Where are the UK's lockdown-inspired learner drivers?

Lockdown isn't stopping these learner drivers getting on the road. Here's where the UK's lockdown-inspired learner drivers are.


By Marmalade Author

Updated on Jan 14th, 2021

Interest in learning to drive has more than doubled since the beginning of lockdown restrictions in March 2020 as many people look to get out on the road and seek some independence. However, it’s clear that interest and demand has spiked dramatically in different areas of the UK, but where are the nations lockdown learners?

We’ve been crunching the numbers to investigate the impact of lockdown on the demand for learning to drive. Our recent research suggests that we’re likely to see a decline in driving instructors over the next few years and this data will help to paint a complete picture of the whole story. 

Where in the UK saw the biggest increase in demand for learning to drive?

Topping the leaderboard was Middlesbrough, which saw the biggest rise in interest ahead of driving lessons resuming in England on Saturday 4 July, with stats suggesting interest in learning to drive rose by 554% throughout March to June. There were also significant spikes in searches from residents of Chester (310%), Cheltenham (248%) and Norwich (236%). 

How did we gather the data?

To investigate the impact of lockdown on the appetite for learning to drive, we took a bit of a deep dive into Google Keyword Planner data to explore the number of searches for terms such as ‘learning to drive’ throughout the strictest period of lockdown; from March to June 2020. As well as looking at the data on a national level, we also wanted to know which towns and cities of the UK were seeing the biggest spikes in demand.

National searches for ‘learning to drive’ increased by 120% over this four month period, however it’s clear that in many places this was a lot higher.

What do learners think?

We caught up with learner driver Lewis Barlow, 28, Nottingham about his reasons why lockdown reignited his driving ambitions.

“Prior to lockdown I had to get two buses each way to work and as lockdown persisted and the severity of the current situation became clear I realised that getting back on public transport to that extent was not a desirable option for me. 

“Driving had always been something I’d been meaning to pick back up and this seemed like as good a reason as any. I’m definitely looking forward to being more autonomous and able to return to the office when that’s deemed appropriate. I also think my husband’s looking forward to not always being the designated driver!”

Why do we think this has happened?

Lockdown has encouraged many people to reevaluate their personal aspirations with many using it as an opportunity to set new goals and targets for the coming months including career changes, health and fitness ambitions as well as many using the extra time at home to hone a new skill such as driving.

Of course there is more to learning to drive than just learning a new skill. For many people, learning to drive is the first step of real independence and offers the chance to escape the house without the reliance on a friend, family member or public transport. And after being cooped at home during the strictest periods of lockdown, it’s no wonder that many people have been desperate to explore new places and really embrace the chance of seeing new places when they can. 

CEO at Marmalade, Crispin Moger, said:

It’s no surprise that being stuck at home during the strictest period of lockdown made a lot of people sit down and have a think about their future plans, as well as self-development goals and ambitions once they had the opportunity to tackle them head on. Driving, for many people, is one of the main forms of independence, and being stuck at home for significant lengths of time has been the incentive for many to get on the road and travel in their own vehicle more proactively than ever before. 

We have also seen a year-on-year increase in sales for learner driving insurance specifically, which is also likely to be driven by the measures being taken on public transport such as the requirement for social distancing and the need to wear a face covering. Many people feel safer in the comfort of their own vehicle, and with 20% of people suggesting they are likely to drive more to avoid public transport, this is likely to have contributed towards the spike in searches as well.

The next challenges facing provisional licence holders is finding an approved instructor with availability for new pupils, and booking a driving test, with waiting lists rising all the time.

Learning to drive searches by location

Location Keyword April SV June SV Percentage increase over lockdown
Middlesbrough Learning to drive 50 327 554%
Chester Learning to drive 67 275 310%
Cheltenham Learning to drive 75 261 248%
Norwich Learning to drive 144 484 236%
Luton Learning to drive 101 326 223%
Stoke-On-Trent Learning to drive 158 506 220%
Lincoln Learning to drive 116 360 210%
Bolton Learning to drive 241 711 195%
Coventry Learning to drive 426 1232 189%
Lancaster Learning to drive 89 255 187%
Hull Learning to drive 189 530 180%
Reading Learning to drive 243 664 173%
Guildford Learning to drive 153 417 173%
Exeter Learning to drive 114 307 169%
Preston Learning to drive 146 391 168%
Chelmsford Learning to drive 106 280 164%
Sunderland Learning to drive 165 411 149%
Wigan Learning to drive 151 374 148%
York Learning to drive 147 362 146%
Plymouth Learning to drive 208 509 145%
Shrewbury Learning to drive 84 204 143%
Peterborough Learning to drive 295 696 136%
Northampton Learning to drive 313 735 135%
Oxford Learning to drive 231 541 134%
Belfast Learning to drive 235 546 132%
Manchester Learning to drive 540 1235 129%
Watford Learning to drive 223 505 126%
Leicester Learning to drive 373 832 123%
Cardiff Learning to drive 146 309 112%
Birmingham Learning to drive 885 1859 110%
Glasgow Learning to drive 598 1207 102%
Milton Keynes Learning to drive 216 429 99%
Sheffield Learning to drive 545 1063 95%
Bournemouth Learning to drive 289 559 93%
London Learning to drive 5146 9878 92%
Blackpool Learning to drive 166 316 90%
Liverpool Learning to drive 643 1152 79%
Brighton Learning to drive 270 480 78%
Bristol Learning to drive 686 1212 77%
Nottingham Learning to drive 465 814 75%
Bath Learning to drive 130 224 72%
Southampton Learning to drive 293 492 68%
Wolverhampton Learning to drive 348 579 66%
Swindon Learning to drive 231 383 66%
Edinburgh Learning to drive 607 999 65%
Bradford Learning to drive 431 694 61%
Swansea Learning to drive 80 128 60%
UK Learning to drive 37095 58589 58%
Portsmouth Learning to drive 344 543 58%
Basingstoke Learning to drive 221 343 55%
Derby Learning to drive 435 663 52%
Gloucester Learning to drive 157 236 50%
Bedford Learning to drive 264 391 48%
Colchester Learning to drive 224 329 47%
Leeds Learning to drive 801 1157 44%
Aberdeen Learning to drive 311 436 40%
Worcester Learning to drive 162 226 40%
Cambridge Learning to drive 254 354 39%
Southend Learning to drive 269 359 33%
Ipswich Learning to drive 244 306 25%
Newcastle Learning to drive 648 777 20%
Slough Learning to drive 421 463 10%

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