Older Learner Drivers

Too Late for Learning to Drive

There are a few things that need to be cleared up for the ‘older’ individual wishing to gain independence within the task of travel who think it’s too late for learning to drive.

There is an assumption that the moment you turn 17 you must already have your provisional driving licence in your hand, along with your first driving lesson booked and a driving test planned for a mere few weeks away.

Whilst this method works out well for many, there are a certain percentage who leave the learning to drive process for a later date. Reasons vary, though most are due to time constraints, often down to college or work and the fact that it’s currently unnecessary due to living in a city that has good public transport. Others may have started out learning to drive but were put off by a bad experience and didn’t continue.

Then seemingly little time has past, but you’re suddenly 30 / 40 years old and are in need of a driving licence. It does of course start with the phone call..

  • I’m 30 / 40 years old, how many driving lessons will I need?
  • Am I too old to learn to drive?
  • Have I left it too late, is there much point in learning to drive?

I have taught many individuals to drive who fall into the 30 / 40 + age range. It’s far more common than many think and the good news is that older learner drivers are equally as good at learning to drive than the teenagers – though often due to different reasons.

Why Can Older People Learn to Drive

As an older learner driver, you might start out feeling that you’re up against an impossible task, but that’s likely to change very quickly.

  • Confidence- for most of us, the older we get our confidence grows. This allows a mature learner to relax and take in the process step-by-step
  • Due to likely being a passenger for years, older learners will already have a good level of road sense and the ability to recognise potential hazards

Negative Aspects of an Older Learner Driver

This isn’t necessarily typical of every mature learner driver, but may affect some due to age.

  • Situations often occur quickly whilst driving and the older we get, the slower we react

How Many Lessons will I Need as an Older Learner?

Many variables can be found here from how age has affected an individuals reaction times (if at all), confidence levels, natural ability to drive, type or difficulty of roads where learning to drive and taking the driving test, manual or automatic transmission etc.

Everyone whatever their age is of course different and requires a specific amount of driving lessons to gain test standard. But to give an average, based on zero previous driving experience:

  • A 17 year old will require around 30 hours
  • A 30 year old will require around 40 hours
  • A 40 year old will require around 50 hours

You can probably see a pattern forming here. For each 10 years that we age you can expect an extra 10 hours of lessons required.

Age Related Driving Test Statistics

Your typical 17 year old will likely pick things up a little quicker than a mature individual, particularly young male drivers who also come complete with confidence levels of that found only in immortals. Statistically this is reflected by young male learners having the highest pass rates.

Statistics based on official Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) data on male and females, 20 years of age from April 2014 to March 2015.

AgeGenderTests ConductedTest PassesPass Rate %
20Male42,62721,59550.7
20Female45,63520,24044.4

Now let’s look at those same statistics, but this time with male and female statistics combined and based on age:

AgeTests ConductedTest PassesPass Rate %
17278,268156,29956.2
2547,97222,34846.6
3036,68615,24841.6
3523,9879,29438.7
4012,4734,53236.3
456,6772,39035.8
503,4561,22935.6
551,72557333.2
6071523833.3
60+3,3871,20635.6

It’s Never Too Late to Learn to Drive

Ok, so statistically the older we get, the lower the chance of passing the driving test. That is until we reach our sixties where pass rates begin to increase again. The lower pass rates could be in part due to reaction times getting a little slower, but it’s more likely due to the fact that as we age, we consider our actions and the impact it has on others. For example, taking your time to exit a junction safely may be seen as overly hesitant to an examiner. Even in your forties and fifties, you still stand a 1 in 3 chance of passing first time. Those odds are pretty good, so let’s start learning to drive!

Tips For Older Learner Drivers

To be perfectly honest, advice for older learner drivers doesn’t really change too much compared to that of a young learner.

  • Driving instructor – Don’t be afraid to be picky on your choice of driving instructors. It’s important that you find an instructor that you feel comfortable sitting alongside, that you understand their teaching methods clearly and that they motivate you and pick up on any errors you make. See how to find a good driving instructor for further information.
  • Regular lessons – Infrequent or irregular driving lessons reduces your drive to succeed, plus you’ll spend longer at the start of each lesson recapping what you covered last time. If possible, aim for 2 x one and a half hour or 2 x 2 hour lessons each week.
  • Experience – The more experience the better! If possible gain further driving experience from family or friends. Use it as experience only though and leave the teaching to the instructor.
  • Manual or automatic – Give manual transmission a try and if you really can’t get to grips with clutch control and gear shifting, opt for automatic. If you pass in a manual, you can drive any manual and also drive automatics. Pass in a automatic and you’re limited to only automatic cars. To many however, automatics are significantly easier to drive and may reduce the amount of time required to learn. See automatic or manual for further information.

