Time for a money confession – I spent over three thousand pounds learning to drive and then didn’t drive for four years.
Learning to drive is expensive, we all know that. I definitely know that because I spent more than three thousand pounds learning to drive and then didn’t drive a car for over four years. I wasn’t away at Uni or living in a foreign country. I did, however, have a massive car accident (that wasn’t my fault) five days after buying my first car that left me terrified of driving.
Eventually overcome my fear, but only after paying out for yet more lessons with an extremely patient and kind driving instructor. It’s hard not feel like that was four years of money wasted. Learning to drive is an investment and for the first four years after passing my test I wasn’t getting any return on that investment because I wasn’t driving.
Learning to drive
Learning to drive didn’t come naturally to me at all. I think some people just ‘get it’ straight away – I did not. I struggled and it seemed to take me forever to get the hang of it. Almost a year in fact. And in that time I spent a small fortune on lessons. Initially I started with an instructor that offered intensive, bulk lessons. So I was having two four hour lessons a week, which is double what most instructors usually offer. However, I didn’t really get on with the instructor and because he offered intensive week long courses as well he kept cancelling on me in favour of others that were spending more money.
So after about a month I changed instructors. My new instructor was so much better, more reliable and very friendly. However, he had much busier schedule and could only fit me in for four hours a week. For 10 months I had two lessons a week and was eventually ready to take my test. I failed my first. Passed my second.
One of the biggest hindrances while learning to drive was not having my own car. Money wise I could afford to buy one but didn’t see the point as I had no-one that could sit with me while I practiced. Neither of my parents drive and none of my friends had been driving long enough to be able to help me. Had I been able to practice more in my own time I really think I would have been able to spend less on lessons.
After I passed my test I actually had a couple of extra lessons. I wanted to feel confident at driving on the motorway so had a few lesson to practice. I think one of the scariest things after leaning to drive is actually driving one your own for the first time with no one there with you.
My first car was a lovely little Vauxhall Corsa. It cost me £1200 and a further £1000 for a years insurance. I had this car for a grand sum total of 5 days. On my first day off with my new car I wanted to take my Mum out for the day. While driving on the motorway when another car hit me from behind. They didn’t stop, just carried on driving. I pulled over onto the hard shoulder and got out of the car, while my Mum phoned the police. Just one person stopped to help me.
My car was a wreck. We waited for what felt like hours for the police, the highways agency and eventually a recovery truck. Luckily we were both unhurt, although had anyone been travelling in the back of the car it might well have been a different story as the impact had completely knocked out the back seats. While I appeared uninjured at the time, the impact actually left me suffering from Thoracic outlet syndrome, something I didn’t discover until much later on.
Unfortunately my car had to be written off. Initially the insurance company gave me a hire car to drive, but then revoked it after two days because the other drivers insurance was refusing to pay for it. The driver of the other car had been unconscious at the wheel when he hit me. However, being unconscious didn’t prevent him from driving a further twenty miles down the motorway and crashing into a coach.
I had a massive battle on my hands to try to get any money out of his insurers at all. They were claiming that because he was ill while driving the accident wasn’t his fault. The case went on for almost two years. Eventually they agreed to pay out around £2000 to cover the cost of my damaged car and a what we thought was a minor whiplash injury, which in the end turned out to be something far more serious.
After the accident I simply couldn’t afford to buy another car, having just paid out for one, plus a years insurance. The bulk of my savings had gone on lessons. So I just didn’t drive. The accident also affected me in others ways. It was months before I went on the motorway again, even with someone else driving. I became a very nervous passenger, continually scared something bad was going to happen. I had nightmares that a car had crashed through my bedroom window (my bedroom was on the ground floor and next to a road).
By the time the insurance company had paid out the money I just didn’t want to buy another car. I didn’t want to drive. So as I compromise I gave some of the money to my husband, we bought a car together and he put me on the insurance. Eventually I tentatively went out for short drives around town. I really struggled with nerves and my husband got frustrated with me because he knew I could drive, but I just wasn’t doing it properly because I was so nervous.
Ready To Drive Again
After changing jobs, my only option for getting to work was a bus, a five minute walk along a main road with no path and then crossing the A39 twice to get where I needed to be. I decided enough was enough. I booked another course of driving lessons. I had been absolutely loathe to spend any more money on driving, but in the end I decided it was the only way forwards. I had the same instructor as before and I spent £400 on another twenty hours of lessons. Thankfully it worked and I now feel much happier with driving. It’s taken almost two years but I now actually feel confident driving around town and in my local area, which is all I really need. I still haven’t driven on the motorway.
Learning to drive isn’t cheap. It’s certainly an investment and one which should last most of the rest of your life. Looking back I wished I fought harder at everything. The guy who hit me and drove off wasn’t even arrested or prosecuted for failing to stop. It was ‘recommended’ that he no longer drove his car but his license wasn’t even revoked. The whole incident had such a huge impact on my life and my finances. Spending years not having the confidence to drive meant not applying for jobs further afield. I didn’t gain the freedom being able to drive should have brought me.
The injuries caused meant a lot of time off work sick and taking time off for doctors appointments, which were a 100 mile round trip. That said, things could have been much worse. I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky the injuries were not worse. I’m just glad that I was eventually able to regain my confidence and get driving again.