In the Autumn of this year, the respective market leaders conducted a wide-ranging survey to provide the industry with several new and interesting insights. The survey was also designed to help individual instructors, both old and new, learn about new trends and understand gathered opinions surrounding topics that would influence their careers both in the short and long-term.

The first key analysis looked at was demographic figures. The study highlighted the gender and age range of participants which varied from 21 to 60+ and showed that 3 out of 4 who answered were male and 65% were over the age of 50. In terms of location, respondents were evenly split across the UK with the highest proportion of 16.8% based in the South East. Regarding ethnicity, our findings mimicked the national 2011 Census Data to a large extent with one key finding – 12% of respondents identified as “Asian” or “Asian British” – which reflects as 6% higher in comparison to the general population.

Driving Instructor Training

We found that 28% chose to become a driving instructor predominantly due to the flexibility afforded to them by being self-employed, while 13% decided on the vocation because they enjoy teaching. A further 8% decided on this career path because they wanted to improve the driving standards of the next generation and over 10 respondents claimed being a Driving Instructor was their dream job.

Our survey showed 71% opted for a Trainee (PDI) Licence instead of going straight for their Part 3 Exam. Their training was done across a mixture of large training organisations. The major reason individuals chose to go with their training provider was their reputation, the course’s location and due to them being part of a driving school upon qualifying.

Starting out as a Driving Instructor

Upon completion of their training, overall 61% opted to join a franchise, with this majority concluding that this choice was the clear route to follow. Other key reasons to choose a franchise included the tuition vehicle (24%), the brand (21%) and the overall all-inclusive nature of the franchise offering i.e. providing pupils, a car, insurance, maintenance, instructor support etc) (20%). In terms of recommendations, 79% would refer other instructors to their franchise, which is demonstrated by 37% receiving the perfect number of pupils from their driving school and 23% fully booked.

The highest reason to not go with a franchise outside of these factors was being able to manage their own diaries (55%) whilst having their own choice of vehicle was surprisingly the lowest reason at just (19%).

Tuition Vehicle – Transmission, Fuel & Manufacturer

From those surveyed, less than 10% of driving instructors currently drive an automatic tuition vehicle. Of even more interest was the general reluctance from driving instructors to make the ‘transmission transition’ despite the largely growing audience for automatic driving lessons around the country with only 18% having made the decision to change over.

We also found 37% of participants change their vehicles after 3 or 4 years, 23% changed their vehicles every 2 to 3 years and worryingly, more than 10% of instructors are changing their cars every 5+ years. 74% of instructors are choosing to buy their vehicle outright.

The study queried instructors on their tuition vehicles which highlighted Ford as the most popular manufacturer with 22.5% of respondents using them as their car of choice. This is in line with the top selling cars of 2019 with the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus and Ford Cougar all present in the top 10 year-to-date. Second was Vauxhall with 13.6% of the total and Volkswagen third with 8.1%.

New research from Aviva found that only one in four drivers nationwide currently use a dash cam, which compares unfavourably with our results showing that 58% of instructors currently using them. Dash cam footage is now accepted and regularly used by both the police and UK courts, resulting in lower insurance premiums.

Methods of Payment

With regards to payment methods, 86% most commonly take cash as their preferred method of payment. This runs against the national trend as shown in 2018, card payments overtook cash payments for overall transactions in the UK – yet only 8% of driving instructors offer to take their payments by contactless card payments. It has long been observed that people generally spend more money on card payments than by cash.

On average, instructors worked between 26-30 hours per week, with an average lesson price between £26 and £30 per hour. On hours worked, the range of responses varied from 10 to 15 hours per week to 51+. The data showed us that 14% of instructors do 10-15 hours per week and 8% do 41 hours and above. It was fascinating to see that 15 respondents state they are regularly working 51 hours a week or more!

Pupil Marketing

In terms of the methods employed by driving instructors to acquire students, word of mouth remains the primary means to source pupils. Facebook is the second highest source.

What should you be looking at in 2020?

Based on our findings, these are the seven key questions you should be asking yourself to help improve your driving instructor business in 2020 and beyond:

Consider automatic. 80% of the pupil enquiries Bill Plant Driving School turn down are due to instructors’ diaries either being fully booked or no availability for automatic driving lessons. Do you know the demand for auto in your area?

When should you consider moving to a hybrid/EV tuition vehicle? Will that decision be made for you by the pupils of an environmentally conscious, green-thinking generation or the government themselves?

Increasing revenue through alternative payment methods. For those wishing to increase their revenue next year, rather than simply looking at the unit cost of a driving lesson (lesson price) – should you look to more strategically assess the payment methods you have available, based on our highlighted psychological findings?

Fit a dash cam. Given the benefits we’ve outlined, if you haven’t already got one 2020 is the year to fit a dash cam!

Sourcing pupils. Expand upon your current methods of pupil sourcing, don’t get left behind as an independent by not paying close attention to newer digital marketing trends.

Career development. ORDIT training not only gives you more reliable income and diversifies your teaching portfolio but also provides you with the unique opportunity to develop the next wave of driving instructors for future generations. Consider ORDIT training as a route of progression in the New Year!

Finding the right work life balance. Remember why you became a driving instructor in the first place – the flexibility and lifestyle benefits. As you are planning your approach for 2020, consider reflecting on the hours you work and the way you tackle teaching. Mix-up your daily routine by including physical activity such as gym or yoga sessions and add regular meet ups with other local instructors or those within your franchised driving school to improve your social wellbeing.

Please find the link to the full article here.

Bill Plant Driving School and C&A Mackie would like to thank all respondents who took the time to complete the survey. As some of you may know, we had 6 prizes to give away and the names pulled out of the hat are shown below. Congratulations to you all and the prizes will be on their way to you soon.

The 3 winning recipients of an Amazon Echo dot each are:

Brian Maynard

Gordon Reid

David Thomson

The 3 winners of the Peter Brabin book, ‘Qualified: The Guide to Becoming an Approved Driving Instructor’ are:

Simon Jenner

Jack Rothwell

John Wood