The adverts sound wonderful - be your own boss, earn pots of cash, choose your own hours, leap tall buildings in a single bound, and attract admiring looks from all who know you.
All you need do is to part company with around £3,500 of your own hard earned cash, and all your dreams will come true...
Hoops to jump through
To become a driving instructor in the UK, you need to meet the following requirements:
- Hold a full UK or European Union unrestricted car driving licence.
- Have held it for a total of at least four out of the past six years prior to entering the register of driving instructors.
- Not have been disqualified from driving at any time in the four years prior to being entered in the register.
- Be a “fit and proper” person to have your name entered in the register. All convictions, motoring and non-motoring, will be taken into account when your suitability to be entered on the register is assessed. You will be required to have an enhanced level criminal record check.
- Pass theory, practical driving, and practical instruction tests. The practical tests can only be taken three times. All three tests have to be passed within two years.
- If you fail either practical test three times, you have to wait until two years after passing the theory test before starting again, at the beginning of the process.
- The pass rates for the tests are: theory 49%, practical driving test 45%, and practical instruction test 28%.
Food for thought
While the claims made by the ADI training industry may not fall foul of the Advertising Standards Authority, there are a few other considerations:
Less than 10% of those starting the ADI qualification process actually become driving instructors, according to the latest figures.
It is estimated that as many as 50% of all newly qualified ADIs give up the job within the first 18 months.
- You will have to be self employed, and deal with your tax and national insurance yourself. Many ADIs employ an accountant, and many have problems allowing for a tax bill every six months.
- You may feel isolated and not have the support of colleagues in the same way that you do now.
- You will almost certainly have to work very unsociable hours to earn enough to survive.
- As of 2 September 2009 there are 45,371 current approved driving instructors (ADIs) on the register, and 6,910 trainee licence holders. The last few years have seen the numbers grow by around 3000 annually, while the number of learners has remained relatively static. According the some adverts: "A million people learn to drive every year and you could be teaching them!" If there are 52281 qualified and trainee instructors, it works out at just over 19 pupils per instructor each year.
- You might find that your training establishment is very good at sales, but not necessarily so good at delivering the training. Certain large driving schools make more money training instructors than they make training learners.
- You will have to provide a reliable tuition car, or pay a franchise fee (possibly around £300 per week) to a company to provide a car, backup and pupils. Franchise fees and loan repayments have to be paid, whether or not you have plenty of work. Car insurance is higher for business use.
- The DSA require you to take regular check tests. If you fail, you could lose the licence you worked so hard for.
- You will certainly have to put up with pupils cancelling at short notice or not turning up at all. Can you budget for times like this? Summer/Christmas holidays when money is tight for the pupils? They will cancel at the drop of a hat and not consider your financial position.
- As a professional instructor, you will have to pay for a new test and extra lessons if a bulb goes or you have a puncture immediately before a client's driving test. You will have responsibilities which you may not have as an employee.
- There is a much higher chance of having an accident while learners are driving (usually being hit from the rear). Even if you are not injured, you will lose work while arranging a replacement car and changing your diary.
- If you advertise at all, you will suffer from tele-sales calls at all hours.
What to do??
Before you spend your cash, consider the following:
- Join an ADI organisation - our first choice is DIDU!
- Register on the many ADI forums - especially DIDU's - and see what others have to say.
- Consider finding a local ADI who can train and mentor you.
- Try to employ a pay as you go trainer - why part with all your cash in one go? Surely if your trainer is confident in her/his ability s/he will be happy for you to pay for training as you take it?
- Visit your local test centre and have a chat with the ADIs who will be in the waiting room. You should find someone who is happy to give you her/his advice about local business conditions. There are huge variations in the availability of work in different parts of the country - and in the hourly rates charged.
It's not all bad news
Becoming a driving instructor can be an excellent career choice. The work can be very rewarding and hugely enjoyable. However, like any big commitment, you need to enter into it with your eyes open. Talk to driving instructors to get a true picture of the profession. Not all people are really suited to the job, but if you have done your research before starting out, you can end up with a very fulfilling working life.
Some advice if you do embark on a career as an ADI
- Apply for the DSA starter pack yourself: Link to starter pack information.
- Take the part one theory exam independently.
- Consider using a local driving instructor to train you for your part two driving test. Phone around and choose someone who is experienced. Take a trial lesson to make sure they are right for you.
- By the time you have passed parts one and two, you will be much better informed to choose a trainer for the all important part three exam. There are many skilled and dedicated ADI trainers out there, not all advertising on the telly!
- Think carefully before you part with several thousand pounds to pay for training. What will happen to your money if the company goes bust. At the time of writing, one large training company is said to have done just that.
- Register on the DIDU forum where you will be able to chat to instructors, and get valuable advice and tips.
Other sources of information
The following links are essential reading for anyone thinking of entering the profession. (They present opinions which DIDU does not necessarily endorse).