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Learning to drive Manual or Automatic

Updated on January 4, 2013

Learning to drive L Plate

L Plates
L Plates

Manual or Automatic Lessons

If you are thinking about learning to drive a car here in the UK, then the question might have crossed your mind, should I have driving lessons in an automatic or manual car. A few years ago, this learner driver question would have been very easy to answer, but nowadays the choice might not be very easy. The cost of cars has dropped over the years, and there is a much wider choice of both vehicles with manual and automatic transmissions, so having an automatic only full British driving licence is not quite the disadvantage it used to be.

Illegal Instructors

ADI Green Badge
ADI Green Badge

Choosing a driving instructor

Before I talk about which type of driving lessons you should take, I would like to give you some advice on choosing a instructor to help you with the task of learning to drive a car in the UK.

Whatever type of car you are going to learn to drive in and eventually pass the driving test with, if you are going to be taking professional tuition from an Instructor, then it is important that you don't waste your hard earned money paying someone who is not qualified to teach you.

A lot of learner drivers when considering the factors of who to take driving lessons with, will generally want to use the cheapest quote and almost everything else comes second including their own personal safety.

In the UK for you to be able to charge a learner driver money in exchange for driving lessons, you need to have your name in the department of transport's approved driving instructors (ADI) register currently administered by the DSA.

Entry into the register requires an individual to pass 3 very strict examinations which include a theory test, a one hour long practical car driving assessment in a manual car in which you are allowed on 6 minor driving errors and the 3rd one which is the teaching a learner simulation with the DSA examiner playing the pupil has a pass rate of about 30%! You need training which costs money, so at the end of the whole process, if you qualify, you can expect to charge some reasonable money for your driving lessons that you offer, manual or automatic.

Having explained that, you can understand why you should be very weary of driving schools offering very cheap driving lessons compared to other organisations in the local area. On your first driving lesson with your instructor, you should check their ADI badge which should either be green for a fully qualified instructor or Pink for a trainee. The badge should have their photograph, and the validity date should not have expired.
If your trainer can not produce their registration badge, then they might be operating illegally, and you might be breaking the law by driving their car or paying money to an unregistered instructor. Don't just go for the cheapest driving school around.

Most Common Driving Test Mistakes

Driving School Car

Back to the question on Manual or Automatic driving lessons.

Your first option should be manual driving lessons in the UK for the obvious reason that if you pass the driving test in a manual transmission car, then your full British licence allows you to also drive automatic transmission vehicles without having to take another DSA practical test. If you pass the UK practical car assessment in an automatic car, then you are restricted to driving autos, though you could drive a manual if you have a supervising driver next to you with a full manual UK licence held for at least 3 years.

Manual driving lessons are also cheaper than autos from the same driving school or in the same locality.

Learning to drive a manual car is generally harder than automatic car, so go for automatic cars if your psychomotor skills are not very good.

You should also choose automatic driving lessons if you any physical disabilities which makes using the clutch painful or difficult.

Finally I would personally recommend if you start learning to drive a car and are aged over 50 that you should choose an automatic car, not only in order to make progress more easily, but also to save time and money. While many people at this age a fully capable of learning to drive a manual, my experience has shown it is a lot of hard work, requires determination, and a few people have either given up, changed to automatic down the line or run out of finances due to other commitments.

One point to note, it is still hard to pass the UK driving test in an automatic car, so if you've tried in a manual don't think you will pass first attempt in an automatic just because you don't have to change gears anymore!

Driving Test Multi-Lane Roundabouts

Driving test in Automatic car

Many people who are learning to drive in a manual car, haven taken the DSA driving test and failed think that by converting to automatic driving lessons, that they will be able to take the next practical car assessment and pass at the first attempt! Not so.

There is more to the UK test than being able to drive a car smoothly shifting gears on a manual transmission car. Every day people fail in automatic cars, and sometimes it is not even on driving test maneuvers. You could still roll back in an automatic car while moving off on a very steep hill if you don't use the handbrake. You still need to use the appropriate speed while driving (not too slow and of course you can't break the speed limit), and there are still the set exercises that you need to be able carry out.

Whichever type of driving lessons you take, put all your effort into being properly preapared, and don't book the driving test until your instructor says you are ready and you've got the confidence to tackle anything you might encounter on the road during those 40 minutes you will be out with the DSA examiner.


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    • Savva Pelou profile image

      Savva Pelou 

      6 years ago from London were pretty good at passing me, although I did not pass first time the instructor was very sympathetic and knew what to do for me to pass the second time round.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I wanna drive

    • profile image

      Georgia Driving School 

      9 years ago

      In Georgia now you actually have to take Driving lessons to get your license before you're 17, it should be that way everywhere!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      at the age of 17 do u need to be insured to the car or can you drive with your family member who has 3 years of experience and two L plates. can you let me no as soon as possible.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      at the age of 17 do u need to be insured to the car or can you drive with your family member who has 3 years of experience and two L plates. can you let me no as soon as possible.

    • profile image

      Driving Lesson 

      9 years ago

      I agree with you for driving it is necessary to take driving lessons from driving classes.Choose good driving instructor and take good lessons from him. I also want to take a driving class from good driving school. So please tell me in which driving school i can join.


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