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I have been with the same driving instructor for 3 years, I have taken my test 3 times and I have failed. After failing the first time, my family said that I should probably try a different driving instructor, as my current instructor does not have a great success rate.

Skip forward, the end of my third test with this instructor, and I have failed again. Each time I have failed on something where I haven't known something or have been nervous because I don't know where I am. All very obvious things. My friends and colleagues have all said that their driving instructors took them over the test routes, however my driving instructor has still not done this with me. During this time between the first test and the third test I have lost a lot of confidence in my driving, and I am now very nervous while driving, and my driving instructor has not been very helpful with this.

He has encouraged me to book my test with him again at the end of this month, however I have had a recommendation from a family friend who started their lessons with my driving instructor but eventually passed their test with a different driving instructor, who has suggested that I take my test with the driving instructor that they passed with. This driving instructor is available on the day I wish to take my test, and also has lessons available at a time I can do them.

It's also worth mentioning that my first two years of driving lessons were done in a car like the one this second driving instructor uses, but my last few months of lessons (a few weeks before my first test and during my tests) were done in a much larger car. I would use this as my excuse except that I am worried that my driving instructor will think that this is a bad reason, as I should be able to drive cars of different sizes. I have also purchased my own car, a smaller car, and have been practicing in this car and I have been driving just fine in that (other than stalling it a few times as I am not used to it).

After taking all of these things into account I have decided that I would like to change driving instructors. However, I have been working with this instructor for a very long time. They also live quite close to me so I feel uncomfortable. Right now they are asking me when I want my next lesson to be. I don't know if they have any cancellation fees for taking tests as they have no website, so I would need to ask them this.

How can I approach telling them that I don't want to do my next test with them? We tend to talk over text.

edit: Update I sent him this:

Hi name, I'm sorry but I think I'm going to try a different driving instructor, I feel like I'm not really getting anywhere and I need to try something different. Thank you for your time so far.

based on a few of your answers, and he responded saying that he didn't understand why I was changing instructors so close to the test, and blamed me failing the test on my own mistakes. I have decided not to reply. Thank you all for your help.

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    Is there a reason you can't just tell him that you want to change instructor? With which part of telling him do you need help? – Kaspar Scherrer Apr 13 '18 at 11:29
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    @Cashbee I was struggling because it had been a long time with this driving instructor and we had obviously spent a long time together. I didn't want him to react negatively to me telling him that I didn't want to continue having lessons with him. I have now told him in the nicest way possible based on advice from the answers I had and he sadly reacted negatively, but I at least have peace of mind knowing that I tried to be polite. – Styxal Apr 13 '18 at 12:59
  • Is the instructor self-employed? Or does he work for a bigger driving school? – Mixxiphoid Apr 13 '18 at 13:01
  • @Mixxiphoid he is self-employed – Styxal Apr 13 '18 at 13:04
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    @Matt yeah that isn't a law here, the tests are driving around on the roads so saying you can't drive in the test area wouldn't be great. They don't publish their test routes but he hadn't even taken me to the area that they do some big fraction of the tests in until after I went there on my first test and had no idea where I was (and I still hadn't been where the person who failed me said I should practice at the end of my second test on my third test). – Styxal Apr 14 '18 at 7:14

10 Answers 10

51

I have been with the same driving instructor for 3 years

I'm stunned... I sincerely hope it's because of you missing time to go to the driving school. Because it's much more than what's usually needed. I'm talking here as a person working in the car safety business (including driving lessons to all kind of people, ranging from student/beginners to pros) for over 21 years.

First of all, there's nothing wrong asking to change school or instructor. Anefficient pedagogy needs at least 2 very important factors. One is the quality of theoretical explanations and practical exercices, the second is the relationship between the Jedi and the Padawan.

I often get people coming to my office and telling me how bad their lessons and experiences have been going somewhere else. I can really understand, as many of the persons in that business are, either incompetent, or just greedy (the more the lessons, the more the money...).