Driving Courses for Older Drivers

There are no specific courses for older learner drivers. You’ll be taking exactly the same course as any other learner. As a mature learner driver, you may benefit from an older, more experienced instructor.

To Sum Up

You’ll be a little nervous when starting out just as everyone else, but don’t let the fact that you’re an older learner driver have any influence, other than the fact that you’re now more capable of making wise decisions. The most important initial task is to find yourself a great driving instructor. Do that and you’ll probably find driving lessons fun and enjoyable.

30 thoughts on “Too Late for Learning to Drive”

  1. emily bennette

    This is some really good information about learning how to drive. I have a cousin that has lived in different countries for most of his life and doesn’t know how to drive here. He is 18 so I like that you talked about how a 17-year-old needs 30 hours of driving to get a license.

  2. Zequek Estrada

    There is such a focus on tips for younger drivers. It’s refreshing to hear things that are geared told older people learning to drive. I imagine it can be intimidating to learn and be tested when you’re older.

  3. Pearl

    I am taking lessons again in my forties after a bad learner driver experience in my thirties – and it was with one of those big companies which I now jokingly refer to as Alcoholics Anonymous – never again, too much about ticking the boxes and meeting criteria.. I know myself, and know that at 17 I would not have been a better learner. But I wish I hadn’t let my bad experience affect me years ago. I am determined to pass this time and never listen to negative comments about age again.

  4. Hello Pearl.
    Learners who leave it a little later in life always think they’re a minority, though in reality it’s very common. In cities or towns with public transport, there’s often little point and in some cases, there’s not enough time to learn to drive as a teenager.

    I have to say though, the more ‘mature’ learner listens very well, engages in conversation (which lightens the mood / stress whilst driving), and has a certain confidence that few more years under the belt brings. All this brings you to test standard and a pass in no time.

    Good luck, although reading your comments, I don’t think you’ll need it.

  5. Julie

    Having miraculously just passed at age 48 I would urge you to give it a go. If I can drive, believe me, anyone can :o)

  6. Fantastic news Julie – though I think it’s probably that you’re a lot more skilled than you give yourself credit for rather than a miracle 🙂

  7. Gwendoline Harrison

    I am a 73 yeer old young woman who can be taken for 60, I have been driving for 8 years now, I have had numerous tests and I can’t pass my practical test, I know I have left it late, but I never needed to drive, but now I do as my partner cannot drive now due too ill health, and so it’s became a necessity. If I don’t drive we couldn’t go out and do shopping etc. We couldn’t leave the house. I have had two recent tests , the examiner told me he felt safe with me and too book another as I had only got 4 faults, so I booked another test and the examiner told me to do a parrell park but I clipped the kerb and he didn’t pass me. He says that’s the only reason he never passed me I find that a bit unacceptable to take in. He wasn’t very nice. I drive over London and Essex I drive every day.

  8. Hello Gwendoline,
    I think failing for clipping the kerb, where otherwise you had a great test is perhaps a bit excessive. It sounds like manoeuvres is the area you struggle with. Keep trying and book another test as soon as poss, you will get there. Remember for manoeuvres, take them extremely slow, give yourself plenty of time. You might find it beneficial to adjust your door mirror lower before the manoeuvre so that you have a better view of the kerb, but remember to re-adjust the mirror when completed. Also, if you do ever lose your bearings during a manoeuvre (happens a lot), pull forward (safely) and start again.

  9. Vanessa

    Oh please he has PLENTY of time to learn since he’s ONLY 18 YEARS OLD.

