It might not have crossed your mind that, when looking for a driving instructor to teach you how to drive, it's absolutely vital to make sure they're actually qualified to do so. Only DVSA-registered instructors are qualified to teach and legally allowed to charge you for lessons. If you end up learning with someone who doesn't have the right qualifications or training, you could end up endangering yourself and other road users. So it's crucial that you check your instructor is fully legal.
In this guide, we'll look at how you can check your instructor is approved by the DVSA, why it really matters and what to do if you think you're learning with an illegal driving instructor.
Before we get into how exactly you can go about checking your instructor is DVSA-approved, we're first going to look at some of the main reasons why it really matters in the first place.
Anyone offering driving lessons must be a Potential Driving Instructor (PDI) holding a valid trainee driving instructor licence, or an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). If they're not, and they're still charging money for their lessons, then they're breaking the law. Only DVSA-approved instructors are legally allowed to charge you for their services. Don't just take our word for it — GOV.UK lays this out in no uncertain terms on their website:
To legally charge anyone money (or monies worth) for driving instruction in a car, you must either:
It's illegal to charge someone for driving lessons if you're not qualified and registered, or if you don't have a trainee driving instructor licence."
- Be on the ADI register
- Have a trainee driving instructor licence
Worse still, this problem isn't as uncommon as you may think — we found there were almost 1,000 reports of instructors teaching illegally between 2014 and 2019.
It doesn't matter if the person you're learning with has been driving for decades and considers themselves to be one of the best drivers on the road, if they aren't qualified to teach, then they're not worth your time. In order to become an ADI, prospective instructors have to pass three tests and build up experience with teaching learners. After becoming an ADI, they also have to pass a standards check every four years. Needless to say, DVSA-approved instructors are well worth their salt.
The DVSA carefully regulates all of its instructors, ensuring they follow a strict set of rules and specifications. For starters, the DVSA conducts a criminal record check for people applying to become a PDI or ADI. They continue to conduct these checks when an ADI re-registers every four years. ADIs also need to be a ‘fit and proper’ person according to the DVSA (adhering to high personal and professional standards). Essentially, if the DVSA deems someone a risk to learners, they’ll be scratched off the ADI register.
Your driving instructor is responsible for your safety during lessons and for preparing you to take to the roads unsupervised. If they’re not properly qualified, they could end up passing on their bad habits to you. If you’re not taught the right skills, you could not only fail your driving test, but also end up endangering yourself and other road users.
Additionally, if you’re learning with an illegal instructor, odds are, they’re not properly insured. As you can see, it’s pretty important that you learn with a qualified instructor. Not only does it ensure you’re receiving the right training for your driving test — helping you develop the skills you need to be a safe and confident driver when driving alone — it also means you can be sure you’re learning with someone who has been properly vetted and trained to the highest standard.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at how exactly you can find out if your instructor is DVSA-approved or not.
The first thing you need to do is check the DVSA’s handy ‘Find your nearest driving instructors’ tool. This database contains a list of DVSA-approved instructors who have signed up to be listed. You’ll be able to simply type in your postcode and find instructors that are the closest to you. When you do, you’ll be able to see their:
And that’s not all. You’ll also be able to see if an ADI has committed to a voluntary Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme and if they have agreed to abide by the ADI Code of Practice (CoP).
Additionally, if an ADI has chosen to disclose it, you’ll see their Standards Check Grade. If an instructor hasn’t disclosed their grade, don’t assume this is because they failed their standards check! If ADIs don’t pass the standards check, they get two more tries before they have to retake all three ADI tests again. You can find out more about this in our guide to the process of becoming a driving instructor.
Can't find your instructor on the list? Before you start jumping to conclusions, we’d like to emphasise that this database is purely voluntary. In other words, ADIs choose whether or not they want to be included on the list. For all you know, your instructor could just prefer to advertise their services by word of mouth or their personal website. Fortunately, the DVSA database isn’t the only way to check your instructor is DVSA-approved.
