Am I covered?
Passing your test is a great moment in your life, as you drive back home from the test centre as a young driver, share the great news, surprise those you never even told, and begin to plan your next moves. Amongst these will be whether you can or want to continue driving straight after your test. For some it’s a time to savour, for others it’s a time to just take a break and for others it’s the practicalities of car ownership as they contemplate going to university or going travelling. If you can maintain the momentum after passing your test that’s great and, if you’re already a car owner, that makes the decision even simpler. Either way, if you are going to continue driving you’ll need to:
- Get a full UK Driving Licence
This will come automatically within 3 weeks if you’ve held a photocard provisional licence. If you haven’t, or have changed your name between passing and starting to drive, you’ll need to get a new one by getting form D1 directly from the DVLA or from the Post Office.
- Get insurance
Before you get your insurance you’ll need to consider whose car you’re going to drive, whether you’re going to buy one yourself, and whether to take the Pass Plus test, as the latter may be looked on favourably by those you approach for young driver insurance.
If you’ve already got a car you’ve used as a learner, then all you have to do is to change the basis of your cover with your provider, or new provider. If your car has a black box fitted, you can continue to enjoy the benefits it provides and continue to drive down your insurance costs by working on your driving behaviour.
If you haven’t got a car, when you buy one be sure to get telematics-based insurance, such as iKube. This will enable you to reduce the unavoidably high insurance premiums levied at young drivers until you build experience, confidence and can demonstrate you can drive responsibly. If you’d prefer not to have telematics-based insurance, you’ll need to go on comparison sites to find the most suitable for you.
But beware, the cheapest young driver insurance isn’t always the best. Make sure you thoroughly check what is and isn’t included in your policy as there’s often a reason why it’s cheap.
Getting your own car is a major milestone in your life, but it comes with a lot of responsibility. They don’t tend to run if they’re not looked after and they’re not allowed on the road if they don’t have the correct documentation showing they are both roadworthy and road legal.
With increasing technology and garage labour costs, car maintenance can be a big burden for drivers whose cars aren’t covered by warranties covering parts and labour. It’s no good burying your head in the sand in the hope that problems will blow over. Quite the opposite: they become more important as your car ages, particularly as hidden parts begin to deteriorate as rust sets in. Some things you can do yourself if you read up on them and have the right tools but, if not, you’ll have to bite the bullet and book your car in for a regular service through either the manufacturer’s service centres or through approved or recommended independent garages. Either way, you need to focus on the following five areas:
- Engine – cambelt, oil, radiator and coolant / antifreeze levels
- Visibility – lights, windscreen, washers
- Motion – tyres, brakes, brake fluid, steering
It’s not just your car that’ll need maintenance, but support documentation too:
Needs updating every 10 years and in between if you change address.
Your V5C Vehicle Registration Document
Is a record of your car’s ownership recording both its registered keepers and its legal owner, if both are different. Only buy cars from those identified as the legal owner, check that the VIN or chassis number matches the one on the car, and check to ensure the V5C’s watermark is genuine. Without a valid V5C it is illegal to sell a car. Replacements are easy to obtain.
Vehicle excise duty
More commonly known as “Road Tax” and also as “Vehicle Excise Duty”. Road Tax needs to be paid every year on every vehicle that is used or kept on the public roads, unless it has been declared “SORN” (a Statutory Off-Road Notification). The amount paid depends on your car’s engine size and its CO2 emissions and the date it was first registered. Owners of older, more powerful, high polluting vehicles can expect to find themselves paying heavily. This needs to be reviewed annually bearing in mind your changing needs and circumstances and any incidents or events that may change the perceived risk you represent to insurers.
Unless your car is less than 3 years old your car will need to pass an annual MOT (Ministry of Transport) test.
If your car is over three years old, it will require an annual MOT. They’re not expensive in themselves (about £50), but anything on the MOT test list that is found to be defective will require immediate attention before the car can be put in for a “re-test” and before it can legally go back on the road. The test will also alert you to “advisories” that, while not defective, will require attention in the not-too-distant future. Regular maintenance will improve your car’s chances of passing its MOT, prevent little problems turning into big problems, reduce risk of accidents and / or your dependency on the emergency breakdown services.
