Learning to drive - 80s & 90s vs Today!

Take a look at what life is like for learner drivers today, compared to when their parents were learning all those years ago.

L plate in window with dice in car
Learning to drive is a huge milestone in a young person’s life whether you passed your test 40 years or 4 months ago, it’s still a big deal in life when you get given that passed certificate. We wanted to know how learning to drive has changed over the years so we conducted a survey to find out – 1000 young drivers and over 500 drivers who passed their test between 1980-1995 took part, so we can really see how learning to drive has changed!

The cost of driving lessons

cost of driving lessons
These days the cost of driving lessons vary up and down the country – with the average cost of a 1 hour driving lesson being £31. In the 80s and 90s however, prices were very different, with the average hour long driving lesson costing around £10!¹ 80% of drivers who passed their test between 1980 and 1995 said that they paid between £5 and £15 for a driving lesson.

Getting in private driving practice

Our survey showed that learner drivers are much more likely to take extra driving practice outside lessons, than their parents were. 72% of young drivers have taken some form of extra practice today. Over a third of their parents (36%) said they didn’t have any extra practice at all! This is likely to be partly due to the fact it is easier to get cover to share a family car today than it was 30 years ago – with flexible short term learner insurance now available to learners that don’t have their own car yet. 22% of learner drivers highlighted they used their own policy to share the family car today, vs just 3% of those learning to drive 30 years ago.

What aspects of learning to drive did you struggle with?

List of driving struggles 80 and 90s and today
Whilst the changes in learning to drive over the years in many aspects is wide, the aspects young drivers are struggling with is almost identical – with the exception of roundabouts, which 30% of learner drivers struggle with today, compared with 10% of their parents’ generation. In our survey young drivers today said highlighted their top struggles as roundabouts, hill starts, and parking - all pretty tricky things to master. The top three struggles for their parents were hill starts, reversing and parking. Perhaps we could all do with a refresher on how to hill start and get into those tricky parking spaces?

What candidates failed on

Learner drivers seem to be just as likely as their mum or dad to pass first time! 57% of new young drivers claimed to have passed first time, compared to 58% of older drivers. For those who didn’t manage to pass first time (they say the best drivers pass on their second attempt) we wanted to know what they failed on. Our survey shows that, for the most part, young drivers today and their parents failed on very similar things. It seems that junctions, checking mirrors and a few manoeuvres were as tricky for young drivers in the 80s and 90s as much as they are today! There are some differences though – young drivers today seemed more likely to fail on road markings, lane positioning and moving off in the car, and drivers who passed in the 80s and 90s found that reverse parking was a big sticking point for them!

Buying the first car

VW Polo 80s to today
Something almost every young person dreams of is the day they get their hands on their first car. It turns out some of the cars young drivers have today aren’t all that different from their parents’ first cars. The Ford Fiesta is as much of a winner today, as it was then, and the VW Polo and Golf remain popular. There are a couple of models, popular 30 years ago that have not stood the test of time – like the Austin Metro, Ford Escort and Vauxhall Nova. Vauxhall made the right choice though, replacing the Nova with the well-loved Corsa which is the top choice for new drivers today

Cost of first insurance

In the 80s and 90s the average young driver paid less than a quarter of what their child is likely to pay today for their first insurance policy. Today young drivers will pay around £1717 for an annual insurance policy – their parents paid on average just shy of £300!³ Now that is a big price difference. Buying insurance in the 80s and 90s was very different to how it is today. Back then, you would have to call insurance companies direct by phone for a quote or head to the high-street and get insurance quotes from brokers in person. Often you would need to pay your insurance in full there and then, and only a few would allow you to pay in instalments. These days, we all know how easy it is to get insurance cover. Comparison sites, monthly payments, auto renewals and black boxes to help develop driving skills. All of these make it more flexible and easier than ever for young drivers to get on the road.

The cost of the first car

Price comparison of car prices from 80s to today
Now whilst young drivers today and those in the 80s & 90s may be opting for similar cars, unfortunately they don’t come with a similar price tag. Young drivers today are paying over three times more for their first car than their parents’ generation, who spent, on average, just under £1000² on their first car. Of course, we expect prices to change with the times, and the additional benefit to new cars are safety features that can help keep young drivers safe on the road, which you can’t really put a price on!

Driving after you’ve passed – where did you go?

The main reason young drivers work hard to pass their test is for independence and that hasn’t changed over the years, neither has the first destination young drivers head to once they’ve gained that independence. Our survey shows that throughout the years, in the 80s and 90s the first place most young drivers went to after they passed was to see friends and the same goes for young drivers today! The other top places are to go to work, to see family and of course have those day trips and going shopping!

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