Growing up in the 90s, drivers’ education through school was a given for most teenagers. In the past 20 years, however, educational funding has been cut so badly that many schools can’t afford to offer drivers’ education. Many people must turn to the option of a driving school or instructor. If you’re thinking about getting your license through one of these, there are many questions to consider, including most importantly, how much will it cost?
Driving schools cost $50 to $180 per driving lesson. Many driving schools offer a package of 10 lessons for $300 to $1800. The cost of driving test can be an addional $100 to $150 each time you have to take the test (unless you can use your own car for it). And people have to take it for a number of reasons.
Why Driving Schools?
Although most people going to drivers’ schools will be learning to drive for the first time, there could be other reasons someone attends.
- A new U.S. citizen or long-term visitor may want to learn the U.S. rules and laws in order to be safe and avoid tickets or fines.
- Citizens with a poor driving record may have to attend because the court ordered them.
- Someone who hasn’t driven in a long time may want to review or improve their skills.
- Attending driving school can also lower insurance premiums, for those of you looking to save long-term.
Knowing your state requirements will help you make many decisions about driving school. You should know there are different types of schools and instructors that range in pricing. You also have choices in how you want your lessons scheduled. Once you’ve completed your training, you should prepare to go to the drivers’ services facility in your region and take the test your state requires.
When Can I Get My Permit and License?
All fifty states have adopted graduated licensing in order to help young people or beginning drivers gain the experience and knowledge needed to be safe, successful drivers. Although the process varies for each state, there are generally three stages.
Stage 1: The initial supervised learning period is where classroom and behind-the-wheel training takes place.
Stage 2: The intermediate license period is earned by passing the road test. This stage limits the at-risk driving situations a new driver might be put in, such as at night or with teenage passengers.
Stage 3: The final stage is fully licensed. Research has found that the combination of the graduated system, restrictions on risky situations, and having a learner’s permit longer lead to reduced crashes and insurance raises.
Each state has different requirements for earning a permit, but the youngest a person can get one is 14 years old in several states. Most states require you to be at least 16 years old.
Full licenses can be earned from age 16 to 18 at the earliest. The average in the United States is a minimum permit age of 16, with 70 supervised hours of practice. Then an intermediate license age of 17 with a night driving (8 p.m.) and teenage passenger ban. Some teens may complain, but better safe than sorry.
Types of Driving Schools
So how do you know you’re ready to drive and how do you know which school to look into? There are two types of in-person driving school: classroom and road training. These are very different types of instruction, with very different outcomes when you make a mistake. Most driving schools will offer you a package or choices of some sort.
Classroom training is exactly what it sounds like. You study a book, listen to lectures, watch videos, and take notes to learn about the rules and signs of the road. According to Costhelper.com, “classroom-only courses run $30-$180” depending on a number of factors.
Classroom training can often be completed online, or through practice with a competent parent for as little as $10 to $70. If you’re a good online learner, or can listen to your parents’ advice, then taking this route is a cost-effective option. You can look into sites such as DriversEd.com, DriversEdDirect.com, and DriversEdToGo.com.
Road training takes the book notes and puts them to practice. Done with an instructor right beside you usually with access to an emergency brake, road practice is an important part of becoming a safe and competent driver. This type of instruction can cost between $50 and $150 a lesson, depending mainly on length or specialty of the lesson.
Most driving schools or instructors will offer a combination of classroom and behind-the-wheel practice. Here are some examples:
Pierre Paul Driving School in New York offers three main choices. They offer driving lessons and road test combined, lessons only, or lessons with a five hour class and the road test.
US Driving School in New Jersey offers a variety of options based on how much practice you think you’ll need. They have a two hour road test prep or booster course, a four hour refresher course, and a six hour basic course for beginners. Schools or instructors that provide you with a car often charge more because of insurance costs and specialty brakes.
USA Driving School of Excellence, near Atlanta, Georgia, offers packages ranging from $99 for two hours to $449 for ten hours. Check your local driving schools to see what kind of package deals they may offer. Generally the more hours or lessons, the cheaper they are individually.
Lessons: How Many and How Much?
How many lessons you choose to take a week depends firstly on your timeline and schedule. When would you like to have your license by? Do you have other commitments you need to schedule instruction around?
Certain schools have certain limitations you must follow. At Safety 1st Driving School which serves Orange and Los Angeles Counties in California, you must wait about six weeks between lessons. They encourage parents (or licensed drivers) to go out with young or new drivers and apply what has been learned in the previous lesson.
How many lessons also depends on the cost. In order to budget for classes, you may need to spread out lessons. Here’s a sampling of prices from around the country:
- Go Drive in Phoenix, AZ, charges $149/2.5 hours of lessons ($60/hour).
- Advantage Driving School in San Jose, CA, charges $330 for six hours of lessons ($55/hour).
- Dawn’s Auto School in Far Rockaway, NY, charges $45/hour.
- Revolution Driving School in Hoboken, NJ, charges $55/hour.
