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The high cost of driving lessons in Shropshire

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Philip Maher is over the moon. Yesterday, after 52 lessons, the 18-year-old student from Telford passed his driving test; today the world is his oyster.

Philip Maher is over the moon. Yesterday, after 52 lessons, the 18-year-old student from Telford passed his driving test; today the world is his oyster.

The bad news is that the cost of motoring for learners and newly qualified drivers like him has spiralled to an all-time high.

Rookie and newly qualified Shropshire motorists potentially face paying almost £9,000 to get themselves on the road.

This includes the cost of an average 45 hours behind the wheel, and the practical and theory tests, but the biggest single cost factor is an unprecedented rise in insurance premiums.

Newly qualified male drivers could pay almost £8,000 a year for third party insurance on a small second hand car that itself is worth only £1,500.

The AA says these premiums are often twice the cost of the same policy offered to young women. Some firms have even stopped insuring young drivers altogether; others are quoted a typical "cheapest" price of £2,457.

The Shropshire Star obtained third party policy quotes for a newly qualified 17-year-old male driver that varied between £4,143 with eCar, up to £7,839 with Flux Direct.

The same discrepancy is found in the price of lessons, which according to a new study by Yell.com and MORI start from as little as £7.50 an hour, and in some areas of the UK rise to as much as £34.

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The price of an average one-hour driving lesson in Shropshire is £20. The Shropshire Star found lessons as cheap as £17 and up to £23, while the UK average is £22.30.

With 45 hours of tuition typically needed, some Shropshire candidates could be paying nearly £1,000 to learn to drive.

The cost of the two components of the driving test and a further lesson to cover the test drivers also adds an extra £113 to their bill.

With insurance added on, the cost of getting out on the open road soon spirals to over £8,000.

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The cost of insurance for 17-year-old Lizzie Ward, who lives near Shrewsbury, has certainly been an issue.

Her mother, Heather, says: "When she went on my insurance as a second driver it went up such a lot.

"The premium when it was just me was £17.69 a month (fully comprehensive on a Honda Civic) but when she came on it was £64.62 per month."

Her elder daughter, Victoria, 19, passed her test last year and pays for her own insurance on a Toyota Yaris.

"That was £850 for a year, and she used up her savings from her paper round to pay for that," says Heather.

"But for young male drivers it's worse. It's much, much more expensive, and I've got a son who has got to go through it as well. When he learns to drive it's going to be extortionate."

Weighing up the cost of lessons with the price of insurance, it could well be financially beneficial to have a crash course of lessons, hence shortening the duration that the youngster is learning on a provisional licence and at the same time reducing the period for insurance payments before they pass their tests.

Mrs Ward agrees that young people need their own transport these days, particularly living in Shropshire.

"We have not got a bus that comes through the village, and in the next village it's sporadic," she says. "The nearest bus stop is a mile away and I would not want them to have to walk along the lanes to catch a bus when it's dark.

"You need to drive. In a city or a town you might not have to, but in a village you do."

Learning to drive, and having your first car, is a rite of passage. Tearing up the L-plates and heading out onto the open road brings with it an otherwise unobtainable sense of freedom.

But for James, a 17-year-old student from Telford who has taken around 10 lessons so far, the cost means he has had to put the brakes on any hopes of getting on the road.

James said: "It is stupid that someone my age is supposed to pay so much money to insure a car.

"My priority is getting into university so I'm busy trying to fill out UCAS forms and concentrate on my exams.

"If I did get a car it would cost so much to keep it on the road that I would have to spend all my free time working to pay for it. The only reason they put insurance prices that high is because they think every 17-year-old is a boy racer who wants to beep at old ladies and go tearing round the streets at 3am."

Parents may try to help out by having their kids as named drivers on their own insurance policies, but again the costs can be eye-watering.

Anna Durnall, from Telford, inquired about adding her 17-year-old son onto her own car insurance.

"At the moment my premium on my car insurance is £20 a month but I was given a quote of £291 a month to have him on my insurance," she explains.

"This would equate to an insurance bill of an extra £3,252 for the provisional driver."

There is widespread fear amongst parents that such huge insurance bills could encourage some young drivers to risk going on the road without insurance.

Deter

Heather Ward says: "It is tempting people not to insure their cars, that's the worry. Kids can pick up a car for a few hundred pounds but it's the runnings costs that are so expensive."

But the cost of motoring is unlikely to deter young drivers from qualifying, buying insurance and hitting the road legitimately.

Instructor Chris Gouldingay, of Telford-based Driver Training, whose lessons are priced at the Shropshire average, said: "Insurance is a lot to fork out on top of lessons but it's something drivers will do. From here to Barmouth it's about an hour-and-a-half's drive in a car. Door-to-door, it takes the same the same time to go from Sutton Hill to Wellington on the bus. With the car, you could be lying on the beach."

Fellow driving instructor Val Gibbs, agreed that the cost of insurance would not deter new drivers.

Costs

  • Average cost of lessons in Shropshire - £20.
  • Total cost of lessons based on the UK average of 45 lessons - £900.
  • Cost of test, including theory and practical examinations and a further driving lesson - £113
  • Average insurance bill of £5,991 for a newly qualified driver who drives a seven-year-old 1.4 Ford Fiesta

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