Are cheap driving lessons really going to save you money? Are budget driving lessons the best value in the end?
It’s important that you use a qualified driving instructor, but prices vary. A qualified driving instructor has an I endorsement on their licence that permits them to teach people to drive in exchange for money. Driving instructors are also taught how to build confidence and skills, and explain consequences. An instructor will know both the theory and practical side of driving and will have a number of tools at their disposal to help you learn, including thing like videos and handouts.
Types of driving instructor
There are three different types:
- Employee: works for a driving school or other educational organisation such as a college, tertiary institute, the military, etc
- Franchised or licenced instructor: has bought or licenced a franchise and/or the rights to have a certain company’s logo on their vehicle, but isn’t employed by that company
- Independent instructor: has one or more cars, bikes or trucks. May work as a husband/wife team, or with a partner, and may also employ other instructors or franchise their business
It doesn’t matter what type of driving instructor you use: instructors that are employees might like the idea of a regular pay packet and regular hours; franchised instructors like to have some of the business branding and marketing taken care of and have the recognition of a big company without having to build it; and independent instructors want to have more responsibility for their business, building their client base, managing their marketing as they see fit, etc.
What factors affect the price of driving lessons?
When our exchange rate is favourable, vehicles and fuel are cheaper and this has a material impact on a driving instructor’s bottom line: the cheaper they are, the more profit, because the only thing a driving instructor trades is time in the vehicle using fuel (or in the case of a motorbike instructor, following your motorbike). If an instructor can save $3/hr in fuel costs that can add up over the course of the year.
Living in Auckland is extremely expensive in terms of housing and time wasted in traffic, whereas Masterton has cheaper housing and less traffic. Instructors in rural areas might have to travel long distances to meet clients and might also have less demand, therefore could need to charge more to make a living.
The more competition in relation to the number of students available, the more price cutting tends to happen. It will only go so low otherwise instructors won’t be able to afford to live, some will drop out of the industry, and then supply will become less than demand, pushing up prices (in a simplistic model).
If a large portion of the local population doesn’t have the money to pay for lessons, instructors may have to meet the market and price their time accordingly.
Type of business
A driving instructor that is in semi-retirement as an independent contractor may choose to run it as a lifestyle business without the need to make as much money as, for example, a younger instructor that might have a family to support.
Franchised instructors may have franchise fees to pay every year.
Reputation and skill
Driving instructors with good reputations can maintain their prices as they have a steady stream of students demanding their time. Conversely, driving instructors with a poor reputation might need to discount in order to attract clients. Of course, an instructor that gets a poor reputation can always take on training, improve and go on to develop a good reputation again.
How should you choose a driving instructor?
You must choose a qualified instructor. Don’t go with an unqualified instructor. For a start, they are breaking the law, and secondly, you could be exposing yourself to a person who has not passed a fit and proper person check (i.e. they could have been denied a driving instructor endorsement because of their criminal history, especially if it involves sexual abuse cases).
However, having an I endorsement doesn’t necessarily mean they are good. In any occupation there are some that are amazing and others that struggle or don’t care. Driving instructors that are the best instructors will tend to:
- Have a word-of-mouth reputation
- Have a professionally presented vehicle and appearance
- Undertake additional training and learning to ensure they pass on the best experience to you.
When considering reputation, don’t believe everything you read online as it’s easy to purchase fake good reviews, or for disgruntled competitors to post fake bad reviews.
Read our full guide to choosing a driving instructor and you’ll find out how to find, interview and choose an instructor. And remember that the price is the last thing you should consider. A good instructor will teach you more effectively, meaning less lessons and that means less cost to you. You will be a safer driver and you are more likely to pass first time.