- Safety 1st Driving School ranges from $29 for their online course to $2,699 for their Ultimate 50 hours plus the DMV package.
Overall deciding on the number or frequency of lessons is all dependent upon your experience and knowledge of driving. If you’ve only ever sat in the passenger seat of a vehicle, and hardly looked out the windows while other people drove, you’ll need the maximum amount of lessons you can afford, both time and cost-wise. Many people need multiple attempts to pass a driving test. If you have grown up driving tractors and lawnmowers and other vehicles or farm equipment, you may need minimal lessons. Just make sure you meet state requirements.
Driving is taking responsibility not only for your life and well-being but also for the life and well-being of others. You are in a one ton or more engine-propelled weapon, basically. Use it responsibly and skillfully.
So what do you learn in lessons? RPM Driving School in Mt. Pruitt, Australia, includes a wide variety of topics. They cover the following in their lessons:
- Physical Driving Skills: Vehicle control, including proper driving distance, speed management, merging and dealing with blind spots, proper braking distance, reversing, point and U-turns, parking, and more is covered within their courses.
- Situational Skills: They also discuss and prepare drivers for specific situational skills like hazard perception and crash avoidance, scanning ahead and using mirrors, correct road positioning, correct use of intersections, roundabouts, traffic lights and stop and give way signs, school zones, and pedestrian crossings, freeway, city, highway, and open road driving, and night driving.
- Instincts and Attentiveness: There is also an emphasis on using instincts and attentiveness to guide your driving. Reading traffic, safe driving habits and awareness, how to be prepared for the unexpected, and how to be courteous to others when sharing the road are all discussed.
- Pre-test Evaluation: They also provide a pre-test evaluation to make sure you’re ready to visit the DMV or drivers’ services facility in your state.
What Happens at the DMV?
Don’t forget to prepare yourself the day before you head to the DMV by making sure you get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast. Get plenty to drink and bring a snack with in case you have a long wait.
Have a ride ready, not only for driving you there but for offering support while you wait in line. Drivers’ service facilities are not known for their efficiency.
According to Driving-tests.org/dmv-study-guide, make sure to bring proof of identity, which varies state-to-state of course. In Illinois, you’ll need the following:
- proof of your legal name
- your social security card
- proof of your birth
- proof of residency
- written signature.
Specific examples of these documents could be bills, birth certificates, marriage certificates, state ID, social security card, and more. See your state’s handbook (usually online) for specific documents.
The fees while you’re there could range from $20 to $50 depending on your age and the license you need. Some facilities only take cash, so check before you visit.
During the test, be sure to think about regular test-taking tips you may know.
- Read the question completely and all of the answers before making your selection.
- Eliminate answers you know are incorrect.
- Stick to your gut and answer questions that you know the answer to in order to boost your confidence before tackling the ones you’re unsure of.
- Stay relaxed and take deep breaths if you feel yourself tensing up.
- Many times, the wording of the question is confusing, so be sure to read a question again if you’re not sure you understand what it is asking. Driving-tests.org has a list of frequently missed questions.
Once you’ve completed your testing, you’ll be given a temporary license for about a month or two. You can decide if you need the new REAL ID. Anyone planning to travel by air or outside of the country will need it. Younger people or people who have a passport will probably not need it right away.
Driving Test Explained
The road test is taken with a certified DMV supervisor. They will evaluate you on a number of skills and decisions. They will ask you to identify various parts of your vehicle and demonstrate that you know how to operate and handle it safely. Before driving, they may ask you to show that you know where hazards, turn signals, windshield wipers, and more are in the vehicle.
During driving, they will not only evaluate you while they give you driving directions, such as turn left at the next stop sign. They will also evaluate the decisions you make while executing these skills and tasks. You will probably be tested on parking. And you will probably have to demonstrate point turns, turning around, backing up, and a variety of other situations you will come across when driving.
According to Driving-tests.org’s section on the road test, it should generally take 20 to 30 minutes to prove you’re a competent driver. If you fail, you have to wait a certain amount of time to try again. In most states, this is a week.
You need to pass the written section of the test with an 80%. The written section is usually short, about 20-30 questions depending on your state. If you fail, there is generally a waiting period before you can take it again. In most states, this is a week.
The written portion of the test can cover anything from your state’s DMV Handbook. This can include how to park, what to do in certain situations, distances between cars or when stopping, and more. One way to help make sure you’re prepared is to study.
Reading and highlighting or marking your state’s DMV Handbook is a great way to start preparing for the exam. You can also take multiple practice tests online.
Driving-tests.org is a state-specific website that tells you exactly what your state’s written test will be formatted like. It then offers you a chance to practice taking a similar test online.
Driving is the start of freedom and independence for many people. It is also the first responsibility many teenagers have. It is a heavy responsibility that deals with life and death. According to Carsurance.net, “Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among teenagers in the US.” Although going to a driver’s school may cost some money, it is the right choice for anyone looking to get their license or improve their skills.