What I recommend is just telling them that you feel like you are stuck and not progressing any longer. And, because of that, that you want to try a different approach, and another working environment. It's like switching jobs. No need to tell too much, just be nice when you go away...

How can I approach telling them that I don't want to do my next test with them?

Don't blame them. Just tell them what you feel, and how you'd like to try something different. When driving, if you're in a dead-end, you have to do a 3-points-turn. Same here :)

We tend to talk over text.

Can't help with the wording, just with the idea (see above)


This is an update (done after answer was accepted), intended to help future readers. It gives useful tips/links to UK's DVSA - Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the Driver's Record and Competencies, as well as numbers, facts and tips from the BBC. Be sure to check that the instructor's teaching complies with the required competencies. Each lesson should start with 1. a reminder of what you did last hour (good and bad) 2. what you'll be working on during that lesson (with a goal to achieve and the things you have to be very careful about) 3. exercises and explanation that help moving towards the goal. 4. at the end, a review of the lesson you've just finished (good, bad, what to do next, and how)

13

It took me five attempts to pass my driving test, so my answer is based on my own experience, although I did not in the end have to break the news to an instructor as you need to. However, the understanding that the instructor I left had of the situation may be helpful.

The first couple of times I failed I was still in school so I abandoned the project and tried again after college with a new instructor. Again I failed my test twice. My instructor found me frustrating because I would always be trying to work out the logic of what had led me to make my driving mistakes. That is my natural learning style, but for my instructor it was very frustrating as he was used to telling pupils they’d made a mistake and the pupils then just cracking on with not doing it again. But we got on well and soldiered on and I learned to drive with him very well, but I could NOT pass my test. After my second fail with him HE was the one to suggest I tried another instructor. He suggested I try with a large national company whose teaching methods he generally disdained as ‘teaching people to pass the test, not how to be good drivers’, because he thought I could already drive perfectly well, but needed to learn to pass the test. I took his advice and passed after 4 lessons with the large company.

All of which is a very long winded way of me saying, consider telling your current instructor that you are going to change because you have come to the conclusion that his teaching style and your learning style aren’t a good match for getting you through your test. If you are worried about his feelings you can still thank him for the efforts he has put in in getting you to this stage and emphasise that it is a matter of learning styles rather than competency. It may even be true…

10

My suggestion: "I have failed the test three times, so this doesn't seem to be working. I really don't want to pay you more money only to fail my test again, so I will want a different instructor".

If you are with some company having more than one instructor, they should change instructors without any problems. If they don't, you switch the company.

It's your money that is being spent, and your time that is being wasted, so you call the shots who is getting your money. Don't come up with any fake excuses. This only opens you up to be talked out of your decision. The one and only point that matters is that you want a different instructor. Any "buts" from the instructor are countered with "I want a different instructor".

6

I had a similar issue when getting my drivers, I had a driving instructor who did not really help me at all and rather made me increasingly nervous about driving.

When I swapped I simply said

I am sorry, but I do not think that together we will be able to get me to a level where I can pass my test, I will be looking elsewhere from now on. Thanks for all your time so far.

If you have not booked the test, there should be no cancellation fee. If you have, then I would rather wait to see if he asks about it.

In the end it is a business transaction, so any business person or person owning their own business would expect these kinds of things. I assume you have most likely spent a lot of money with your instructor and if he has any issues with this it is his own problem. Also 3 years is an extreme amount of time to try get your drivers. So he has to see it coming.

And a large car/new car is definitely an issue with a new learner, any driver will take a while to get used to a new car, as a learner it is doubly more difficult.

