Driving instructors play a crucial role in teaching people valuable life skills, giving them their freedom, and boosting their confidence. It is also one of the few job titles that are always in demand. Due to a national shortage, some drivers are being forced to take their driving test miles away from home.
Becoming a driving instructor can be the best decision you ever make. But you probably have a lot of questions before you can commit to such a big career decision. This article will explain everything you need to know before you take the leap, including elements of being self employed, such as how driving instructor-specific tax returns and pensions work.
Are all driving instructors self-employed?
Most driving instructors are self-employed as independent contractors or sole traders. This means they are in control of almost every aspect of their business, from organising their diaries to being in charge of their finances.
They also have the freedom to choose how many clients they take on and how many hours they work. This does, however, mean they don’t earn a set salary, and their monthly wages can differ from month to month, depending on how much they wish to work that particular month.
Driving instructors that work for themselves are also responsible for their own accounts, income tax, and finances. This can be difficult to wrap your head around at first, but there is plenty of help and advice out there – particularly if you are affiliated with a driving school such as Bill Plant Driving School, who are there to help every step of the way.
Do you have to be self-employed as a driving instructor?
Not all driving instructors in the UK are self-employed, although the majority are. There are some driving schools who take on driving instructors and pay them a set salary, and take control of almost all aspects of the business. These driving companies will also generally assign pupils on your behalf, so all you have to do is turn up and teach.
There is also a happy medium between being a self-employed driving instructor and working as an employee of a driving school. With some driving schools, such as Bill Plant Driving School, driving instructors are franchisees of the company. This means that the driving school will provide you with support in the form of training, marketing, and even your own vehicle.
There is also the added benefit of being part of a driving school franchise – that you are already affiliated with a household name, which is invaluable for getting pupils on board when you’re first starting out.
Things to be aware of as a self-employed driving instructor
There are pros and cons to becoming a self-employed driving instructor. Most people prefer the freedom and flexibility that comes with owning their own business. However, there are some things you must be aware of before you jump in.
Do driving instructors have to fill in a self-assessment tax return?
Freelance instructors must abide by the same rules as any other sole trader. This means they must file a self-assessment tax return and pay taxes on their income. Managing your own accounts for the first time can be daunting. This is why most driving instructors that work for themselves invest in an accountant to help them file their first self-assessment tax return.
The UK tax year runs from April 6 to April 5 the following year. Your self-assessment tax return should be filed annually, with paper returns due before October 31. Alternatively, you can file your tax return online as long as you submit it before January 31, after the tax year ends.
Your self-assessment tax return must disclose your taxable income and gains for the year. The tax already paid, or paid at source, will be deducted from your final tax bill.
All driving instructors must keep a record of their income and expenses for the year. This can make it easier to file and claim capital allowances. Failing to submit your tax return promptly will incur a fine of £100 with further penalties if it not filed within 3 months, as well as being charged interest on late payments
Do driving instructors set their own prices?
Driving instructors can set their own prices if they work for themselves. This can vary depending on the demand for driving lessons, the economic climate, and competition in the local area. There’s no legal minimum or maximum limit to the amount they can charge.
Driving schools are also free to set their own prices. Some instructors offer deals for first-time drivers or block lessons, which require a bigger upfront fee but work out cheaper than booking individual lessons.
Do driving instructors get a pension?
Most instructors that work as employees at a driving school are eligible for a state pension and a workplace pension.
However, the process isn’t quite as straightforward for driving instructors that work for themselves, independently or as a franchisee. If someone is self-employed, they will not be able to participate in a company pension scheme. However, they can still receive a state pension as long as they meet the necessary National Insurance requirements. It is advisable for self-employed driving instructors to establish their own private pension plan to prepare for retirement.
Advantages of being a self-employed driving instructor
Being a freelance driving instructor is a rewarding and fulfilling career path. As well as working for yourself, you’ll also be responsible for teaching people an important life skill, often giving them a valuable sense of freedom that comes with being able to drive.
