Everything you need to know about the UK driving test waiting times

There's lots of confusion about the backlog and waiting times for driving tests. Here's everything you need to know

Nick Pitman Marmalade

By Nick Pitman

Updated on Dec 17th, 2021

How long is the wait for a driving test?

The waiting time for a driving test in the UK in 2021 is now anything from 6 to 14 weeks but could be up to 24 weeks for some, depending on where you live. To help ease wait times the latest news from Loveday Ryder, the Chief Executive of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is her appeal for learner drivers to book testsonly once they’re ready to help reduce driving test waiting times

In this article, we’ll explain a bit more about what is causing the driving test delays, how it is affecting learners, and how practising driving in a parent’s or friend’s car with learner driver insurance could help you pass the first time and avoid further delays by avoiding the need for a second test!

What has caused the driving test backlog?

It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the main cause of the increase in waiting times in 2021 is the disruption caused by the pandemic. In March we calculated the backlog of 1,160,000 tests - even if half of those learners have passed (or paused their driving journey) there could still be over half a million learners waiting for a driving test.

What are the knock-on effects of the backlog?

Put simply, more time learning to drive = more lessons = more cost = more stress, especially if you fail your driving test the first time. Our research with learner drivers highlighted how the lockdown had affected learner drivers.

  • The pandemic and consequent demand for test dates have resulted in increased costs for learner drivers; around 40% of driving instructors have upped the cost of lessons
  • Over a third (35%) of learner drivers are having to wait five months or longer between booking and taking their test.
  • Due to the extra time learner drivers need an average of extra eight lessons.
  • Young adults are having to rely on family or friends to drive them, which not only affects parents but them also as it means a delay in getting their freedom and independence as well as a hindrance in getting to college, work, or social events
  • Many learners struggling when booking a driving test, almost half (47%) of learner drivers have had to resort to using a test booking app to find a closer driving test date or location.

Some driving instructors have said that this huge increase in learners using 3rd party apps to find driving test cancellations thwart their efforts to book a driving test for their pupils by buying up all of the test slots, leaving their capacity tight.

While these apps are legal and yes, they do work, they can be expensive and as such unfair to those who are barely getting by and need to be able to drive to earn a living.

How are the DVSA working to ease the backlog?

The DVSA is working hard to reduce the backlog, but not all these solutions are quick overnight fixes.

  • The DVSA practical test booking system has increased car test throughput by 25%
  • They are implementing a recruitment drive across Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales
  • The number of practical driving tests that each driving examiner can oversee has increased from 5 to 6 per day
  • Flexible working patterns have been introduced enabling tests on weekends and bank holidays
  • The driving test date availability has been increased to 18 weeks

The DVSA are encouraging people to be test-ready and they mention that learners can help ensure they have the best chance of being ready on the day by practising alongside lessons in a parent's or friend's car with learner driver insurance.

Will driving tests be cancelled again?

At present, there are no announcements from officials as to cancelling driving tests. Lockdown affected so much last year so we hope that the Government would only consider such a drastic measure as a last resort, considering the disruption it has caused to learners and the industry.

Will driving lessons be cancelled again?

At this time there is nothing coming from the DVSA or Government to state that lessons will be cancelled. As we are still feeling the fallout from the last stoppage we trust that similarly severe steps are not taken. Things change quickly in these challenging times so we will keep you updated and informed. In the meantime keep calm and carry on practising!

How to make the most of the waiting time until your driving test

The backlog will take some time to ease due to the fact that just under half of those that take their test will pass, and that there are prospective learners turning 17 every day!

Whilst you may be waiting longer than you hoped, in order to increase your chance of passing the first time (and joining the back of the queue for another test!) there are a few things you can do to be prepared for the big day!

  • Taking private practice alongside driving lessons will help you hone your driving skills and will give you more experience in different driving conditions. If you have a long wait ahead, getting learner insurance on a parent’s or friend’s car could help ease the financial burden, as well as help you be more prepared for your test as it can be a cheaper alternative to getting added as a named driver*.
  • Document your learner journey so you can see what skills you’ve nailed, and what you need to work on. We’ve created a handy Driving Test Checklist to help you keep track of progress so  print off your own progress record
  • If you haven’t already done so, book and pass your theory test as soon as you can, as it holds for 2 years and you will be unable to book a practical driving test until you get the code for the next step of your driving journey.

There are plenty of spaces available now so make passing the theory test a priority because once you’ve passed your theory test you’ll be halfway to the finish line!

  • Look into taking a semi-intensive, intensive or residential driving course as an option to save you time but do your research as there are many pros and cons.
  • Watch our brilliant driving instructor masterclass and brush up on your skills
  • Try not to stress about how long it’s going to take. “The last couple of years has been a rollercoaster of emotions and stop-starts for most of us, especially learner drivers”

So do what you can to stay calm and focused on your goal of passing that test and getting your driving licence. Once you have passed your test your opportunities for fun, work and pleasure are pretty limitless so enjoy the journey!

Practice makes Perfect

Short term learner insurance allows you to practise in a parent's or friend's car and get test ready!
See how learner insurance can help you!
Nick Pitman Marmalade

By Nick Pitman

I’m a seasoned driver trying to get rid of my bad habits but I haven’t forgotten what it was like for me when I was learning and struggling to pass my test. I'm looking forward to playing the role of taxi driver for my daughter!

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