Also when I changed my driving instructor I immediately passed a week later and had no issues at all. (Was in South Africa but the UK and SA tests are basically the same)

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    South Africa's driving test is notoriously detailed and difficult. Also, you are not likely to succeed in bribing the examiner in the UK. – 200_success Apr 13 '18 at 17:15
  • @200_success, what does bribing have to do with the answer or the question? – Wildcard Apr 14 '18 at 4:00
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    @Wildcard I'm mainly pointing out that South Africa is not that similar to the UK: they have a reputation for failing applicants for small technicalities, and applicants often end up bribing the examiner to pass. – 200_success Apr 14 '18 at 4:04
  • @200_success I merely meant that they both use the same standard - K53 - and they both drive on the same side of the road and in both countries you can just swap your drivers license for the other. I know it is tough, but there is a very good reason. Also people just outright buy their license, not necessarily bribing the examiner, but bribing the entire department. – Awsum4sum Apr 16 '18 at 8:25
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I was in a similar situation when I was 17. My driving instructor used to shout a lot and make me very nervous and anxious.
Luckily, my driving instructor was not self-employed, so after a while I gathered my courage and talked to his boss about it. In the end, I got a different driving instructor (who happened to be that said boss).

During that time, I hadn't yet realized this:
You are the customer of your driving instructor.
So if you are not happy, it is your full right to change instructors and you should not feel bad about saying that the provided service (the car lessons) are not adequate by your standard and that you will be seeking another instructor.

I would say something like

I don't think that this is working out. Thank you for your work, but I will try the test with a different driving instructor. How can we proceed with the cancellation? Are there any fees?

By using the statement "You are the customer", I tried to refer more to the fact that you as a student are neither legally nor socially obligated to stay with the same driving instructor until passing the test.

3

If you are struggling with a firm approach, you could say:

I'm sorry but I can't afford to continue lessons with you right now.

"Afford" does of course have two meanings. Fact is that 3 years of lessons and failed tests will have cost you a lot of money. They shouldn't really question you on this. If they do, just say precisely that:

It has been 3 years and I've taken my test 3 times, I just can't afford to continue right now.

Even if money isn't an issue (and isn't it always?) you cannot "afford" to continue with this instructor in the sense that it has been a massive waste of your time and energy too, so either way it is truthful.

As you have advised that you do not pay upfront for lessons there is nothing financial to lose from your instructor.

If you have paid for a driving test in the UK and don't feel you are ready for it, it sounds like you can change the appointment online here.

All the best with it.

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    I did not give him any money in advance for any lessons, I pay him when I have completed the lessons. Sadly he has no internet presence, his recommendations are done by word of mouth, as he is a private instructor and a little elderly, not too comfortable with the internet. However, thank you for your advice anyway, as it has really made me aware of just how much I have wasted on this and I feel a lot better about leaving my driving instructor now. – Styxal Apr 13 '18 at 13:03
  • @Styxal I must have misunderstood, you mentioned looking for a cancellation policy and I must have assumed there was money at stake. In that case I will remove that section from my answer (makes it simpler). If you have a driving test booked already you can change it online, I'll include a link in the revised answer. – Astralbee Apr 13 '18 at 13:06
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    I just wanted to tell him that I was going to take my test with a different instructor without seeming like I was blaming him, I plan to take my test in the slot I have booked with the new driving instructor :) – Styxal Apr 13 '18 at 13:11
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    @Styxal All the best with your test! So much harder these days, when I passed there was no theory test. Just twenty minutes driving then they asked you to name a couple of road signs, done! I'll leave the link on my answer, maybe it will help someone else finding this question. – Astralbee Apr 13 '18 at 13:13
2

I agree with Astralbee, in that I recommend not telling your current instructor that you plan to change instructors. But don't say it's about money or anything specific. Just tell them that you're taking a break from driving lessons, to relax and collect your thoughts on the matter.

The problem with giving someone a reason (any reason!) is that it makes it a debate. Can't afford it? I'll drop the price! Car too big? I'll change the car! You end up in a tangle of negotiations that aren't about what you really want. So keep it at "I know what's right for me right now is to take a break." Period. Or, "Full stop", if that's how it's said where you are.

And then you should actually take a break, a couple of months or whatever works (if it's been three years, you can spare a couple of months) and then pick a new instructor based on the recommendation of your friends.

But there's more. Ask yourself what the underlying reasons may be for your difficulties. Could this be a matter of something like anxiety? It could be something that a counsellor could help with. I have no idea where in the world you are (if you actually need to demonstrate skill to get a driver's license, it's probably not North America!) but some access to counselling may be available through your work or school, or family doctor. Forgive me for pushing into an area outside your question, but there may be something going on that's outside what a driving instructor can ever help with.

