When you are working to a limited budget hiring a professional often appears to be a luxury. This is probably why DIY is so popular - it can't be that hard can it?
My garage is full of tools I've bought for a particular job and never used again, I've completed the job to a fair degree of satisfaction and saved some money but it never really looks like a professional has done it. My garage also has it's fair share of part completed 'projects' where what seemed to be a straightforward easy job turned out to be slightly more complicated than I'd imagined.
To a large extent this is the case with learning to drive. Loads of people can drive and therefore think it must be easy to teach someone to do it and part of me agrees - driving is not rocket science and even an amateur is allowed to teach you and there's a chance of passing the driving test, even when using techniques that are less than car or wallet friendly.
"If you think hiring an expert is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur"
So why pay a professional?
The difference lies in both the effectiveness and efficiency of learning from a professional.
The cost of learning is quantifiable and therefore it's really easy to see exactly what it costs and think "wow that's expensive." However, it takes a long-term view to see how the techniques taught by a good instructor could save you £1000's. The techniques an excellent instructor teaches you could save you even more.
Take for example the average driver's mileage of around 10,000 miles per year and the cost of fuel at 20p per mile, that's £2,000 per year. But what if you applied the fuel-saving techniques taught by your instructor and reduced this to 15p per mile, it would save you £500 per year.
I recently helped a pupil, initially being taught by her parents, get an extra 18 miles per gallon. Over a lifetime she could save enough money to buy a new car!
Added to these savings is the potential reduction in maintenance costs such as, amongst other things, replacing worn out clutches, brakes, tyres and steering and of course a reduction in insurance premiums by avoiding crashes.
You may not fail a driving test for using certain habits or techniques that are unlikely to be corrected when learning with an amateur, but over a period of time these are serial clutch killers. Habits such as 'riding the clutch' or occasionally unnecessarily 'slipping the clutch', or sitting at traffic lights in first gear with the clutch at the 'biting point' for long periods. These faults may not be deemed worthy of marking on a test but can take thousands of miles off the lifetime of the clutch. Considering that a replacement clutch is going to set you back a good £400-£600 these are expensive habits to have. This cost is comparable to around half of the current fee for learning to drive with a professional. The difference being, you only pay to learn to drive once. When treated well a clutch can last the lifetime of the car, yet if treated poorly may need to replaced regularly.
Another common habit we see that leads to additional wear and tear is changing down through each gear instead of using the more effective, and cheaper to replace, brake components . You really don't want to know what it costs to replace a gearbox.
I often recall a conversation I had with a friend many years ago. He was buzzing because he'd just taken his 4 year old car for a service and he still had 50% of his brake pads left.
"Not bad for 40,000 miles" he beamed.
I replied "that's interesting Rob, haven't you recently had your clutch replaced?"
"Yes" he said.
"How much did that cost you?"
"Oh, and how much would it have cost you to replace your brake pads instead? About £40?"
He didn't reply, but you could see the sudden dawning of realisation on his face.
You may have noticed that I've used the words 'could' and potential' a lot so far. This is because these savings rely on YOU doing what you've been taught, not just in the first few weeks of driving but for a lifetime (a lifetime that can be greatly reduced if you don't). And don't listen to that nonsense about learning to drive properly once you've passed your test, this just makes others more comfortable with their bad habits. You're as much an expert as they are.
Saving a few quid here and there may seem like a good idea in the short-term and I'm all for parents or friends helping out by giving learners the chance to gain experience in addition to driving lessons and actively encourage this, but a wise person should look at the money they are paying for an Approved Driving Instructor as a long-term investment in theirs or their child's future.
Something that has stayed with me is a phase my old House-master at school often said "the saddest two words in the English language when put together are...if only"
He's right you know.