I Can't Get A Driving Test Right Now (And I'm Not The Only One)

There are even reports of people reselling driving test slots for extortionate prices.
Learner drivers are finding it near impossible to book a driving test right now.
Catherine Falls Commercial via Getty Images
Learner drivers are finding it near impossible to book a driving test right now.

Passing your driving test is a tedious and expensive process, never more so than right now. Pre-pandemic, you’d shed out for lessons, book your theory then practical and – all going well – pass both of then and be on the road.

This is no longer the case. Learner drivers have been complaining that it’s near impossible to find a driving test right now.

I know this firsthand – I began taking lessons in 2019, then had to stop due to the pandemic. After looking for a test for months, I finally booked one for May, but then had to cancel, as it wasn’t in an area I knew or could practise in.

Can I find another slot? Not yet, no. And apparently, it’s down to a major backlog in driving tests.

Kay, a 27-year old analyst from London, who prefers not to give her surname, is in the same boat. “When I try to book a test on the government website there are no available tests for months,” she tells HuffPost UK.

She began learning to drive in 2018 before taking a year and a half’s break. She started lessons again in late 2020, but due to ongoing Covid restrictions and lockdowns, her progress was slow. She eventually booked a test but failed.

She now feels ready for a retake, but can’t find a slot either. “If I was able to book another test quickly, I feel I’d pass the next test,” she says.

It’s even a struggle to book lessons. My driving instructor is busier than ever and has increased his prices from £20 a lesson to £30 since the pandemic, meaning I am taking fewer lessons while I wait and risk losing my skills.

The price of a driving lesson will vary on your area and who you book with but they usually start at £20 to £25 per lesson. It’s recommended that you take at least 45 of hours of lessons before booking a test.

This tops out above £1,000, a huge outlay for learner drivers during a cost of living crisis (let’s not get started on the petrol if you do pass). And if you can’t book a test, you’re probably spending more money on lessons so you don’t forget everything you’ve learnt by the time you can get one.

Michael Akpowowo, 24, from London, says he’s been looking for tests for the past month and can’t find a theory one or any affordable lessons to keep up.

“I don’t having a driving test date, as I’m still looking for good driving lessons and I’m still yet to pass my driving theory test,” Akpowowo tells HuffPost UK. “The majority of the driving companies I was looking through had expensive bookings or made me doubt whether they will deliver quality lessons.”

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which administers driving tests, says the backlog is due to a seven month break in testing during the height of the Covid lockdowns.

The DVSA conducts around 2 million tests each year and said “demand is very high now”, a spokesperson told HuffPost UK.

It says it has introduced measures to deal with delays, including recruiting an additional 300 examiners, contacting all those already qualified to conduct tests, and running out-of-hours testing at weekends and on public holidays.

“We are doing all we can to provide learners with as many tests as possible and bring average waiting times down to less than 10 weeks by the end of the year.”

The DVSA is advising learners to take their tests only when they are ready. “With more than half of candidates failing, learners should only take their test when they are confident they can pass,” the spokesperson said.

“It is important they are properly prepared for their test and don’t take it before they are ready. This will help them to avoid a lengthy wait for a retest and help us by not adding to the driving test waiting list.”

It also responded to reports of a surge of people bulk-buying driving test slots then reselling them for extremely high prices, as well as suggestions that phoney driving instructors are making a profit from selling slots to learners.

The DVSA said it was doing everything it could to “crack down” on this.

Until now, driving instructors and schools could set up a booking account to make multiple bookings for their students. The DVSA said it has closed the system to new registrations and closed down accounts that do not belong to driving instructors and driving schools.

“We will continue to work tirelessly to crack down on companies that are exploiting learner drivers,” the spokesperson told HuffPost UK.

They also confirmed that from June 2, the number of times a test appointment can be changed was reduced from 10 to the pre-pandemic limit of six.

The number of tests available to book will not be affected by any of these changes and learners can still use the online system to book their own tests, they said.

Let’s hope the log jam clears soon and we can all get on the road. For now, Ọrẹ Ogunbiyi, 24 from London has actually given up trying to find a test.

“I haven’t done any lessons yet because I need a [practical] test date to motivate myself,” Ogunbiyi, who has taken his theory, tells HuffPost UK.

“There’s just no availability anywhere. I saw one slot come up super quick, but it was in two weeks’ time. I tried to click it but it was gone by the time I went onto the next page anyway,” Ogunbiyi says. “I’ve just shelved it for now because if I can’t get a test by December, why bother?”