Automatic driving lessons

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Midrive learners taking automatic driving lessons find their freedom faster (a whole 27 hours faster than the average learner in the UK!). Here are some other great reasons to take automatic lessons with us:

  • Learn with the best instructors based on learner ratings
  • Learn the easy way with support from the #1 app for learner drivers
  • Get started straight away, with your first lesson within 7 days

The automatic driving licence explained

Automatic driving lessons will prepare you to qualify with an automatic driving licence. With an automatic licence, you can drive automatic cars, but not manual ones. With a manual licence, on the other hand, you can drive both manuals and automatics.

Should you learn to drive in an automatic?

In a manual car, you’ll need to change gears using a gear stick and pedal, in order to control power and speed. In an automatic car, there are still gears but the car will effectively change between them for you.

Pros:

  • It’s quicker and easier to learn in an automatic car. You don’t have to figure out how to change gears and work the clutch.

  • There’s no risk of stalling. Stalling is the bane of any manual driver’s life, but if you’re wondering ‘can you stall an automatic car?’, the answer is no (unless there’s a mechanical fault). Phew!

  • Automatic cars are better on hills. Steep hills can be a scary thing for new drivers, especially if you’re starting from a stop. In an automatic, the car will take care of it for you.

  • They’re easier in heavy traffic. Just think how nice it would be not having to press the clutch and change gears every few metres. Well, it’s possible!

  • Automatics are gaining in popularity. Manual cars may still be more popular in the UK, but automatics are the cars of the future. If you want to drive an electric car, for example, it’ll be automatic!

Cons:

  • Lessons are more expensive. That’s because there are fewer automatic driving instructors around, so the demand is higher.

  • Automatic cars are more expensive. They’re not only more expensive to buy, but they’re also pricier to maintain and repair.

  • Automatics are more difficult to hire in Europe. You’ll usually have a bigger choice of manual cars than automatics if you’re looking to hire a car in Europe. That means that hiring an automatic tends to cost more.

  • They give you less control. Even though they’re meant to choose the best gear for you, they can’t anticipate upcoming situations. In a manual, you can deliberately change down a gear to get that extra boost of power.

  • Automatic driving lessons give you less flexibility in the long run. An automatic licence only qualifies you to drive automatic cars, whereas with a manual licence, you can drive both manuals and automatics.

Are automatic lessons popular?

In the UK, waiting lists for automatic driving lessons can be high and it can be difficult to find a local automatic driving instructor who's available. That's because there are fewer automatic instructors than manual instructors, so automatic instructors are highly sought after. However, only 9.5% of tests taken in 2017-18 were in automatic cars.

Interestingly, automatic driving lessons tend to be much more popular in the city than in the country. In 2017-18, the 20 test centres with the highest proportion of automatic driving tests were all in the London area.

At the top was Greenford (Horsenden Lane) Test Centre in West London, where 29.2% of tests taken were automatic. In contrast, Whitchurch Test Centre in Shropshire had the lowest proportion of automatic driving tests taken, at just 1.1%!

Automatic driving lessons also tend to be more popular amongst females than males. In fact, 75% of all automatic driving tests taken in 2018-19 were taken by females according to the DVSA’s data. While both genders are still most likely to learn in a manual car, the proportion of females taking the automatic test is far greater than the proportion of males.

Tests taken by females

Automatic
20.5%
Manual
79.5%

Tests taken by males

Automatic
7.8%
Manual
92.2%

DVSA practical car tests conducted by gender and transmission 2018-19.

Regardless of the popularity of automatic driving lessons, automatic cars are rapidly becoming more popular on the roads - 40% of all new cars in 2017 were fitted with an automatic gearbox according to the Telegraph. That’s 70% higher than back in 2007!

Who should take automatic driving lessons?

Drivers who value convenience and ease would benefit from driving an automatic car, whereas drivers who want to experience a stronger physical connection to the car might find it more fun to drive a manual.

An automatic car would be especially worthwhile if you’re based in a busy city with lots of traffic, like London, Liverpool, Portsmouth or Nottingham. You wouldn’t need to press the clutch continuously in stop-start traffic.

Similarly, an automatic might be your preferred choice if you live somewhere hilly, like Bristol, Sheffield, Brighton or Leeds. Automatic cars make hill starts much easier.

On the other hand, if you live somewhere quiet, or somewhere flat like Essex, Norfolk or Cambridgeshire, then ease might not be such an important factor. In that case, you might prioritise cost and opt for a manual car, which is likely to be easier to buy and maintain.

It’s also worth thinking about whether you’d like to hire a car on trips abroad. Automatics are more widely used in countries such as the US, whereas, in Europe, you’ll have much more choice with a manual licence.

At the end of the day, there’s no right answer - it’s all down to personal preference!

Is it cheaper to learn to drive an automatic?

On a cost per hour basis, automatic driving lesson prices tend to be higher. However, the overall cost of learning may be lower, as most people are able to pass with fewer lessons. According to the DVSA, learners take an average of 47 hours of driving lessons before passing their driving test. But this can be lower with automatic driving lessons.

You should also bear in mind that automatic cars, repairs and insurance all tend to be more expensive than manual. In fact, if you own an automatic car, you could pay 11% more with an automatic licence than you would with a manual licence!

How many lessons do you need to pass the automatic driving test?

There is no set number of driving lessons that you lawfully need to take before the automatic driving test. While the DVSA states that the average learner in the UK takes 47 hours of lessons before passing their driving test, when it comes to automatic car driving lessons you could take as little as 20 hours.