  10. Tom

    I am 37 and have been learning to drive for 18 months and still not passed, going through 3 instructors (have been with the current one for a year). Confidence is a major problem and seem to miss key actions when on roundabouts and dual carriageways (e.g. positioning or correct signalling) when desperately trying to make sure I am doing everything else.
    Spend a lot of time outside of lessons worrying about mistakes, high pressure job does not help. Have failed twice now and I really dread the prospect of failing 10 times or more, but don’t know what to do. Don’t have any opportunities to practice outside of lessons and if I could a bit more unprompted I’m sure this might help – whenever I turn up at test centre I am a complete nervous wreck, First test cancelled because instructor off sick, second one failed because oncoming lorry flashed headlights which was misunderstood, third one had to unexpectedly use a different car, none of which helped my nerves much.
    I don’t want to go to automatic because the license would be too restrictive and gears don’t seem to be that much of a problem as long as I remember to change a bit more often.
    Does anyone have any ideas on how I can get out of this mess?

  11. Hi Tom,
    Trust me, you’re going through exactly what many others do on their lessons and test. To be honest, on your last three tests, it sounds more like bad luck than anything else. I was thinking automatic, then got to the part where you said you thought it would be too restrictive. I would give automatic a bit more consideration. Over the next few years, we are going to be seeing far more electric cars on the road, which are of course automatic. Manual cars will be getting less common. You might be surprised at how the lack of having to worry about gears, frees up your concentration for these key actions you miss. Perhaps try a lesson or two and see how you get on.

    Other areas I would recommend is to concentrate in your lessons on areas that you are not confident on. So spend entire lessons focusing on roundabouts and dual carriageways for example. Try and take lessons during very busy periods. It will be stressful, but when you get used to it, it will make driving in normal conditions very easy.

    I also always recommend mock tests and ideally with a instructor you’ve never met. This simulates test conditions and helps to build confidence for the real thing. Plus the benefit is having a different instructor (just for the mock test) is likely to provide you with valuable advice you can build on.

    Also try to not leave too long gap between lessons as this gives you too much time to dwell on mistakes. 18 months really isn’t that long. Just try different things until you find something that works. Don’t be afraid to try another instructor. Just because you’re on your third, you might find someone that you really click with and get their teaching technique.

  12. Trisette J Grebe

    I want to drive but i am in my 60s if scared due to people saying stuff its too late etc need help

  13. Hi Trisette,
    I have taught learner drivers of all ages and I can assure you it’s never too late. It doesn’t matter what others say, it’s what you believe that counts. Book a few driving lessons and see how you get on. In my experience, I find that older learner drivers pick the skills required to drive just fine. Really, just get stuck in and you’ll be driving in no time.

  14. Caitlin

    Hi all,i am so glad to have found this page,i now realise that at 53 and a learner driver (10 weeks of lessons so far) that i’m not the only one! I have had one or two fairly good lessons and some really terrible ones,where i get so anxious and make silly mistakes, i am so determined to keep going as difficult as it feels at the moment! So to any older drive,keep going and it’ll pay off in the end!

  15. Mary

    In reply to Julie.

    ahhh very nice comment Julie, i am learning to drive am on my 50s and slowly slowly Iam getting there. 🙂

  16. Mary

    In reply to Trisette J Grebe.

    hi dear, its never too late to learn, I am 53 and I have done 10 driving lessons so far and i am still doing them, plus practice with my husband I am terrified of bends, meeting cars, merging on slip roads, speeding like 40, 50, 60 and 70 on motorway!! haven’t reach that yet, I get stressed when I practise with hubby he is great as transport of Coaches Manager but for some reason I don’t feel relax on the roads with him, maybe because I’m thinking he does not have the brake on his site like my instructor in case i do errors, but He does shows me good tips too which are great to know as learner so don’t give up! you can do it!!

  17. Muriel Benson

    What type of insurance should I get as a 70year old lady learner driver getting some extra lessons in my own car from my sister who is a driver

  18. Hello Muriel.
    As with any learner driver, you can get short term learner driver car insurance or annual insurance. It really depends on how long you’re planning on being a learner driver. If you’re in no rush to learn, annual insurance will likely work out cheaper rather than blocks of short term insurance.

    As with all types of insurance, you’re better off getting multiple quotes from comparison sites. You may find that some insurance providers offer policies to a maximum age of 65, whereas others providers have no age limit.

  19. Toni Fluin

    In reply to Trisette J Grebe.

    Hi Trisette, I am 69 and it bugs me that I cannot drive. I have said so many times through my life that I will learn but it’s either been a case of not enough money to pay for lessons or I’ve had the mindset of “it’s far too late now”. I’ve decided today that I am going to book some lessons. I’m not even bothered about passing a test….I just need to know I can drive…..so why don’t we both just ‘Go for it’!

