PDI vs ADI—Which Should You Pick?

Two Beetle cars facing each other in a field

Learning to drive is a fun and rewarding experience, but it does require you to make some big decisions early on. Will you be driving a manual or automatic car? Do you want to opt for traditional lessons or an intensive course? And, the real biggie: who do you want to teach you to drive?

Of course, your answer to that question will be influenced by your other choices. The reason people hunt around for a good instructor is because different teachers offer different transmissions and teaching styles. So, once you've decided on the rest, you'll be able to narrow your search.

A choice you might not expect to be presented with, however, is: PDI or ADI? Not sure what we're on about? Well, depending on where you go to find lessons, it's a decision you may have to make.

To prevent you being rendered totally clueless while on the phone to prospective driving schools (awks!), we're about to tell all. Yes, by the end of this article, you'll be able to separate your PDIs from your ADIs like someone who's been in the driving biz for years. We'll also compare the various pros and cons of each, to help you decide which one to plump for. Let's get started!

What are the key differences?

Jigsaw pieces containing driving skills

There's actually a pretty big difference between PDIs and ADIs. One is a fully qualified, DVSA-approved instructor, while the other is still in their training period. We'll start proceedings off with the one you have probably already heard of: ADI.

An ADI is an Approved Driving Instructor. This title means that the individual has completed all 3 tests (driving theory, practical driving skills and instructional ability) required to qualify as a professional instructor and thus earned a spot on the ADI register. You can recognise an instructor's ADI status by the green badge they will likely display on the windscreen of their car. ADIs may work as part of a driving school or run their business independently.

PDI, on the other hand, is short for Potential Driving Instructor. Though that sounds rather vague, it actually only refers to someone who has applied, been accepted and started training to become an ADI. If they're in a position to be offering lessons, it means they must have passed part 1 and 2 of the qualification process, as well as completing at least 40 hours of training. Only when they've ticked these boxes can they apply to get a pink badge, which allows them to charge money for tuition. PDIs cannot work independently—they are limited to working within an established driving school.

Which is better?

As far as this article is concerned, that's kind of the million dollar question! Luckily for you, PassMeFast is not afraid to get stuck into the meaty debates, so we're going to take a good crack at it. The obvious answer is that an ADI is a better choice because they have actually completed their training and built up some experience. On closer inspection, though, it's not necessarily that straightforward an answer.

It all depends on what factors matter most to you and what exactly you're looking for in a driving instructor. So, time to delve into some of the points that may sway you one way or the other…

What's your financial situation?

Close up of a rolled up pound note

A major consideration for anyone about to embark on their driving journey is how much the whole thing is going to cost. Of course, it's hard to put an exact number on this because factors like location and how long it takes you to pass can make a big difference. What you might not have considered, though, is that who you pick to teach you to drive is also of importance here.

Because they haven't yet earned the full qualifications, you'll often find that the average PDI will charge lower rates than the average ADI. This makes sense as they're essentially a trainee. To get the real deal, you need to cough up more dough.

If you're all about keeping hold of those precious dollar [dollar] bills [y'all], requesting the services of a PDI rather than an ADI could be the way to go. Remember, though, that you get what you pay for. Taking a chance on a trainee is not without its risks. If you do decide to go down this road, we recommend that you test the waters before committing to a lot of lessons with a particular PDI. See if there's an option to take an assessment lesson with them, for example, so you can make sure their teaching is up to scratch.

What's your timeframe for passing?

To do book with a timer next to it

A really important fact to keep in mind is that a PDI's pink badge only allows them to teach learners for 6 months. Within (or just after) this time they need to pass part 3 of the qualification tests. Sure, they do get 3 attempts to do so, but if they don't manage to pass the finish line, it's game over. That is, they have to go all the way back to the beginning of their training and you'll be left high and dry. Not cool!

This is a problem not only because it takes some people more than 6 months to learn to drive, but also because you won't necessarily know how many months a PDI has left to teach when you sign up with them. Whatever their situation, it imposes a strict time limit on your learning experience. This just adds pressure to what can already be quite a stressful process.

You optimists out there might be thinking, 'That's fine! I'll just take an intensive course with my PDI to speed things up!', but here we hit yet another snag. Teaching intensive courses is a skill that only instructors with a lot of experience tend to possess. To expect a PDI to follow such an approach would be pushing them to run before they can walk.

As a result, if you work with a PDI and it takes you more than a few weeks to learn to drive, you might find yourself in a spot of bother.

How does your personal driving journey look?

bmw-on-long-winding-hilly-road

Though they're admittedly not the most attractive option, for some people, a few lessons with a PDI could be all they need to get test-ready. Everyone's driving journey is different, and this definitely isn't a scenario in which one size fits all. So, consider the following questions:

How much driving practice are you able to fit in outside of your official lessons?

This really can make all the difference. The DVSA recommends that learners spend extra time behind the wheel with friends and family who are legally allowed to supervise those with a provisional licence. So, if this is something you are able to do, it will build on your experience and allow you to expand on any lessons you take with a PDI.

Do you have previous driving experience?

If you're a fairly competent driver already and just need to polish up your existing skills, doing so with a PDI will probably work out fine (and save you a bit of cash!). For complete beginners, though, it's not wise to solely learn with a trainee. You want to make sure you're getting a solid introduction to what is quite a complex skill to master. Remember, PDIs are yet to pass the specific test that proves their instructional ability.

Are you a little nervous behind the wheel?

A thing we should probably mention is that in order to earn the pink badge, PDIs have to agree to either have 20% of their lessons supervised, or undergo 20 extra hours of training. If your PDI opts for the former, you can expect to spend some lessons with an extra pair of eyes in the car. For some learners, this only adds to their nerves.

PDI: pros vs cons

  • Often provide cheaper lessons than ADIs.
  • May be more enthusiastic in attitude because they are new to the role and eager to qualify.
  • All of the driving knowledge they need to pass onto you will be fresh in their minds because they are still training.
  • They lack the experience of ADIs.
  • Their licence to teach is only valid for 6 months at a time, which imposes a strict time limit on your learning experience.
  • Are unlikely to be able to provide different teaching styles, like intensive courses.
  • Haven't officially proved that they are competent teachers. Some PDIs never actually manage to pass the 3rd test.

ADI: pros vs cons

  • If they've achieved ADI status they have proved their teaching ability and probably built up quite a bit of experience with various learners.
  • You can rest assured that they have to undergo regular and rigorous checks and tests.
  • Their green badge is valid for 4 years, so you should be able to have the same instructor throughout your driving journey.
  • Experienced ADIs will have a thorough knowledge of local test routes and may even be able to provide insider tips about nearby test centres.
  • Depending on your area, you may find that you have to compete with other learner drivers for lesson slots.
  • Will charge more than PDIs for lessons.

Who should you learn with?

PDI and ADI badges

At the end of the day, who you pick to teach you to drive is your decision. In our experience, there's nothing wrong with learning with a PDI, as long as you are already fairly confident behind the wheel. PDIs have to build up experience somehow! Everyone starts somewhere, so it's not really fair to write them off completely. We would advise, however, that you do research PDIs in your area carefully—try to locate instructors who come recommended by others.

As one of the leading providers of intensive courses in the UK, PassMeFast exclusively works with DVSA-approved ADIs. For those wanting to pass their test as soon as possible, this is the only way to go.

Give us a call on 0333 123 4949 to see which instructors we recommend in your local area!