How long does it take to learn to drive?

Time to hit the road?

As a new driver, we understand that you may be anxious to get on the road as soon as possible. However, asking, “How long does it take to learn to drive?” is a little like asking about the length of a piece of string. We all learn at different paces and come to driving with varying levels of familiarity with the road and its vehicles. So there’s no one-size fits all here. 

We’re going to take you through the legal requirements of driving, the rules of the road, and what you can do to get yourself behind the wheel as soon as possible.

How long does the average person take to learn to drive?

According to the DVSA, the average time it takes to learn how to drive equals 45 hours of learning with a driving instructor, plus 22 hours of practising.

But, as they point out, you’ll be much safer on the road after your test if you can get double that. The more practice, the better!

So, what are the legal requirements?

You may be pleased to know that, legally speaking, there’s no minimum number of lessons you must take, or hours you need to have under your belt, to take a driving test in the UK. 

To get a category B licence (which allows you to legally drive a car), you need to go through the following steps:

  • Get your provisional driving licence: Once you are 15 years and nine months old, you can apply for a provisional driving licence. You also have to ensure that you can read a number plate from 20 metres away and that you’ve been living legally in Great Britain for 185 days or more. Once you have your provisional licence, you can start taking lessons and practising. 
  • Take your theory test: There are two parts to this test. The first is a set of 50 multiple choice test questions, and the second is a video test that evaluates your hazard perception. You can take this test once you turn 17. You can book your theory test here
  • Take your driving test: You’re legally eligible to drive a car when you’re 17. You are also eligible if you’re over 16 and have the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This subsidy helps with extra living costs for those who have difficulty getting around. You can read all the details here.

How many hours does it take to learn to drive?

Like learning any new skill, the more driving practice you can get, the faster you’ll learn. 

Learning to drive can be a challenging endeavour, and you want to make sure you connect with the person you’re being taught by. If you’ve opted for a formal teacher, they also need to be a qualified and approved driving instructor (ADI) or a trainee instructor: 

  • If they’re a qualified driving instructor, they’ll have a green badge from the DVSA on their dashboard
  • If they’re a trainee driving instructor, they’ll have a pink badge

If you don’t see a badge, you can report them to the DVSA if they’re taking your money and not qualified to instruct you. Here’s where to do that.

If you have family members or friends willing to help your practice, that’s great! Just make sure that they:

  • Are over 21
  • Qualified to drive the type of vehicle that they’re supervising you in (for example, if you’re practising in a manual car, they must have a manual car licence)
  • Have had a full driving licence from the UK, EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Lichtenstein for three years

Important: There are severe penalties for not being properly supervised when learning to drive. You can be fined up to £1,000 and get up to six points on your provisional licence. So it’s really important to stick to the rules. 

When you are practising, be sure to display your ‘L’ plates.

Another vital thing to consider is insurance. If you’re learning in your own car, you need to have learner driver insurance, and if you’re learning in someone else’s car, you need to be covered as a learner driver under their policy. A professional driving instructor should have all the necessary cover in place.

When are you ready to take your test?

You’ll be ready for your test after mastering the 27 driving skills. These are divided up as:


  1. Legal responsibilities: Abiding by these responsibilities ensures that you and your vehicle are compliant on the roads.
  2. Safety checks to ensure your vehicle is in running order. Remember the acronym FLOWER:
    • Fuel
    • Lights
    • Oil
    • Water
    • Electrics
    • Rubber
  3. Cockpit checks: Are your mirrors, seats, steering wheel, parking brakes, and doors all working correctly?
  4. Security, both of your vehicle and of its contents

Control and positioning:

  1. Controls and instruments: Soon, you’ll get to a point where you don’t even have to think about using the foot, hand, and other controls.
  2. Moving away and stopping: Because getting going (and stopping!) are part of every trip you’ll take, it’s vital to know how to do it safely.
  3. Safe positioning: You’ll learn to stay in your lane, move over safely, and maintain a good distance between you and other road users.

Observation, signalling, and planning:

  1. Mirrors: Using them correctly means that you’ll know what’s going on around you at all times.
  2. Signals: You may know what you’re about to do, but those around you don’t. Correct signalling is all about keeping other road users in the loop.
  3. Anticipation and planning: Learning what’s going on around you on the road and how to respond to it is a critical part of driving. It involves identifying hazards, assessing higher-risk conditions, and knowing how to react to them.
  4. Speed: Knowing the speed limits and when and how to adjust your speed according to the conditions of the road is essential to the safety of you and other road users.
  5. Other traffic: You’ll learn to negotiate the other vehicles on the road, including how to overtake safely and legally, and what to do when you encounter oncoming traffic.
  6. Fuel-efficient driving: Your driving impacts the environment. Understanding how fuel-efficient driving means knowing how to minimise the damage to the world around us (and save us money, too).

Junctions, roundabouts, and crossings:

  1. Junctions: You’ll need to know how to safely negotiate the different types of junctions so that traffic keeps moving.
  2. Roundabouts: These can be confusing, but it’s important that you master what to do when approaching and navigating a roundabout.
  3. Pedestrian crossings: To keep pedestrians safe, you’ll have to understand how the different kinds of crossing work and what to do when you get to one.


You’ll need to know how to master the following manoeuvres:

  1. Reversing
  2. Turning the car around
  3. Parking
  4. Emergency stop

Road types:

You’ll also need to know how to drive on different kinds of roads, including:

  1. Country roads
  2. Dual carriageways
  3. Motorways

Driving conditions:

You’ll also need to know how to negotiate different road conditions, including:

  1. Driving in the dark
  2. Driving in different weather conditions
  3. With passengers and heavy loads

Following routes:

  1. Independent driving and using sat nav: Finally, on the day of your test, you’ll need to know how to follow directions by following sat nav and by obeying traffic signs. 

How long do driving lessons take?

Driving lessons are typically between an hour and two hours per lesson. Some driving instructors recommend that you book the full two hours to ensure that you make quick progress. (Those one-hour classes can really fly by!)

Cost is also a factor here. Driving instructors set their own rates but you’re probably looking at between £25 to £50 per hour. So yes, when you consider that the average is about 45 hours of learning, you can be looking at a pretty steep bill that could take you over £2,250.

The more preparation you do before your lessons and the revision you do after them, the more effective your lessons will be.

If you’re wondering if you can learn to drive in 3 months, the shorter answer is that it’s possible, but probably not the best option. To get in all the instruction and practice you need to be safe on the roads, it’s more realistic to look at somewhere between six and 12 months.

What to expect on the day of the test

The test takes about 40 minutes in total. Approximately 20 of those minutes will be independent driving where you’ll be asked to follow directions, often from a sat nav, while the examiner grades you. 

Before you begin, the examiner will check your eyesight and ask you to perform safety checks on the car.

Quickfire summary

So, how long does it take to actually learn to drive? 

So many factors go into it that there’s no simple answer here.

But here’s a ballpark:

45 of learning with a driving instructor + 22 of practising

Ensure your driving instructor is qualified to teach you by looking for the green or pink sign on their dashboard.

Remember to display your L sign if you are practising with a qualified friend or family member.

There are 27 important driving skills you need to master to navigate your vehicle and the roads safely. Your instructor should help you track your progress. 

Before you take your test, you’ll need to:

  • Get a provisional licence.
  • Take a theory test.

And if you don’t pass the first time, don’t get disheartened. You’ll get there! Only about half of the tests taken are passed.

The journey can be long, but it’s totally worth it! See you on the roads.

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