The most obvious advantage is that you can choose how and when you work. There might be times when you have to be a bit more flexible, but you will always be in full control of your working hours. This can make it easier to plan holidays and time off. Some driving instructors work weekends and evenings to accommodate students with full-time jobs, although this is, of course, up to the individual instructor. If you have children and need to fit lessons around the school run, for example, driving tuition could be the perfect career choice for you.
Because you’ll be working for yourself, you can also choose how much you want to earn. The more hours you work, the more money you can make. Some driving instructor salaries can be upwards of £40,000 a year. Others are happy with a lower salary and better work-life balance.
One of the best things about being a driving instructor is the opportunity to meet new people every day. Learning to drive requires patience and discipline, but teaching with a smile can make a huge difference to someone who’s a nervous driver.
How to become a self-employed driving instructor
If you ever wondered how to become a driving instructor, then you’re in the right place. Becoming a self-employed driving instructor is a great way to do a job you love on your own terms.
The process of becoming an instructor can seem daunting – especially if you’re used to the structure of a full-time, permanent job – but it isn’t as scary as it seems. As long as you’re over 21 and have held a full UK driving licence for three years, you can apply to become a driving instructor.
The first thing you must do is check if you’re eligible to become an approved driving instructor (ADI) in the UK. This information can be found on the GOV.UK website. Then, you can apply to the Driving & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for a driving instructor DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check to ensure you don’t have any spent convictions, cautions, or warnings.
New instructors must also get a trainer to prepare them for the three qualifying ADI tests. There is a theory and hazard perception test (ADI Test Part 1), a driving ability test (ADI Test Part 2), and a driving instructional ability test (ADI Test Part 3). After you’ve passed the first two tests, you have the option to apply for a six-month trainee licence to get some teaching experience before you qualify.
Once you’ve passed the three tests, you have 12 months to register as a qualified instructor and request a certificate. This makes you eligible to start charging for lessons. You must also register with HMRC before you can start working and provide personal information, such as your contact details and National Insurance number.
Becoming a Bill Plant driving instructor
Bill Plant Driving School now employs hundreds of dedicated instructors nationwide. But don’t just take our word for it; we’ve also been voted the UK’s best provider of driving lessons and driving instructor training, making us the perfect place to kickstart your driving instructing career!
We provide a wide range of nationwide driving instructor training courses so you can learn to teach in a way that suits you. Some of our training courses even come with accommodation included, so you don’t need to worry about finding a place to stay after a long day behind the wheel.
Bill Plant Driving School is a well-respected, award-winning company dedicated to ensuring your training covers everything you need to excel. Once you receive your qualification, you’ll be offered a place as a franchisee so you can join the team and start earning.
So what are you waiting for? Get in touch today to take the first step towards an exciting and fulfilling career.
How much does it cost to become a driving instructor?
Like any career change, becoming a driving instructor isn’t cheap. However, with your earning potential in your own hands, you can make the money back within a matter of months. The total cost of tests and registration comes to £1,043 (including renewal).
Can I claim business expenses as a driving instructor?
Yes, you can reduce your tax liability by claiming allowable business expenses. However, there are rules. Only fuel costs, on-the-road costs, marketing costs, and business charges can be classed as business expenses and claimed for tax relief. Unfortunately, initial training fees can’t be claimed back as a business expense or reduce your tax liability.
What are the benefits of joining a driving school franchise?
There are several benefits to joining a driving school franchise, such as Bill Plant Driving School. For example, you can work for yourself, but with the added security of having a regular stream of pupils. Working under a national driving company can also help you build a solid reputation in the area you serve. Most franchises will also supply you with a car, along with support with marketing, professional development and more.
For more information, read our expert guides including the pros and cons of becoming a driving instructor and the Ultimate Guide to Working as a Trainee Driving Instructor