The cost of getting on the road

Learning to drive, buying a car, tax and insurance are part of prepping a young driver for life as a motorist. But how much does it really cost?

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 16 September 2021  | 4 min read

Being a young driver is no cheap ride

Car insurance for young drivers is expensive. Especially when you compare it to those with long safe driving records.

Insurance is a big price to pay to get on the road. And that's without factoring in the cost of a car, driving lessons and paying for the theory and practical test on top.

How much does it cost to learn to drive?

How much you pay depends on:

  • The price of a provisional licence
  • The cost of each driving lesson, multiplied by how many you need
  • How much the theory and practical tests cost

It's £34[1] to apply for a provisional licence online.

A one hour driving lesson costs around £30 per hour, and on average you'll need 45 of them.[2] That's £1350 in total.

A theory test will set you back £23, and taking a practical driving test on a weekday costs £62[3].

In this case, learning to drive costs £1469.

Requirement Cost
Average spent buying first car[4] £3,388
First year insurance premium[5] £759
First year Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax)[6] £70
Provisional driving licence (apply online)[1] £34
Driving lessons to successful test (45 lessons x £30)[2] £1350
Driving tests (theory and practical - taken on weekdays)[3] £85
Driving licence application[1] £17
Total cost of getting on the road £5,703

At what age can you learn to drive?

You can apply for your provisional licence when you're 15 years and 9 months old, but you can't start driving a car or take lessons on UK roads until you're 17.

If you're 16 and determined to get going, nothing's stopping you saving up and shopping around for the right first car.

How many hours does it take to pass a driving test?

There isn’t a minimum requirement of hours you need to practise to take and pass your test. It just depends on how fast you pick it up.

According to the RAC, on average it takes around 45 lessons to be ready for your practical test.[2]

How much is a first car?

On average, new UK drivers spend £3,388[4] on their first car, though some new drivers will spend more or less, depending on their budget or how keen a motorist they are.

If you're going to lease your first car, look over what's included in the price, for example who pays for the maintenance, and be mindful of how much of your annual salary it'll take up - you don't want to end up struggling to pay off a car you can't really afford.

What are the most popular used cars for young drivers?

When buying their first used car, young drivers (and their parents) will typically look for something that doesn’t have too high of a price tag, is fairly small in size, is easy to drive and is safe.

Below are the top ten most popular used cars for young drivers*:

Rank Make Model Private (% variance) Dealer (% variance)
1 FORD FIESTA ZETEC 51.57% 38.76%
2 FIAT 500 LOUNGE 51.23% 42.24%
3 FORD FIESTA ZETEC (80) 31.03% 25.47%
4 MINI COOPER 23.23% 18.20%
6 MINI ONE 39.61% 32.34%
7 FIAT 500 POP 51.03% 50.13%
8 VAUXHALL CORSA SXI 42.61% 29.23%
9 FORD FIESTA ZETEC (99) 58.48% 49.08%
Average 42.38% 32.72%

Recently, because of a shortage in materials to make new cars, the UK has seen a surge in used car prices. On average, the prices of these 10 most insured used cars have increased by 42% under private sellers and 32% under dealers.** This means young motorists could be spending an extra £1548.40 over the ‘book price’ of the most popular car.

Previously, a young driver with our average budget of £3,388 would have been able to afford to purchase all but two of these cars from a dealer. Now, this figure would stretch to just two - the 2008 Ford Fiesta Zetec Climate and the 2011 Vauxhall Corsa SXi.

Meanwhile, although private seller prices of these 10 cars have increased by a higher amount on average, buyers can often find offers in their price range. Therefore, it’s worth looking at both options before deciding on the best deal for you.

*Based on the top 10 most insured cars for young drivers through GoCompare between July and October 2021.

**The cars’ classified prices are taken from a real-time search in October 2021 for the exact model/year on for both private and dealer sellers, where consumer demand and low stock availability is currently inflating prices above the ‘book price’ value.

The same models, year and mileage were then compared with Parkers’ car valuation, representing a standard 'book price' valuation which is less influenced by consumer demand and stock availability.

How has Covid-19 impacted learning to drive?

81% of parents said the pandemic had delayed their child learning to drive with 29% saying it had delayed it for more than a year.
Research commissioned by GoCompare, surveyed over 1,000 parents of children aged between 17-25 who were either learning to drive or were a young driver.

Is it cheaper to put a child on their parents car insurance policy?

What are the cheapest cars to insure for young drivers?

Below are the top 10 cheapest cars to insure fully comp[7]:

  1. Volkswagen Up!


  2. Skoda CitiGo


  3. Peugeot 107


  4. Fiat Panda


  5. Citreon C1


  6. Fiat 500


  7. Hyundai i10


  8. Peugeot 108


  9. Volkswagen Fox


  10. Ford Kia


How much is insurance for your first car?

Between January and December 2020, the average cost of annual comprehensive car insurance for a 17 year old driver was £860.[8]

When buying car insurance, price isn’t the only thing young or new drivers should take into account.

We found that 65% of 18 to 24 year olds buy car insurance based on price alone, but it’s important to check the cover levels to make sure you understand exactly what you’re buying - only 47% of young drivers do this.

Not having insurance that covers your needs could leave you liable for the bill if something went wrong, so weigh up the cost and what’s included in the policy before you buy.

Why is insurance more expensive for new drivers?

Young and inexperienced drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents - if you're a risky prospect to insurers, your car insurance will be more expensive.

Your insurance premium is also affected by the type of car you have and its insurance group.

It’s always worth finding out what insurance group the car belongs to before buying it.

Cars with more power and higher top speeds are considered more dangerous, so they’ll be put in a higher insurance group meaning your car insurance will cost more.

Your insurance may be more expensive or cheaper depending on where you live too. Research by GoCompare suggests comprehensive car insurance costs 37% more in London than it does in the South West for 17-24 year olds.[10]

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[1] Source Gov.UK

[2] Average cost of driving lessons of a 1 hour driving lesson is £30. The average learner requires around 45 hours of lessons before being test ready. Source RAC.

[3] Source Gov.UK

[4] Based on fully comprehensive policies bought from GoCompare between June 2020 and May 2021, the average value of a car for customers between 17-24 years old with a UK full licence less than 1 year old is £3,388.

[5] Based on fully comprehensive policies bought from GoCompare between June 2020 and May 2021, the average car insurance premium for customers between 17-24 years old with a UK full licence less than 1 year old is £759.

[6] The average road tax for the top 5 cheapest vehicles to insure for young drivers is £70. The 5 cheapest vehicles to insure for young drivers is based on average car insurance prices for policies bought through Gocompare between June 2020 and May 2021 for drivers between 17-24 years old.

[7] Based on average car insurance prices for policies bought by drivers between 17-24 years of age through Gocompare between June 2020 and May 2021.

[8] Based on average car insurance prices for fully comprehensive policies bought by 17 years old from January 2015 to December 2020.

[9]In May 2021 MaruBlue conducted an online survey among 1010 randomly selected British adults with children aged between 17 and 24 who can drive or were learning to drive.

[10]Based on average car insurance prices for policies bought by drivers between 17-24 years of age through Gocompare between June 2020 and May 2021. Minimum 150 sales per make/model.