UK learner drivers reveal their biggest instructor red flags

  • The biggest problems with the nation’s driving instructors and schools have been revealed, following a new analysis of review data
  • A-Plan Insurance analysed over 125,000 nationwide Google reviews for driving instructors, comparing factors like price and reliability 
  • The UK’s instructors perform the poorest when teaching anxious learners, with reviews citing a lack of empathy and assurance  
  • Some cities are better to learn to drive in than others, with Manchester home to the best instructors, whilst Plymouth has the worst 

The nation’s biggest complaints around driving instructors and schools have been revealed, following a new analysis of Google review data.

Researchers at A-Plan Insurance looked at over 125,000 reviews left for driving instructors, split by major city, and assigned each location a score out of 10 based on how learners rated each provider’s price, patience, confidence, reliability, quality and performance.

The ranking also revealed the areas in which the UK’s instructors perform the poorest – with instilling learner confidence named the area where the majority came up short.

This metric was scored based on the ratio of reviewers stating that they felt confident taking their test after their lessons, versus those who said that they felt less assured or were unable to complete their lessons due to a lack of confidence on the road.

This means that the average instructor isn’t well-equipped to handle anxious or nervous learner drivers, as they’re unable to make them feel comfortable during their lessons.

Reviewers cited various reasons for this, including: feeling frustrated at a lack of progress during lessons, instructors leaving key information out, instructors being condescending or unempathetic, not being taught how they could improve, and more.

Some cities performed particularly badly for instilling learner confidence than others  – with Lancaster named the worst for anxious drivers, and Manchester named the best.

In fact, well over half (59%) of the cities analysed in the study scored significantly worse for confidence than the national average, suggesting anxious learners will struggle to comfortably learn to drive in most parts of the UK.

Other areas that the instructors needed to improve came out as performance – relating to the proportion of learners who went on to pass their test after their lessons – and reliability.

Instructors were awarded a higher reliability score for reviews saying they were always on time and communicated well, and penalised for cancelling lessons or not replying to texts.

Many learners complained that they had to switch instructors after not feeling ready to pass their test after their lessons, whilst others praised their teacher after passing first time.

Learners were also understandably frustrated when their instructors missed a lesson without explanation, whilst another common complaint was that prospective learners were ghosted after making an initial enquiry into an instructor or schools’ pricing and/or schedule.

On a positive note, the nation’s instructors performed best for quality, meaning they had a strong ratio of positive five-star ratings when compared to the quantity of reviews.

The nation’s driving instructors, scored out of 10 for each area: 

  1. Quality – 6.8 /10
  2. Patience – 4.2 /10
  3. Price – 2.9 /10
  4. Reliability – 2.5 /10
  5. Performance – 2.4 /10
  6. Confidence – 1.8 /10

Price was determined by the number of reviews featuring keywords like ‘overpriced’, ‘good value’, ‘reasonable’ and ‘expensive’, whilst patience was scored based on reviews praising an instructor’s kindness or composure, versus those that called them rude or angry.

Some major cities scored considerably higher than others when it came to overall instructor scores, with Manchester taking the title as the best place to learn to drive.

The city boasted one of the highest nationwide scores for instructor quality, meaning the majority of local instructors were rated particularly highly by reviewers – but not all learners will have a positive experience, as instructors also scored poorly for reliability and price.

On the other end of the scale, the cities that came out as worst included Plymouth – largely due to confidence and instructor quality – followed by Newcastle and Wakefield.

The top 10 cities for learner drivers, based on driving instructor reviews: 

  1. Manchester
  2. Leicester
  3. Southampton
  4. Leeds
  5. London
  6. Peterborough
  7. Oxford
  8. Cardiff
  9. Westminster
  10. Sheffield

Speaking on the findings, a spokesperson from A-Plan Insurance said: “Learning to drive can be daunting, and unfortunately it’s easy to rush into lessons without scoping out how well an instructor can meet your individual needs.

“Rushing into lessons with an incompatible instructor will make learning to drive a more stressful experience than necessary, and even significantly delay when you pass.

“The data shows that there’s vast fluctuations in the reliability and quality of instructors, depending on where they’re based – as well as how long they’ve been teaching. However, many learner drivers wind up choosing their instructor solely based on price or availability.

“It’s important to give the same thought to picking a driving instructor as you would when selecting a university, estate agent or bank account, as it’s an important investment.”

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