Automatic Driving Test

Many learner drivers struggle with clutch control whilst learning to drive, so naturally either opt or consider taking automatic driving lessons and the automatic driving test.

Automatic driving lessons and the test can certainly be easier and often ultimately quicker to reach test standard than manual, although it is worth considering the problems associated with an automatic driving licence long-term. Discussed are the benefits and problems associated with an automatic driving licence and learning to drive in an automatic.

Automatic driving lessons

When it comes to learning to drive, a large amount of this time is designated to controlling the car. The gears and clutch operation in manual transmission being the significant factor. Of course learning to drive in an automatic will eliminate this issue, allowing you to progress at a higher rate and concentrate on other tasks rather than the clutch and gears.

Everybody has their own ability when learning to drive although it is likely that you will need less driving lessons to reach test standard in an automatic than in a manual transmission.

Automatic driving lessons are often more expensive compared to manual lessons, which may reduce any financial benefits gained by reaching test standard quicker in an automatic.

Automatic gearbox
Automatic gearbox

Automatic driving lessons are more expensive due to automatic cars use slightly more fuel than a manual equivalent, plus fewer learners request automatic lessons which may provide an automatic driving instructor with less income.

Whilst taking driving lessons, areas that prove problematic when learning in a manual are stalling the car when moving off, and the manoeuvres that need a high level of clutch control.

Taking the automatic driving test

The driving test procedure for an automatic is exactly the same as a manual. A learner driver that is prone to stalling due to lack of clutch control may find that they stall more during the test due to nerves and stress.

Stalling isn’t necessarily a fail, it really depends on where you stall and how you recover from the stall. If you stall in the middle of a busy crossroads for example and move off again abruptly with no regard for others, this may lead to a test failure.

Taking the driving test in an automatic will of course eliminate these issues. Manoeuvres such as parallel parking require a high level of clutch control in a manual, particularly when stopping on sloping cambers. This is eliminated in automatic cars and hill starts during the test are also made significantly easier.

Automatic driving licence

There certainly are benefits in taking automatic lessons and driving tests, it is worth taking a look at the long term problems that may be involved in having a automatic driving licence.

Benefits of an automatic driving licence

  • Initially it may require less driving lessons reducing the costs of learning to drive. This depends on your ability however as automatic driving lessons are often more expensive than the equivalent manual.
  • The driving test will be easier to pass in an automatic if you are prone to stalling.
  • Automatic cars can be safer to drive as there is no need to concentrate on gears and clutch.
  • Automatic cars are for some, easier to drive.

Disadvantages of an automatic driving licence

  • If you are a holder of an automatic driving licence, you are not legally entitled to drive a manual transmission vehicle unless as a learner driver with supervising passenger.
  • If at some point you need to rent a car, many car rental garages may not have automatic available.
  • If your car breaks down, they may not be able to provide an automatic courtesy car.
  • Whilst looking to purchase a automatic vehicle, less are available.
  • Automatic vehicles cost more to purchase than the equivalent manual version.
  • Automatic vehicles can consume more fuel than the manual equivalent.
  • If you wish to start driving manual transmission vehicles, you will need to retake the driving test. This may possibly require some driving lessons off a qualified driving instructor to regain driving skills.

Emergency stop automatic

During the driving there is around a 1-in-3 chance of the examiner requesting the emergency stop. The emergency stop article explains the procedure in detail and what is expected during a driving test. The emergency stop in an automatic is essentially the same. Once the examiner has given the signal to stop, upon stopping the car, apply the handbrake and then place the gear lever into the park position.

The examiner will now inform you to proceed when you are ready. Now put the gear lever into drive, hand on the handbrake ready, all-round observation, signal if necessary and remove handbrake.

Automatic or manual driving test?

After reading the advantages and disadvantages of automatic driving licences, it is certainly beneficial to learn to drive in a manual and ideally pass the manual driving test. Take driving lessons in a manual car initially, if after a few lessons you still can’t get to grips with the clutch and gears, try another driving instructor. It’s not to say that the instructor is bad, just you may find another instructor approach to teaching easier to understand. If after trying another driving instructor fails, an automatic driving test and licence is likely the way forward for you.

38 thoughts on “Automatic Driving Test”

  1. Michael Edward,Christopher Power

    Thank you for the information in your automatic driving lessons . I’m a bi lateral amputee and though I’ve had a full licence for a manual car for a long time , I now have to have an assessment for a hand control automatic car . Do you have any advice about doing an emergency stop in such a vehicle. Thanks again for your splendid driving test tips . Michael Power .