Pay as you go driving lessons

Pay as you go driving lessons allow you to pay individually for each lesson without committing to a set number of hours. However, pay as you go driving lessons usually work out more expensive as learners usually get a discount when they buy a full lesson package.

The automatic driving test

The automatic driving test is exactly the same as the manual driving test. The only difference is the type of car you drive!

The test consists of:

  • An eyesight check
  • ‘Show me’, ‘tell me’ questions
  • General driving
  • Reversing (one of three manoeuvres)
  • Independent driving

Automatic car pass rates

Given that learning to drive in an automatic car is generally accepted to be easier, you might be surprised to find out that the pass rate for learners taking the automatic driving test is well below the national average.

Driving test pass rates

Automatic
38.8%
UK average
45.7%

DVSA practical car test pass rates 2018-19.

So, why is the automatic pass rate so low?

We can’t say for sure, but it could be precisely because of automatic cars’ perception as being easy. This could cause over-confidence in learners, spurring them on to take the test too soon or to swap from manual to automatic if they’re having difficulty learning.

Upgrading from an automatic to a manual licence

If you qualify with an automatic licence and later decide you’d like to upgrade to a manual licence, you won’t need to reapply for a provisional licence. You can start learning to drive in a manual car with an automatic licence at any time, as long as you follow the rules for learners set by the DVSA:

  • You must be accompanied by a driver over the age of 21 who has held their full licence for three years and is qualified to drive a manual car
  • You’ll need to display your L plates
  • You must be insured on the car you’re driving

In order to switch over to a manual licence, you won’t have to take your theory test again but you will need to retake your practical driving test in an automatic car.

Automatic driving lessons near you

We offer automatic car lessons across the UK, so wherever you’re based, the chances are we’ll have a top-rated automatic instructor just around the corner.

Some of our most popular locations for automatic lessons are Birmingham, East London, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, North London, Peterborough, Reading, Sheffield, South East London and West London.

Enter your postcode to see automatic driving lesson prices near you.

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How it works

1

Book

Choose a package, select your availability and pay a £25 deposit.

2

Match

Get matched with an instructor within 24 hours.

3

Learn

Start your lessons. The remaining payment is taken when your first lesson is confirmed.

Common questions

Is it better to learn automatic or manual?

When it comes to choosing between manual and automatic driving lessons, there’s no one right answer - the right choice for one person will be different for someone else.

The main factor that could influence your decision is that an automatic licence only qualifies you to drive automatic cars, whereas a manual licence qualifies you to drive both. So, if you think you may need to drive a manual car at any point, you’ll be better off with a manual licence, even if you plan on driving an automatic car more regularly.

Are automatic driving lessons more expensive?

Yes, automatic driving lessons tend to cost more per hour than manual driving lessons, due to there being fewer automatic driving instructors. Nevertheless, many learners find that by learning to drive in an automatic car, they’re able to take fewer driving lessons before passing the driving test, saving them money in the long run.

How many hours does it take to learn to drive an automatic?

While the DVSA revealed that it takes learner drivers on average 47 hours to pass the practical driving test, it didn’t release any data on how transmission choice can affect this figure. Nonetheless, Midrive learners take an average of 30 hours to pass the manual driving test and 27 hours to pass the automatic driving test, showing that learning in an automatic car really can help you to learn quicker.

Is automatic driving easier?

Automatic driving is generally accepted to be easier, because there’s no clutch pedal and no need to use a gear stick to determine your speed. This gives you less to learn, meaning you could become a safe driver quicker if you learn in an automatic car. It also makes automatic cars more relaxing to drive, particularly in heavy traffic where you’re likely to be stopping and starting regularly.

Is it easier to pass an automatic driving test?

Surprisingly, the data suggests that it’s actually harder to pass the automatic driving test - the automatic pass rate is much lower than the UK average pass rate. That said, learners do tend to need fewer hours of driving lessons before passing the automatic driving test. So, one of the reasons the pass rate is low could be because learners taking automatic lessons take their driving test before they’re ready or become complacent.

How do you stop an automatic car?

Stopping an automatic car is very straightforward once you’ve got your head around it! Just follow these 5 simple steps:

  1. Push the brake pedal
  2. Move the gear stick to “P”
  3. Pull the handbrake
  4. Depress the brake pedal
  5. Push the button to stop the engine
How do you do a hill stop on an automatic?

You might be worried about doing a hill stop in an automatic car - it’s common to ask “will an automatic car roll back on a hill?” An automatic car can roll back on a hill just like a manual car can, so it’s important that you keep your foot pressed on the brake pedal until you’ve pulled the handbrake when you’re stopping on a hill.

The same applies when you’re doing a hill start - make sure your handbrake is on! Then, move the gear stick to D (drive), press the accelerator gently until you feel the car pull against the handbrake and only then release the handbrake.

The only exception is if your car has Hill Start Assist. This will keep you from rolling backwards when your handbrake is released. The good news though is that either way, an automatic car won’t stall when you’re doing a hill start, unless there is a mechanical fault with the car.

Should you put an automatic car in neutral at traffic lights?

No, unless you’re parking, you shouldn’t move the gear stick to ‘neutral’ or ‘park’. This can cause unnecessary wear to the transmission, the differential and the CV joints.

Are automatic cars cheaper to insure?

Unfortunately not! In general, there isn’t a massive difference between manual and automatic cars when it comes to insurance premiums, but automatic cars can actually be more expensive to insure. That’s because automatic gearboxes tend to cost more to replace than manual gearboxes, and because automatic gearboxes are generally found in cars of a higher spec.

You should also be aware that drivers who have an automatic driving licence tend to have higher premiums than drivers who have a manual licence, even if the driver with a manual licence is driving an automatic car!

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