  • Thank you for this advice, but I was looking for how to tell someone something that I had decided on, rather than advice on what I should do instead. I drive fine and have no trouble with other tests, I just get nervous on driving tests because I don't have any test knowledge. My driving instructor wouldn't even take me up to drive in some areas that the test could be in (and was, twice). – Styxal Apr 13 '18 at 16:32
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I have been in a similar situation. I was not making any progress with the instructor and we were not getting on, but I did not want to say to him 'This isn't working, 'I'm finding someone else''.

What I did was, I just said that I was going off to uni (you can invent another excuse) and you just say that you will pick up lessons again if and when you have free time because you won't have any free time due to this change in your life. Then you just pick up the phone and go straight to another instructor. This time ask your friends and family who have passed their driving test who their driving instructor was and if he or she is recommended: this is what I did second time round. Whilst I was driving around with the new instructor a few months later, the old one see me whilst he was on a lesson with another student and just smiled at me. Honestly, he probably doesn't care. This is your life and your money, you can't just short-change yourself because you don't want to hurt someone's feelings: well, if you have failed 3 times, he needs to try harder.

  • I'm saying lie if you feel you have to. He is been in this situation for THREE YEARS. If he has to lie to get out of it, screw it, it's just a white lie, as he is going to be busy meeting a new instructor anyway. I feel like if he was going to tell the instructor it isn't working he would have already done it, I am offering the only other way out. – Tom Apr 13 '18 at 18:48
  • I'm saying, tell him you're taking a break and that you may return after the break, but you feel it isn't working and need time away. Obviously this has been stressful so take a week or two away from to relax and when you want to continue, you can carry on with the same instructor or go with a new one. – Tom Apr 13 '18 at 18:53
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This doesn't sound like a problem with you, but with the instructor. You say you've failed the test 3 times and this particular instructor doesn't have a good track record with getting his students to pass? Furthermore

your friends and colleagues have all said that their driving instructors took them over the test routes, however your driving instructor has still not done this with you

Why would a driving instructor not want to take their students on the test route so they can practice the test beforehand to increase their chances of passing? This sounds like the instructor is purposely doing a bad job and/or being lazy. He knows, if his student, AKA you, fails the test, they have to take more lessons with him. He has no incentive for you to pass, failing is much more in his favor. You've been with him for 3 years and that's a constant source of income for him. He's using you and others like you as a cash cow and that's his bottom line.

Be stern and simply say

I no longer want to take your lessons because your teaching style does not work for me.

No reason to feel bad.

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Why do you need to tell your instructor that you want to change instructors anyway?

What is stopping you from just discontinuing with any further payments and leaving? You don't have to give the instructor a reason. And if he asks you still don't have to give a reason. It's the same with any product or service that you find unsatisfactory.

I had a similar experience while learning to drive during the late eighties. Besides gouging me financially, my instructor was not imparting the necessary confidence, skills and knowledge needed to get me through the test. Neither did he have much in the way of interpersonal skills and could be somewhat unpleasant. He clearly saw me a kind of cash cow, there to be strung along as long as possible, all the while me being "not quite ready".

Still being young and somewhat unassertive, I too resorted to telling a white lie about getting a job in another area so that I could cut ties with him and quit. What was more difficult was obtaining a refund given that I had booked a block of lessons in advance. I got it eventually, but not without him telling me how my driving will suffer, and how he is the best and most consistent instructor in the area, ad absurdum.

But I quit and went with another instructor, who was not grasping and manipulative, and with whom I ended up passing the test.

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    I had my test booked in his car at the end of the month, that's why I needed to tell him. I couldn't just ghost him because he would have turned up to pick me up for my test. Thankfully I hadn't paid anything upfront and he didn't have any cancellation fees (except negativity). Thanks for sharing your experience. Hopefully I pass this time like you did :) – Styxal Apr 14 '18 at 10:02

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