  2. Hello Michael,
    I’m afraid I do not, but I would assume that in terms of the driving test, the procedure would be the same as it is for a manual and automatic (see emergency stop) and once stopped, to then secure the car. So the difference in your case would be different controls used to obtain the same outcome. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) would be the people you need to confirm this.

  3. R Simpson

    At 69 years young with a learner licence I have been driving an automatic for several years (my wifes car) due to age related problems she can no longer drive or act as my qualified companion . I now have to pass a driving test myself as her licence will not be renewed due to her ill health
    I can drive both manual and auto but we own the automatic. should I spend the exrta money and use a driving instructers car. I prefer the auto and can not see us buying another car in the

  4. Hello R Simpson,
    It’s best to learn in whichever car you intend on taking the test in. If you know your car very well, then you might want to consider taking the test in your car. You should be able to find an instructor who will provide lessons in your own car, so long as you’re safe enough of a driver. They may require the first lesson in their dual controlled vehicle just to make sure. If this isn’t of concern, then just use their car for learning and the test.

  5. Rhiann

    Hi due to take my test but was wondering what the main differences are in the test !!

  6. Hello Rhiann,
    There is no difference in the automatic driving test, it’s exactly the same as though you are driving a manual. How you control the car is obviously different in a automatic compared to a manual – easier for many as you do not have to worry about changing gears or stalling the car.

  7. Florida

    Hi is the theory test the same for manual and automatic? Thank you

  8. Natalie Critchley

    If you have an automatic driving liecence can you drive a semiautomatic

  9. Hello Natalie,
    Yes, you can drive a semi-automatic car legally on a automatic licence. Though you are able to change gear manually on a semi-automatic car, the process doesn’t require the level of skill (clutch control) that is required on a manual. You can’t stall a car with semi-automatic transmission for example.

  10. Sanyorobot

    As electruc vehicles become more common and eventually become the norm in about 20 yesrs, will there be any point in being able to operate a car with a gearbox?

  11. Very true. To be honest, I often recommend people to take the automatic driving test now rather than manual. There’s a lot of automatic cars around these days plus it’s easier and quicker to learn. The days of manual transmission are limited.

  12. Charlie Hopkins

    If you do an automatic test and pass, will this be shown on your pink licence and pass certificate? That it’s a automatic

  13. Hello Charlie,
    Yes, on your pink licence it will display category ‘B auto’ (only category ‘B’ is displayed if passed in a manual) and on your test pass certificate the examiner will write the letter ‘B’ and highlight the automatic field.

  14. Mmabatho

    What are the requirements for getting an automatic driving licence?

  15. Hello,
    The requirements for getting an automatic driving licence are exactly the same as a manual – so you’ll have your provisional driving licence and learn to drive. The deciding factor on whether you obtain a automatic only full licence or a manual (you can also drive automatics on a manual licence) full licence is during the final practical driving test and which vehicle transmission you use – manual or automatic.

  16. RDG

    Good day
    Doing the driving test today in automatic.
    When stopping at traffic light, should I put handbrake on and shift to Park ? Or just keep pressure on brake and leave in DRIVE ?

  17. Hi RDG,
    There’s no rule, but I generally say something along the lines of:
    Short time, up to 30 seconds or so just keep pressure on the brake.
    Any longer then put gear selector in park + handbrake (if traffic ahead still isn’t moving).
    Good luck on your test 🙂

  18. Louis

    I’ve been doing lessons in a manual and have been wondering if it’s a real waste if I switch to an automatic for testing and learning or will those manual lessons be handy to me still even if I switched to automatic suddenly for learning? as I really want to pass far sooner and I’m very into the automatic cars?

  19. Hi Louis
    Everything you have learnt on your manual lessons will be exactly the same for automatic lessons except obviously the gears. Automatics are easier to drive than manual so you will likely learn quicker. I used to mainly advise learners take up manual if possible, but these days automatics are much more widely available, plus with electric cars only becoming more common (which are also automatic), learning automatic makes much more sense now.

