Guides | Unqualified Drivers High Learning Costs

Data Reveals that Unqualified Drivers Are Considering Driving Illegally Due to High Learning Costs

With the costs rising in nearly every aspect of our day to day lives, we’ve conducted a survey to explore the impact of the cost-of-living on learner drivers in 2023. Whether it be rising costs of petrol and driving lessons, or rising costs in other areas of day-to-day life, are learners struggling to pay their way on their journey to a pink licence?

Learning to drive is a rite of passage for many people in the UK, but the costs involved are certainly significant.

Driving lessons are known to cost around £35 on average(i), and even when driving with a family member or a friend for practice, fuel prices have skyrocketed in recent years, which has led to an increase in the popularity of fuel cards.

With this in mind, we spoke with learner drivers to see if they were struggling to pay for lessons and other associated costs and asked them if they were considering driving illegally due to financial constraints.

Many UK non-drivers can’t afford to learn

Spending more money with the rising cost of living

We learned that many UK non-drivers are finding driving lessons and other associated costs to be too high at present. A substantial one in five non-drivers (19%) who took part in our poll said that they didn’t have enough money to start booking driving lessons, even though they would like to do so.

In addition, some of the people we spoke with shared that whilst they had already started taking driving lessons, around a quarter of them (23%) found that they’d had to stop booking in any future lessons to continue their progression, as they simply couldn’t afford to book any more in.

Worries around costs run further than driving lesson expenses, too. Almost a third (33%) of non-driving Brits are eager to do so but say they couldn’t afford to pay for car insurance and one in five (21%) think that they would struggle to raise the money to buy a car, even if they were considering cheaper options such as buying a used car.

Of non-drivers that we surveyed, just one in seven (14%) said that they actively avoided driving because it was their preference not to learn.

How much does learning to drive cost?

It’s no secret that costs associated with learning are significant, with driving lessons for the Government recommended time of 45 hours likely to set you back £1,575 on average(ii).

Assuming you pass first time, booking your driving test(iii) and applying for your licence(iv) will set you back a further £119, making learning costs a total of £1,694 – although this could be higher if you need extra lessons or fail your first test.

Back in 2021, the Department of Transport ran a survey on why non-drivers chose to avoid getting behind the wheel. They found that a quarter of non-drivers (25%)(v) felt the cost of lessons was one of the main factors in them not learning to drive.

Our research suggests that figure has now ballooned significantly. Almost half of the non-drivers we spoke to (42%) said that they felt high costs of lessons were the primary reason for them not driving.

Considering the high cost of living in other areas of life in the recent months, it is unsurprising to see that many non-drivers believe that the cost of learning to drive is prohibitive.

Some would consider driving illegally

Worryingly, we found that many of the learners that we spoke to would consider driving illegally without a full UK driving licence, if it meant that they could save some cash.

Close to two-thirds of the non-drivers polled (61%) said that they would consider driving without a licence, as costs associated with learning such as paying for a driving instructor, booking a test, and buying a provisional licence were too high.

Research compiled by our experts suggests that learning to drive, passing your test, and running a car for the first year afterwards can cost almost £10,000 on average(vi), a figure that is understandably beyond the reach of many Brits.

Drivers in Belfast most likely to take the risk

We surveyed non-drivers across major towns and cities in the UK, and there were some clear differences in opinion depending on the location.

People living in Belfast who don’t hold a full driving licence emerged as the most likely to consider driving illegally due to the costs associated with learning to do so.

A steep 82% of non-drivers in Belfast would consider driving illegally – but it was a close-run contest as many UK cities reported high levels of non-drivers considering drastic action.

Top 5 UK cities with non-drivers most likely to drive without a licence due to the high costs associated with learning to drive:

  1. Belfast – 82%
  2. Bristol – 81%
  3. Glasgow – 74%
  4. London – 73%
  5. Edinburgh – 73%
Police van on the streets to combat driving illegally

Younger people more willing to take the risk

We also spoke with non-drivers of different ages as part of our study, and it appears that younger Brits are feeling the pinch more than older people looking to learn to drive.

Around one in three non-drivers (32%) aged 18-24 admitted they want to drive but can’t afford to start lessons. Additionally, over a third (36%) of young drivers (aged 18-24) want to drive but can’t afford to buy a car.

For drivers aged 65 and above, just one in 20 (6%) said that they cannot afford to start driving lessons.

When it comes to driving without a licence, older people are much more likely to follow the law, even in spite of financial difficulties. A whopping 86% of 55-64-year-olds would ‘never’ drive without a licence. By contrast, less than a fifth (18%) of 25-34-year-olds ruled out driving without a licence at some point.

We spoke with Chloe Richards, a 30-year-old Logistic Manager from Cheshire, who told us how the cost of living is impacting her learning to drive: “Due to the cost of rising bills and the cost of lessons, I find it truly impossible to factor into my budget each month. Realistically, it may be 6-12 months or more before I begin learning to drive as saving currently is especially hard alongside essential bills.”

When asked whether the costs associated after learning to drive are putting her off, she said: “Absolutely how could it not turn you off? The price per lesson is double it was before COVID, and the price of fuel is too high that it’s cheaper to get the train to work if need be.”

Regionally, non-drivers in Newcastle were found to be the most sensible, with seven in ten (70%) drivers in the city stating that they would ‘never’ drive without a full licence.

In comparison, the rising costs of driving wouldn’t stop Belfast non-drivers getting behind the wheel. According to the findings, eight in ten (82%) would consider driving without a full licence to save the money associated with learning to driver.

Driving without a licence: the risks

Whilst many non-drivers might feel confident in their ability to drive safely, the UK driving test is among the most stringent in the world, and passing this test is the only way to ensure that each motorist on UK roads is up to standard.

Unsurprisingly, the repercussions for being caught driving without a licence can be severe.

Driving without a licence can result in six points staying on your licence for up to four years(vii) (when you eventually receive it) and could land you a hefty fine.

Those driving without both a full licence and insurance could understandably be more heavily penalised if caught, with a further 6 – 8 penalty points and a fine of up to £5,000 up for grabs. They could also face a potential ban for a set amount of time.

All of this is even before we begin considering the very real possibility that unqualified drivers are at a major risk of causing harm to themselves or others and can even result in death via a road traffic collision in more severe cases.

No matter the financial implications, driving without a licence should never be considered under any circumstances.

Our Conclusions

The survey highlights that you can never be quite sure whether people will take a risk on the roads, and some non-drivers feel that driving without a licence is worth the risk to other motorists.

This makes it all the more important that motorists have proper car insurance in the personal time, and that any organisation with a fleet has proper business insurance to fall back on.

Sources & Methodology

Survey of 500 UK non-drivers conducted in January 2023.
(ii): According to Government data – 45 lessons are needed on average to pass
(vi): Learning costs: £1694

  • Average Yearly Fuel Cost 2023: Petrol £1400.71, Diesel £1172.64 (Average: £1,287)4 – Sources: Gov, DofT, Fleet News and NimbleFins
  • Average Yearly Cost of Insurance 2022 latest data: £424 experienced driver, but over 3x more for young driver, average £1,752 Sources: ABI and Nimble Fins
  • Average cost of buying a car £4,5245 – Source: GoCompare and AutoTrader
  • Road Tax (Vehicle Exercise Duty) – £165 – source: Heycar
  • MOT average cost: £54.85 – Source: Gov


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