The long wait for practical driving tests has resulted in unofficial brokers charging up to £400 for learner drivers to jump the queue.
An investigation by the Observer newspaper discovered brokers are using software bots to reserve driving test slots as soon as they become available, then selling them for a huge mark-up.
The number of learners waiting to take a test has now risen above 500,000 – up from around 150,000 before the pandemic. London and the south east are particularly affected, with some drivers travelling hundreds of miles to take a test in another part of the UK.
The problem has been exacerbated due to a series of strikes by driving instructors. In July, the government estimated that around 25,000 driving tests had been cancelled and rebooked due to industrial action.
Check driving test availability
We certainly don’t advise paying a third party for a driving test slot. It may require patience and perseverance, but the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has an online service that allows learner drivers to check for available tests almost in real-time.
The DVSA’s online tool is updated every 30 minutes and is available from 6am to 11.40pm every day.
It lists every test location in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland), along with current availability. You can book a test up to 24 weeks in the future.
Book a driving test online
One of four descriptions will be displayed alongside each driving test centre location:
- Appointments available – tests are available within the next six weeks.
- Limited availability – between 90 and 95 percent of all appointments in the next six weeks are booked.
- Very limited availability – more than 95 percent of all appointments in the next six weeks are booked.
- No availability – there are no appointments within the next six weeks.
The service shows availability for car tests, as well as lorry, bus and coach, plus Motorcycle Module 1 and 2.
Officials advise learner drivers to use the service while they wait to book a test. However, the website does state: ‘when you reach the front of the queue, there is no guarantee that appointments will still be available. It’s possible that available appointments might have been booked.’
The DVSA also suggests learner drivers don’t use brokers or third-party websites that ‘charge for something that people can do for free themselves via our online booking service. There is not a “waiting list” or “cancellation list” for driving tests. You can only book the appointments that you can see online.’
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