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
Updated 24 February 2020 | 4 min read

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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.

We’ve put together a report looking at the cost of getting a young driver on the road. It includes what young drivers know about car insurance, the cheapest cars to insure - and ones to avoid - as well as some top tips to help young drivers cut the cost of their car insurance.

Read and download a full version of the report below.

Learning to drive

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[4] to apply for a provisional licence online.

A one hour driving lesson costs around £24 per hour, and on average you'll need 22 of them.[5] That's £528 in total.

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

In this case, learning to drive costs £647.

Requirement Cost
Average spent buying first car[1] £3,562
First year Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax)[2] £125
First year insurance premium[3] £1,737
Provisional driving licence (apply online)[4] £34
Driving lessons to successful test (22 lessons)[5] £528
Driving tests (theory and practical - taken on weekdays)[4] £85
Total cost of getting on the road £6,071

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 our research, on average it takes around 22 lessons to be ready for your practical test.[1]

How much are driving lessons?

Usually between £20 and £25 per hour. You might get a discount if you’re a student or if you block book. For example, paying for 10 hours in one go might get you a free lesson.

If we take the number of DVSA recommended hours - 45 - the average cost of driving lessons would be between £900 and £1,125.

There are intensive driving courses available, which cost between £1,000 and £2,000 for a one or two week-long course.

If that seems like an awful lot of money on top of everything else, don't be disheartened. A good driving instructor will know when you're ready to take your test, whether you've done 45 hours or not.

Buying your first car

How much is a first car?

On average, new UK drivers spend £3,562[1] 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 to consider when buying your first car

“Most people tend to have a soft spot for their first car,” says Matt Oliver, GoCompare’s car insurance expert.

“Buying one is a big financial commitment, so when choosing your first car check its age, mileage, general condition and service history.

“Don’t skip out on taking it for a test drive if possible – you don’t want to pay all that money only to be stuck with a car you’re not comfortable driving. You could even bring a parent or expert and pick their brains for advice.

“Whether you go for a new or used car is up to you. Weigh up the condition of a second-hand car against the cost to make sure you’re getting value for money. A little price haggling never hurt either.

“As well as the price of your first car, you’ll need to take other costs into account too,” Oliver adds. “There’s the cost of fuel, insurance, tax, car maintenance and tyres to consider”

“If the car is cheap to buy but it’d cost a small fortune to maintain and insure, it might not be worth purchasing in the long run.”

Cheapest cars to insure for young drivers

Below are the top 5 cheapest cars to insure fully comp:

  1. Volkswagen Up!

    Best price: £888

  2. Citroen C1

    Best price: £903

  3. Skoda Citigo

    Best price: £913

  4. Vauxhall Adam

    Best price: £923

  5. Fiat 500

    Best price: £925

How much is insurance for your first car?

The average cost of annual comprehensive car insurance for a 17 year old driver was £1,737 in 2019.[3]

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 insurance is 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.

Shop around and compare insurance quotes to find the right cover at the best price for you.

How much is car tax?

The below table details the price of car tax when first registering a new car:

C02 (G/KM) Petrol and RDE2 diesel (TC48 and TC49) Non-RDE2 diesel (TC49) Alternative fuels
0 £0 £0 £0
1-50 £10 £25 £0
51-75 £25 £110 £15
76-90 £110 £130 £100
91-100 £130 £150 £120
101-110 £150 £170 £140
111-130 £170 £210 £160
131-150 £210 £530 £200
151-170 £530 £855 £520
171-190 £855 £1,280 £845
191-225 £1,280 £1,815 £1,270
226-255 £1,815 £2,135 £1,805
>256 £2,135 £2,135 £2,125

The following table is the price you pay for car tax annually after registering a new car or for pre-owned cars:

Fuel type Single 12 month payment Single 12 month payment by Direct Debit Total of 12 monthly payments by Direct Debit Single 6 month payment Single 6 month payment by Direct Debit
Petrol or diesel £145 £145 £152.25 £79.75 £76.13
Electric £0 N/A N/A £0 N/A
Alternative £135 £135 £141.75 £74.25 £70.88

For cars registered before 1 March 2001, the cost of tax depends on its engine size. Cars registered after this date will be taxed depending on CO2 emissions and fuel type.

If you’re thinking about buying a car that has a list price over £40,000, you’ll have to pay an additional £320 a year for five years from the second time the vehicle is taxed.

How to tax your car

You can tax your car online, by post or at a Post Office. You’ll need a reference number, which you can get this from:

  • A recent car tax reminder (V11) or a warning letter from the DVLA
  • Your vehicle log book (as long as it’s in your name)
  • The ‘new keeper’ slip from your log book if you’ve just bought it
  • If your vehicle is off the road, for example, if it’s kept in storage, you’ll need to register it so you won’t have to pay tax.

Car insurance guides and tools

[1]In January 2020 MaruBlue conducted an online survey among 1000 randomly selected British adults with children aged between 17 and 24 who can drive or were learning to drive

[2]Vehicle excise duty based on a Vauxhall Corsa 1.2i registered before 31 March 2017 paid in one payment - £125.00 per year

[3]Based on GoCompare own data from January to December 2019, looking at the average cost of a comprehensive car insurance policy for a 17 year old driver

[4]Provisional licence - apply online £34, apply by post £43. Driving test fees - theory test £23, practical test £62 (weekdays) or £75 (evenings, weekends and bank holidays) - Gov UK data, correct as of January 2020

[5]Average cost of a one hour driving lesson is £24 - Source AA. Maru Blue research found new drivers had an average of 22 driving lessons before passing their tests

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