Learner drivers paying the price of ongoing test backlog

A young person putting an L plate on their blue car

Are you still waiting for a driving test due to the ongoing backlog?

It seems you’re not alone. New research reveals that some learner drivers are even parting with as much as £600 for extra lessons while they wait in line.

Learner drivers ‘devastated’ by delays and costs

To stay ‘test-ready’ while they wait for their practical, learners are buying, on average, eight extra lessons than they would otherwise need, data insurer Marmalade found.

With the average lesson in 2021 costing £31.15, that mounts up to an additional cost of £249 for UK learners.

26-year-old Jennifer Madrell from Durham, for example, has taken 55 more lessons than she would have needed to without the delays.

Jennifer spent upwards of £4,600 learning to drive, which is almost four times more than the average. “I’m devastated about how things have panned out, the costs have really started to mount up and I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of the things I enjoy doing,” she said.

In the Marmalade survey of more than 1,000 learner motorists, some 32% of learners estimate that they will take an extra 10 to 19 lessons, which could cost between £312 and £592.

The survey also found that some learners are parting with even more cash on driving lessons. 8% say they will need more than 20 lessons to continue learning while they wait for a test, which could cost upwards of £623.

As many as 77% of learners say the additional cost of lessons is the biggest frustration of the backlog, followed by 71% who say it’s the need to rely on family and friends to drive.

The exasperation doesn’t end there, as 24% also say they haven’t been able to secure a theory test, which is vital before a practical can even be taken.

Of learners who do have a slot, 23% say they are ‘unhappy’ with their theory test date due to long wait times.

And some learners who have passed their theory test have been faced with the burden of it expiring during the pandemic, as the tests are only valid for two years.

No end in sight

It is believed learners have lost more than £1 million in expired theory tests and, as the backlog continues to clear, this number is only rising.

However, the DVSA has stated it will not be extending the validity of theory tests impacted by the pandemic.

Crispin Moger, chief executive at Marmalade, said: “The pandemic has had an adverse impact on learner drivers, many of which are young people who have also been impacted far beyond this.

“Our latest research shows how the aftermath of the pandemic continues to disrupt finances for learners and their families.

“The compounding backlog means test-ready learners can’t secure a test slot and so need to continue with extra lessons, more insurance and in some cases a retake of an expired theory test.”

If you’re a friend or family member of a learner and want to help them save some money, check out our guide on how to supervise a learner driver.


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