  20. Muzh

    In reply to Pearl.

    I’m 38 I started learning driving since 2018 but still I couldn’t pass practical exam and my husband gives bad comments that it’s too late I can’t learn I need to stop I’m extremely sad and lost my way don’t k ow what to do?

  21. Muzh,
    I have taught many many learners of your age and older to drive who have gone onto passing the test. In my experience, older learners almost ALWAYS have a lack of self-belief when it comes to learning to drive, yet always learn and pass without issue. Of course it’s not too late. It’s about having a positive attitude and ignoring the negativity.

  22. Annie

    Hi, I’m 57 and really want to drive. Had a driving instructor that seemed very impatient and what started with me being full of confidence turned me into a gibbering wreck. I struggled with the gears so was thinking of maybe an automatic? Any help and advice would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

  23. Hi Annie,
    The first thing you need to do is to find another instructor. A priority of any good instructor is patience, because learner driver’s make many mistakes. A driving instructor who’s impatient makes a learner tense, which actually results in more mistakes. When looking for another instructor, stress that it’s essential that they’re friendly and patient, it makes so much difference.

    Secondly, yes – go automatic for sure. Not too long ago automatics were expensive, slow and inefficient cars. But these days they are easy to get hold of, nice and smooth to drive and the latest models are more fuel efficient than their manual version. Automatics are gaining in popularity at a fast rate and they’re the future. Most hybrid cars and all electric cars will be automatic.

    You may find that automatic lessons are slightly more expensive than manual, but that’s because you’ll need fewer of them (no clutch control and gear changing). You may find that it works out cheaper to learn automatic. Hope that helps.

  24. Nisha

    Hi ,I am 45 and started taking driving lessons .I am on my 5th class couldn’tget regular classes due to full time work .I find the whole learning process nerve wrecking especially to keep the steering balance around corners and roundabouts..Just wondering if it’s the same for other learner drivers.Reading the above comments have given me more courage to keep up the driving lessons..

  25. Hello Nisha.
    When it comes to learner drivers, everyone has things they’re good at and things that they need to work on. For some, that thing might be steering. I’ve had learners that really struggle with steering and it’s to do with spatial awareness. Something that you don’t usually notice until you start driving.

    It’s quite common, so you’re not alone. It’s one of these things that just gets better with practice and it takes some longer than others. With persistence you will get there, so try not to stress about it.

    One thing I can tell you for sure though, is that once you start to relax a little more on your driving lessons, things really get easier. Remember the instructor has control of the car, so take it slow, relax and try to enjoy it 🙂

  26. Gloria

    I’m 40 yrsold and I’m glad I came across these comments it’s not to late I’m so ready now I renewed my permit more than once! But I can honestly say I’m finally Ready wish me luck!🙏🏾

  27. Hi Gloria,
    To be honest, a lot of it is to do with confidence and taking those first steps in getting out there and doing it means you’re already halfway there. Oh, and 40 years old is still very young 🙂 You’re going to do great!

  28. Jeanette

    In reply to Gwendoline Harrison.

    I’m 64 and passed my test years ago but hardly ever drove. You’ve inspired me to take refresher lessons (it’ll be like starting from scratch).

  29. Doreen

    Thanl you for this booster!

  30. I sat my exam at the age of 18,my face was a picture and in the evening went to blackpool but on the way i did something really really stupid. I went round a roundabout in excessive speed. It really woke me up. Its no excuse saying i didnt know the road, i should have taken it slower. Im 77 now and live in Spain. Ive lost my driving licence., so will have to apply for a new license. we have decided i will wait till i go back to the uk. (hoping people here agree) honest its a joke here how people drive.

    My tutor sitting next to me giving me lessons will be my partner of 30 years who was an instructor in the police. Sometimes i wonder how the hell some people have passed they do such awful things. I am passed first time with no errors in the uk so thats what im aiming to do in the uk. A lady from the local school has said she will give me a series of theory tests.

    Im like the lady above, if anything happens to my partner i will have to go to the shops, doctors etc etc. So need to drive. I mean i sit next to my partner and sort of openly comment on someones driving. It helps. I just couldnt get my head round the left hand drive, even now after 11 years here i iften go to the drivers seat.

    comment on what people do

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