driver instructor training. A number of organisations including the AA offer training courses.  The following books may also be useful in addition to your driver instructor course:

  • The Highway Code
  • The Driving Instructor’s Handbook
  • The Official DVSA Hazard Perception and Theory Test Pack
  • Practical Teaching Skills for Driving Instructors
  • Know Your Traffic Signs
  • The Official DVSA Guide to Driving

You’ll also find a range of online resources available to support your studies.

You may be extremely enthusiastic to get started on your career as a driving instructor, but you shouldn’t book these tests until you’re fully prepared for them. Taking each test costs money, after all, as does joining the ADI register and receiving your trainee driving instructor license.

What do I do once I’m qualified?

One of the reasons people are attracted to the career of a driving instructor is the level of freedom and independence that it can offer. However, others prefer to use their skills in a more stable work environment, and that is also available in this profession.

Once you’re fully qualified and registered to teach, you have options. You might join a driving school franchise and benefit from being part of a well-known organisation. You might work for an independent driving school with a strong local reputation. Alternatively, you might start your own driving school business.

Each path has its advantages and its disadvantages, so consider your options carefully and decide which is best for you — based on your circumstances and your personal preferences.

  • Work for a driving school franchise

    If you’re worried about attracting enough clients, a driving school franchise might be a good option for you. Why? Because you’ll be working as part of a well-known brand. That may be preferable to attempting to make own your name as a newcomer against established competitors.

    Often, there are additional benefits to working for a driving school franchise. For example, they might supply you with a vehicle and provide admin support for your activities. In exchange for all this, you’ll be expected to pay a franchise fee and meet certain standards to uphold the brand.

    Before you commit to working for a driving school franchise, ensure that your fee represents value for money. The main disadvantage to this working arrangement is that you enjoy less freedom, but you also have less responsibility. You shouldn’t have to spend time and money marketing your services, for example. A lot of the day-to-day business will be handled by the franchise.

  • Work for an independent driving school

    If you’d rather work as part of a team but you’re not sure a large franchise is for you, why not join an independent driving school in an associate capacity? You’ll enjoy greater freedom, for example, in selecting the car you wish to teach from, but you’ll still enjoy the infrastructure and marketing services provided by the driving school.

    Like you were joining a franchise, you’ll still be expected to pay a fee. The good news is that this fee tends to be much lower than the typical franchise fee. When joining an independent driving school, you’ll also have to sign a contract. Of course, you should confirm that the agreement meets your needs before you make any commitment.

    Because an independent driving school affords more freedom than a franchise without the responsibility of setting up a brand-new business, many newly licensed driving instructors find this to be a good “middle way” for their career paths.

  • Set up your own driving school business

    This is undoubtedly the most ambitious option of the three, and it could be considered the riskiest too! On the plus side, setting up your own business means you won’t owe a fee to anyone, and you’ll be free to work exactly as you like. However, you’ll also have many responsibilities beyond simply teaching.

    Without the infrastructure of an established driving school, you’ll have to handle your own accounting, scheduling, customer service, and marketing. All of this can be very time-consuming! If you’re not experienced in these areas, you’ll have to invest your time (and potentially your money) in learning the new skills that you need.

    Whether this is the right option for you or not really depends on your personality.

    • Do you enjoy working alone?
    • Are you excited by the prospect of new challenges?
    • Are you motivated to build a business from scratch?

    If you say yes to all of the above, you might enjoy great success and satisfaction setting up your own driving school business.

How much does a driving instructor earn?

When you first start working as a driving instructor, you can expect to earn anything from £15,000 a year. Over time, as you build a reputation and a strong network, you’ll probably attract more clients and so earn more money. It will also depend on the career path you take. Here’s why:

  • Franchise
    Joining a franchise might seem like the safest option for a newly qualified driving instructor that wants a certain level of financial stability. After all, being part of a well-known brand guarantees a steady influx of clients. The downside of this arrangement is that a significant percentage of any money earned will be eaten up by your franchise fee. This limits your earning potential.
  • Independent driving school
    To pay a smaller fee and still avoid the gamble of going it alone, you might choose to join an independent driving school. The fee you pay will ensure that marketing is taken care of, which saves both time and money. Because this is considered a compromise between joining a franchise and starting a new business, many driving instructors are attracted to this option. They’re able to keep more of their earnings and they still benefit from being part of a (smaller) brand.
  • Setting up your own business
    If you choose to go it alone and start your own driving school, you won’t have to lose any money on fees. However, you’ll have to invest in promotional materials to attract new students. You could find it difficult to draw potential students away from more established driving schools. Since a busy schedule of lessons is far from guaranteed, this is considered the riskiest option when it comes to earnings. Of course, the risk could pay off and setting up your own business could become incredibly successful. Some driving instructors wait until they have built a wealth of experience working for other schools before they take the leap and start their own.

