A new study analysing the latest DVLA data by Cardiff based learner driver insurance company Veygo shows more people are putting off learning to drive until later in life.
It also reveals drivers under 30 are now less likely to get their full licence, despite provisional licence ownership growing since 2019.
Learning to drive is a costly endeavour and the price of lessons, tests and insurance have steadily risen over recent years.
Most learners need 40 to 50 hours of driving lessons before they pass their practical test, totalling £1,575 on average. Add the theory and practical test fees to the mix, and it can prove expensive.
Learners also need to consider the cost of buying or leasing a vehicle when they pass, insuring it, and ongoing running costs such as fuel, maintenance and annual MOT tests. In 2023, the average cost of running a car each year is over £3,000.
So, how are rising costs affecting the age at which people choose to start learning to drive and whether they decide to stick it out and get their full licence?
According to data analysts at learner driver insurer Veygo, who reviewed five years of licence data from the DVLA, the age of learner drivers is steadily increasing.
In February 2023, over 1.9 million 30-39-year-olds held provisional driving licences compared to 1.67 million in 2019. Today, 237,401 more people are learning to drive in their 30s than in 2019 – a rise of 14.2%.
The number of learners in their 30s passing their driving test is also up, with 90,200 more full licence holders than there were five years ago.
This is a slightly larger increase than what has been seen among those aged 20-29, up by 14.1% learners. However, the number of people in their 20s sticking it out and getting their full licence has dropped over this same period by nearly half a million (433,949).
The same can be said for the youngest learners. 91,317 less people aged 17-19 held a full driving licence in February 2023 compared to 2019 despite the number of learner licences issued increasing by 18.4% among this age group.
The high cost of lessons could be to blame, coupled with pandemic disruption and instructor shortages cutting learning experiences short.
The study shows the number of learner drivers has risen across all age brackets. 122,888 more people in their 40s are learning to drive in 2023 compared to 2019 (up 9.2%). The number of learner drivers in their 50s and 60s is also up (by 8.1% and 22%, respectively).
Interestingly too, some of the biggest percentage increases can be found amongst the oldest populations, with learners in their 90s growing by 32.9% over the past five years – although in real figures this is only 27 more drivers on the road. These nonagenarians prove it’s never too late to learn.
Legally, there is currently no minimum number of lessons a learner driver must take before sitting a practical driving test. But with driving tests costing £62 per attempt, learners can waste a lot of money taking tests before they’re ready.
Usually, an instructor will only suggest you book a test when they’re confident you’ll pass.
James Armstrong, CEO of Veygo said, “It’s interesting to see more people are waiting until later in life to get their provisional driving licence and get behind the wheel.
“Given the rising costs of buying or leasing a vehicle and increasing running costs, it’s no surprise that young people may choose to wait until they’re more financially secure in their 30s before taking lessons and their driving test.
“More people are also choosing to learn with friends or a family member to keep down costs. The popularity and availability of pay-as-you-go learner driver insurance are rising thanks to affordable rates and flexible options – roughly £7-8 for 3 hours or £55 for a month’s cover. However, prices can depend on the engine size and insurance group.”