Before you attend your test make sure your fluid levels are topped up: failing a test due to no windscreen fluid is frustrating and time-consuming. Also check your tyre pressures.
Sharpen your skills
Pass Plus is a practical training course that takes at least 6 hours and is for drivers to improve their skills and drive more safely. It can be taken at any time although it should be most useful to new drivers in the year after passing their test.
- You’ll need a Pass Plus-registered approved driving instructor (ADI) to teach you
- You can contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to check if an instructor is registered with Pass Plus. You’ll need their name and ADI number
- Fees depend on where you live, the instructor or driving school and how long your training takes. Some local councils can offer discounts off the full Pass Plus training costs
- Pass Plus training takes at least 6 hours
- It has 6 modules covering driving in town, in all weathers, on rural roads, at night, on dual carriageways, on motorways
- All modules should be practical sessions, although local conditions may mean some are theory-based. You’ll normally spend at least 5.5 hours driving
- You won’t take a test but you’ll be assessed throughout the course. To pass you’ll have to reach the required standard in all modules
Once your insurance, licence and wheels are sorted you can enjoy the freedom of the roads. For many it will be a breeze but for some people it can be as worrying as when learning to drive, particularly if there has been a gap between passing their test and getting back into a car. If this is the case, then consider taking a few refresher lessons or taking the Pass Plus test to restore some of that confidence. Confidence high or rebuilt, it’s all about being a safe and responsible driver.
- When driving, you are governed by the law at all times. Failure to adhere to it puts your life and others’ at risk, and could cost you your licence and the freedom it provides
- You are responsible for your own actions and the safety of those you carry
- Driving between 11pm and 5am are when most young driver accidents happen, with fatigue and alcohol being major contributory causes
- In England and Wales, the drink-driving alcohol limit is 80 mg per 100 ml of blood; in Scotland the limit is 50 mg per 100 ml of blood. However, because alcohol affects everyone differently, there’s no fool proof way of drinking and staying under the limit. The best policy, then, is not to drink alcohol at all.
- Accidents will adversely affect your young driver insurance premium
- Every driver needs to get somewhere and deserves the opportunity to enjoy that experience
- Sat-navs are great if used carefully, and should only be programmed when the car is stationary
P is for Patience!
Many people feel they don’t like the attention that putting P-plates on their car as a newly qualified driver attracts. But that’s exactly what they’re meant to do: tell others that you’re a new driver, who’s perhaps prone to making the odd gaffe as you gain experience and confidence. In effect, they ask other motorists and pedestrians to exercise a bit of tolerance and forgiveness.
- They cost next to nothing
- They’re not obligatory, and…
- They’re not forever!
Spreading your wings
With your confidence enhanced, the P-plates off and summer approaching, you’ll no doubt be thinking about heading off abroad to sample some warmer weather and the European festival scene. But before you board the ferry there’s lots to do to ensure your trip is problem free:
- Make sure your car is fully prepared and in good roadworthy condition
- Europe is big: plan your journey with plenty of stops, for petrol and rest
- Laws vary and are applied with varying degrees of severity: do your research
- In Europe they drive on the right side of the road: take your time to adjust
- You will have to adjust your headlamps so they don’t dazzle
- You will need to take a full set of driving documents as well as your passport
- You must display the appropriate country identification letters (e.g.: a GB sticker)
- You will need to have appropriate insurance cover in place, including breakdown cover
- Access to health is different: it requires you to have a EHIC, and may change after Brexit (provisionally March 2019)
- Take a full set of emergency contact numbers
- Take an emergency kit containing the essentials (e.g. first aid kit, torch, extinguisher, blanket, tool kit and warning triangle)
- Even basic language skills are useful
- Sat navs are a useful navigational aid if used carefully, but should only be programmed when the car is stationary
Visit www.rac.co.uk/drive/travel/driving-abroad/before-you-go/ for further detail
If you’ve had telematics-based insurance, there will come a point at which your young driver premiums have reduced to more affordable levels and you may have grown a healthy no claims bonus. You are then at the enviable point you can present yourself as a proven safe, responsible and accident-free young driver to the wider insurance market. Keep your driving record clean, and you’ll enjoy many more years of relatively low cost driving.