Choosing a car for driving lessons

If you work for a franchise, your vehicle will most likely be chosen for you. However, if you work as part of an independent driving school or start your own business, you’ll have the freedom to choose the car you teach from. This is an important decision given how much time you’ll spend in it!

You don’t necessarily need to buy a new car for this purpose. You could lease a business vehicle and use it exclusively for driving lessons. You’ll find that there are leasing packages available that are designed for this specific purpose. No matter which way you choose to finance your vehicle, you should choose it thoughtfully.

  • Two people riding in a car
    Dual controls

    First of all, look for cars that have dual controls. These are a driving instructor’s best friend! They empower you to interfere when a student makes a dangerous mistake on the road.

  • Cars parked

    You also need to purchase a car that is in excellent condition. It’s understandable to be tempted by a bargain, especially when you’re trying to save on startup costs. However, if your car isn’t able to handle a lot of miles on the road, it simply isn’t fit for purpose.

  • claiming back vat
    Fuel economy

    It does make sense to buy a car that delivers fantastic fuel economy. The last thing you want is to overspend at the petrol station.

  • Man driving car

    Consider the needs of your student first and foremost. A convertible might look cool, but it won’t provide all-around vision for your student. Instead, you should invest in a hatchback or a saloon car.  Find a car that’s easy to handle.

  • Automatic transmission hybrid car CVT continuously variable
    Manual or automatic?

    Have you decided whether you’re going to teach in a manual or an automatic car yet? If you’re qualified to teach both, you should perform some market research to see which is most popular with your target client base. This will be one of the most important decisions you make for your business!

Types of driving instructor insurance

The importance of business car insurance as a driving instructor shouldn’t be underrated. In the unfortunate event that your car is damaged, you’ll need it back on the road as quickly as possible. A standard-issue insurance policy won’t be sufficient. Instead, look for insurance that’s specifically designed for driving instructors.

Make sure that any insurance policy you invest in applies to any and all drivers. If an accident occurs while a student is behind the wheel, you need your car to still be covered. “Any driver” cover permits students with a provisional driving license to operate your vehicle.

When your car is out of action, insurers will offer a replacement. However, you’ll need a specific kind of replacement if you want to continue with your classes. Find insurance that promises a dual control vehicle in the event of an accident.

The car of a driving instructor isn’t like any other car. You’ll probably use modifications like extra mirrors or an additional speedometer to support your students. If your car is damaged, these modifications need to be taken into consideration. Ensure that your insurance is willing to cover and replace them if required.

Something that is non-negotiable is “hire and reward” cover: this is a legal obligation! Anyone who carries people or property in their vehicle for payment has to have this kind of insurance. Although you’re not a taxi service or a delivery driver, “hire and reward” still applies.

Where can I get more advice becoming a driving instructor?

Now you understand the ins and outs of this profession and how to become a driving instructor. If you still need more specific advice or information tailored to your individual situation, you might consider approaching the following organisations:

  • The ADI Federation

    The ADI regulates the approved driving instructor database. This is an independent organisation that provides support to drivers on its register. You can obtain information, access support, and attend meetings with fellow registered driving instructors by contacting the ADI federation.
  • Driving Instructors Association

    The DIA is a professional body for both qualified and trainee instructors. Here, you can access educational resources related to driving instruction. If you’re already qualified, you can build more specialist skills through their driving instructor training. The organisation has its own magazine and it also runs industry events for members.
  • Motor Schools Association

    The MSA is the senior national association for approved driving instructors. This is an information resource for driving instructors, and it also provides services and support. The MSA has ten different regions, each with its own chairperson, so you might choose to communicate with your local contact for area-specific advice.

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