Learning to drive is a rite of passage that sets you on course for the rest of your life. Ask any newly qualified driver, and they will tell you that there is nothing quite like the freedom of being behind the wheel with the open road ahead of you.
However, passing your test and getting your driving licence is no easy feat. Only around 50% of people in the UK pass their driving test the first time and many take three, four, five, or even more times to finally be handed their licence. As with most things in life, practice is the best method of ensuring success in your driving test.
The general rule with driving lessons is that complete beginners should have around 45 hours of lessons with an instructor and 20 hours of private practice before they take their test. With lessons costing anywhere between £15 and £35 per hour, learning to drive can be a costly endeavour. So any steps that you can take to improve your chances of passing your test on the first attempt should certainly be followed.
In this article, we are going to look at the best places to learn to drive in the UK.
Where is the best place to learn to drive?
Scotland has by far the highest pass rates of anywhere in the UK. All of the top ten test centres for the year between April 2021 and March 2022 are in remote locations in rural Scotland, with Ballater test centre topping the list with an 83.3% pass rate.
London, on the other hand, has four of the top ten worst places to learn to drive in the UK, with other major cities also completing the list. So, rural remote areas definitely come out on top.
But before running through each list, let’s first find out how we’ve determined the best places to learn to drive in the UK.
What determines the best places to learn to drive?
There are many measures of what makes a place good or bad for learning to drive.
Learners who get their first driving experiences in rural Scotland will find far fewer traffic stressors than those learning in inner-city London, for example.
On the other hand, those who learn in inner-city London will then be far better equipped to deal with certain driving situations than those from rural Scotland who may have never encountered them before.
Ultimately, no matter where you live, the best learning environment is one that offers a good amount of variation. Quiet roads, big roundabouts, main roads, and car parks are all important training grounds for the novice driver. Try to steer clear of heavy traffic as there is nothing worse than spending half an hour of an hour-long driving lesson sitting amidst angry drivers honking their horns in the rush hour jams.
For the purposes of our list, we have looked at the official best and worst UK driving test centres between April 2021 and March 2022 as published by the DVSA pass rates.
Each test centre offers tests in both manual and automatic cars, and the statistics for each mode have been combined.
So let’s now find out the top ten best places to learn to drive in the UK.
What are the top ten best places to learn to drive in the UK?
The UK test centre with the highest pass rate is in the village of Ballater in Aberdeenshire, which has a pass rate of 83.3%.
The rest of the top ten test centres are all also located in rural Scotland, with Peterhead (also in Aberdeenshire) and the Portree test centre on the Isle of Skye tying in tenth place with a pass rate of 76%.
However, it should be noted that all of these test centres see relatively few tests over the course of a year. Moreover, being situated in remote locations, a learner driver in these areas is not always able to get the full experience of what it can be like to drive in built-up urban areas when there are so few other drivers around.
|Best driving test centres||Test pass rate|
|Kyle of Lochalsh||79.3%|
|Isle of Skye (Portree)||76.0%|
Where are the top ten worst places to learn to drive in the UK?
The UK driving test centre with the lowest pass rate is in Erith, south-east London, which has a pass rate of just 29.1%.
Four of the top ten worst places to learn to drive in the UK are all located in London. Other major cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, and Bristol had particularly low pass rates.
The Cobridge test centre in Stoke-on-Trent rounded off the list in tenth place, with a pass rate of just 39%.
However, it should again be noted that these centres see many more testers each year compared to their rural Scottish counterparts. Furthermore, learning to drive in the inner city is harder, but it gives you a more well-rounded driving experience and provides crucial practice for driving in busy and built-up areas.
|Worst driving test centres||Test pass rate|
|Birmingham (Kingstanding)||38.0 %|
|Birmingham (South Yardley)||38.2%|
|Bristol (Jubilee House)||38.3%|
|Birmingham (Sutton Coldfield)||38.6%|
Where should you practise driving?
Although the statistics show that Scotland is by far the best place to take your driving test, most people have to take their test wherever they live.
But remember that simply having high pass rates does not necessarily make for better drivers. Those who are better practised on a variety of roads will ultimately be well trained to face the multiple challenges that drivers face every time they start the ignition.
Also, living in a city such as London or Birmingham doesn’t mean you can’t find areas that are better suited to driving lessons. Avoiding places with dense traffic is always advised, and if you can, try to book lessons that fall outside of peak traffic times.
When you first get lessons, your instructor will take you to a variety of roads that all require different skills. A-roads will give you the experience of driving at high speeds and may even offer you the chance to practice merging. Busy roundabouts are terrifying for novice drivers but are crucial for building confidence in real-life situations that are unavoidable.
When practising without a formal instructor but with an experienced parent, partner, or friend, try to find places that are going to offer you a challenge whilst you also feel safe and secure. Ring roads are always a good option as you will be able to reach the higher gears and you can usually avoid traffic outside of rush hour.
Also, try practising parking manoeuvres on quieter side streets or an empty parking lot. Again, this will give you experience in real-life situations, but with the comfort of relative security as you will likely not exceed more than 5 to 10 mph.
What can you do to increase your chances of passing your driving test?
If you have booked your test at a busy test centre that has a particularly low pass rate, then you are likely going to have put in a bit more practice than learners booked in at a quieter and better-ranking test centre.
While this may seem unfair, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you get the best chance of passing possible. Here, we will take a look at some of the hints and tips that can help you on your way to becoming a fully licensed driver.
Choose the right time of day
Driving tests run all throughout the day, and there are certain times of day that will favour the learner behind the wheel.
Avoiding the school-run hours between 7.45 am to 8.45 am and 3 pm to 4 pm is always a good idea. As is missing the peak rush hours between 8 am to 9 am and 5 pm to 6 pm.
So, if you can, try and book your test after 9 am but before 3 pm as this is when the roads will be at their quietest.
Choose a different location
As we have seen, the location of your test centre can make a big difference in your chances of success. Of course, most people can’t just travel up to rural Scotland from the south of England for a driving test, but there may be centres nearby that have a higher pass rate than others due to quieter roads or a slightly easier route.
Practice, practice, practice
It may sound like an obvious one, but practising driving is the best way to ensure you pass your test. Once you have the basics figured out, being a good driver is simply about being a well-practised one.
As well as lessons with a professional driving instructor, try and get as much driving experience as you can with family and friends who are able to supervise you in a car. But remember that you must have learner insurance to practice in the car and the experienced driver must have had a licence for at least three years.
Study the test route
Once you know the centre you will take your test at, be sure to study the roads around the area and practice driving through them. If you are able to, you should also practice entering and exiting the test centre, as many people fail their tests within the first or last few minutes by incorrectly navigating their way into or out of the centre.
Know your weak spots
Make sure you know what you struggle with when you are behind the wheel. That way, you can practice those areas and find solutions with an instructor to help put you at ease.
There are also common reasons for test fails that remain almost unchanged every year. Junctions and mirrors always feature highly, along with a few others. Study these and be sure to practice them as much as you can so you don’t fall into the same trap that many others do.
Rural Scotland has by far the highest pass rates for driving tests in the country. London, on the other hand, has the majority of test centres with the lowest pass rates. However, big cities still have much to offer learner drivers, and many will come out of their successful tests as more well-rounded drivers with honed driving skills and the ability to rise to the challenges that every driver faces on the roads.
Learning to drive takes time, motivation, and the ability to push through failure. The location of the test centre is important, but perseverance and hard work will ultimately be what gets you your full driving licence.