Driving then and now - Parents vs Children

Parents vs Children

Posted by Chloe Martell on 13 November 2017

We have been doing some research into the different ways we have learned to drive over the generations; from the cars we drive to the test we take. We want to know how different it all was when our parents were learning. Essentially we want to know who had it easier, parents or children?

Let’s have a throwback to 70’s-90’s.

Bestselling cars in the UK

  • 1970: Ford Cortina
  • 1980: Ford Escort
  • 1990: Ford Fiesta

I’m seeing a trend here! Here in the UK, we are nothing if not traditional.


Driving tests

  • In the 1980’s, examiners didn’t give any feedback or guidance at the end of the driving test – you either passed or failed, that was it.
  • Learners had to answer questions about The Highway Code during their test, there was no such thing as a separate theory test!
  • Up until 1975, drivers had to demonstrate the correct use of hand signals in their test!

I’m not sure how I would feel if I didn’t get any feedback at the end of my driving test. How would you know what went wrong or where you could improve? Can you imagine if you didn’t get any feedback at college/uni!? No thanks.

Driving lessons

  • The average price for a driving lesson in the 1980s was around £5-£10!
  • No legislation around who could supervise a learner driver.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the idea of only having to spend £5-£10 a lesson sounds like a dream and would have saved me A LOT of money over the last 3 years. I know for one, my Dad likes to remind me that it only took him 4 and a half driving lessons to pass his driving test. (The half lesson was just before his test!) Thanks, Dad…

Driving law

  • Wearing seatbelts wasn’t a legal requirement until 1983
  • There was no probation period for new drivers
  • Driving licences were on paper

I can’t imagine having to take a paper document with me on a night out as a form of ID!

Bestselling car today, drumroll, please…

Ok, we really are traditional! Will we ever mix it up? The first flying car will probably be a Ford.


Driving test

  • The theory test is now completely separate and needs to be passed before going in for your practical test and has been this way since 1996!
  • Driving test includes new manoeuvres, show me/tell me, and eco-safe driving.
  • Learners now have to drive without guidance from the examiner, which from December 2017 will include using a sat nav for 4 out of 5 driving tests.

Ok so passing your theory AND your practical test may be a pain, but at least these days we can study for them at different times. If I had to do both in one test, I know I would just over confuse myself. Anyone else?

Driving lessons

  • The cost of an average driving lesson (1 hour) is around £24, that’s 4x what they cost in the 1980s!
  • Anyone supervising a learner must be at least 21 years old and held their full driving licence for a minimum of 3 years.

We have already established that the cost of driving lessons in the 80s was much easier with the purse strings than it is today, but let’s look at it this way – if you can spend money on as many lessons as you want, will you really make the most of them? £24 an hour these days, I’m definitely making sure I get my money’s worth!

Private practice can also make a huge difference, with Learner Driver Insurance there to cover you behind the wheel of someone else's car when you're practising.


Driving Law

  • Driving licences today are a small plastic photo card without any paper parts
  • New drivers are subject to a 2-year ‘probation’ period, during which their licence will be immediately revoked if they get 6 penalty points

Having the 2 year probation period for new drivers definitely helps to keep people on the right track. If you’re at risk of losing your licence after all the hard work you put in to get it, then it’s definitely worth being extra cautious on the roads and develop good driving habits.

The parents, or the kids?

So the question is, who had it easier? Does the perk of £5 a lesson outweigh the simplicity of having a little card as your licence? Does having a separate theory test make it easier or more stressful?

Are you a parent who knows that it was a lot easier back in your day, or a young driver who is convinced its better to learn today? Let us know what you think! *Contemplates asking who's the better driver...*


About the Author

Chloe Martell
Chloe Martell

'Hi I'm Chloe! I'm 21 and like a lot of people, I'm still in the process of learning to drive. I've recently graduated with a Photography degree - this is a huge passion of mine. I also have a slight obsession with constantly changing my hair colour!'