  20. Paige

    I’m doing lessons in an automatic when I stop at traffic lights and apply the hand break so I put the car in neutral or just leave in drive?
    Paige broughton

  21. Hello Paige,
    There’s no specific rule for this, whether automatic or manual. Generally it depends on how long you think you’ll be stationary for.
    Stopping at lights and not being at the front of the queue – if traffic is beginning to move and you’ll be stopping for a few seconds, just stop using the foot brake. If you stop and it looks like you’ll be waiting for longer then apply the hand brake and select neutral. You’ll have time to get the car ready to move off by looking at the lights ahead.
    If you stop at lights at the front of the queue, you want to move off quite swiftly when the lights change, so come to a stop and wait a few seconds just using the foot brake. If traffic is still moving in other lanes, apply the hand brake but leave it in drive ready to move off.
    It’s just about judging the situation really and a balance of keeping the car secure but also ready to move off when necessary.

  22. nasiphi

    Good day
    I was wondering, which driving test centres in Cape Town allow one to do their driver’s license on an automatic?

  23. Hello Nasiphi,
    We only provide details for driving tests within the UK I’m afraid.

  24. Lee

    Hi on an automatic test if I stop at a traffic light and just use the handbreak and footbreak will I be failed or is that OK to do so

  25. Hi Lee,
    You can use both the handbrake and foot brake if you wish. It wont fail your test.

  26. Lee

    Do I have to select neutral or park or can I just use footbreak and handbreak thanks

  27. There’s no specific rule on this, but if you think you’re going to be stationary in a queue of traffic for a while, then select park along with the handbrake. If the queue of traffic is moving only with short stops then just the foot brake is fine. It’s really down to your own judgement of the situation, but don’t worry about it too much.

  28. Alison

    Hi I’m taking my test very soon in a semi automatic car .the only sorry I have is that the car rolls back wards how do I control this .can I fail my test if I roll back .thank you

  29. Hi Alison.
    If you have no system that prevents you from rolling backwards in your car, then you need to have the hand brake / parking brake applied and while in drive, apply a little gas. You should hear or feel the car straining to go forwards, then release the parking brake. Remember, only a little gas; if you have a rev counter, the amount of gas you need should be when the needle is on the 1500 rpm or there about.

  30. Kelly

    Hi What is my neutral gear for in my automatic car, I am learning my daughter and not sure, thanks

  31. Hi Kelly,
    When you select ‘P’ (park), the transmission (gears) are locked. You would select park and apply the parking brake when leaving and getting out of the car. When in neutral, it’s the same as neutral in a manual car, it can free-wheel and roll. If an automatic car ever needed to be towed, you would select neutral. if you’re waiting a while in a traffic queue, you can select neutral and apply the parking brake if you wish.

  32. R-me

    Fully electric cars : Can the automatic car test be taken in this type of car. The propelling/movement with it is automatically driven.

  33. Hello,
    Yes, you can take a driving test in a fully electric car. As you say, it is automatic so if you pass the test, you’ll be granted a licence that allows you to drive automatic and semi-automatic cars.

  34. Rob

    In around 10 years the car manufacturers won’t manufactre any manual cars. Even now all this electric cars they are all automatic. There is no point to get a manual licence because 1 is more harder and 2 because of the stress. In the future everything will be automatic and cars that drive on themselves without a driver.

  35. Hi Rob,
    I think we are some way off of fully autonomous cars, but as for the manual transmission phasing out, you’re definitely correct. Electric cars are the future and even hybrids to a certain degree. Most hybrids are automatic too. Taking the automatic test makes sense as it’s easier to drive automatic cars. Once passed, there are plenty of automatic cars out there now. The only benefit of passing in manual is that if you are looking for a first car on a very small budget, you’ll still find that manual cars are a little cheaper.

  36. Chants

    Hi, I’m learning to drive an automatic Renault captur (I did have a manual S-Cross previously but it had gearbox issues so told by Motability to change to an automatic instead due to the old car damaging my confidence in a manual car. Tbf even my dad had trouble driving it and he’s been driving for 40yrs)
    In the test when I stop at traffic lights do I put the captur into park or not as the electronic handbrake works whilst in gear and automatically turns off when you press the accelerator. It’s a plugin hybrid if that makes any difference

    I don’t want to fail for not having it in park as the car doesn’t need to be in park for the handbrake to work

  37. Hi Chants,

    Almost always the answer will be no. ‘Park’ is used for when you park the vehicle. When the examiner asks you to park up on the left (for example), select neutral and park.

    In normal traffic flow at traffic lights, when you stop, simply keep your foot on the footbrake and move off when ready. The only exception would be if you remained stationary for a longer time than expected, for example if there was a problem ahead that stopped the traffic flow and it’s unclear when it may start moving. In these situations, you’ll need to secure the vehicle by selecting neutral and park.

Leave a Reply