There’s an even faster method of finding out if your instructor is DVSA-approved or not — just take a look at their windscreen! Of course, this only applies if you’ve started lessons. All DVSA-approved instructors have to display a badge in their windscreen to show that they’re qualified to teach learner drivers.
If you’re learning with a Potential Driving Instructor, then they’ll have a pink triangular badge in their windscreen. This category of instructor is only one test away from becoming an ADI and is allowed to provide teaching as a way of building up experience. Approved Driving Instructors, by comparison, will have a green octagonal badge in their windscreen. The badge displayed should have a photograph of the instructor, a reference number and an expiry date.
If you can’t find your instructor in the DVSA’s database and they don’t have a badge displayed, it’s important not to panic or jump to conclusions. They might have taken the badge out of their windscreen for any number of reasons.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking them to prove that they’re qualified (if you suffer from that awkward British politeness!) then you can get in touch with the DVSA and ask them to check for you. To help the DVSA with their search, you will need the name of your instructor and their ADI number (if you can). Then, get in touch with the DVSA’s customer support:
DVSA Customer Support [email protected] Telephone: 0300 200 1122 Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm
Alternatively, if you’re pretty certain that you’ve been learning with an illegal driving instructor, you can report them to the DVSA’s counter-fraud and integrity team. Feel like you're going a bit overboard? The DVSA takes this matter very seriously and looks into every report. So, if you're reasonably sure, you should definitely get in touch:
DVSA Counter-fraud and Integrity Team [email protected] Telephone: 0300 123 3248 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
If you’re on the lookout for a driving instructor, one way you can be sure you’re learning with a professional is to ask for a recommendation from your family and friends. Once you've got the name of a good driving instructor, you can then go through the steps above to make sure they’re DVSA registered. If you can’t get a good recommendation, you could always just manually search for one yourself by using the DVSA's instructor database.
Of course, you can also test out your investigative chops and browse the internet for the best driving instructors in your area. If you take this approach, we’d recommend you check customer reviews carefully. Then, cross-check any instructors you find against the DVSA’s database.
The easiest (and fastest) way of making sure you’re learning with qualified instructors is to use a driving school like PassMeFast..
PassMeFast is a crash course provider that covers a range of areas across the UK. We’d be nowhere, however, without our fleet of instructors. If you hate the idea of having to check your instructor is legal and above-board, you’re in luck — we do it as soon as an instructor joins our school.
If you’re learning with a PassMeFast instructor then it’s guaranteed that they’ve gone through the gruelling tests and training required to become an instructor. With bags of experience under their belts, PassMeFast instructors are able to cater their teaching approach to each individual learner. And with exceptional knowledge of the local roads, they’re able to help learners get to know the roads around their chosen test centre like the back of their hands — making the driving test a breeze!
Not entirely convinced? You can check out our customer reviews to see what our students think about our top instructors. Alternatively, you can get a behind-the-scenes look at some of our hardworking instructors with our Meet an ADI series on the PassMeFast blog:
Want to learn with an official instructor and get on the road quickly? PassMeFast is your perfect choice. Not only are our instructors qualified to teach, but our courses are also ideal for any type of learner — whether you’re a complete beginner or someone who’s almost test-ready.
Our crash course packages can be taken at a pace suited to you. Depending on your preferences, you’ll spend between 2 to 5 hours with your instructor at a time. When you book a course with PassMeFast, we’ll match you up with one of our top instructors in your local area. With them, you’ll build up the skills you need to not only tackle the driving test, but also prepare you for taking to the roads by yourself. The two of you will fit lessons around your schedule to help you to pass within your preferred time frame.
If that wasn’t enough for you, your PassMeFast instructor will also pick you up from home or your workplace! To see what courses we have to offer, head on over to our course prices page. Don’t forget to select your preferred transmission (manual or automatic) and whether you’ll need a theory and/or practical test. When you’re ready, book online or give us a ring on 0333 123 4949.