The expiry of theory test certificates has mounting costs for learners

Source: Intelligent Instructor magazine.


In Theory and Practice

The expiry of theory test certificates has mounting costs for learners


Learner drivers up and down the country continue to experience the impact of COVID-19 on their driving journey, including a huge backlog in the access to driving tuition. In 2020, driving lessons stopped, private practice took a pause for many and tests, both practical and theory, were postponed for weeks.

With a Theory Test pass certificate lasting two years, what about those learners who had a driving test booked in these periods with a theory test certificate close to its expiry date? The pause in tests would have left those out of pocket, with every certification expiry essentially costing £23.

Mounting Costs

To gauge the impact on learners, Marmalade Insurance issued multiple Freedom of Information (FOI) requests throughout the last year to the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to find out just how many learners were at a loss due to the lockdown and now we have a comprehensive look at the year.

This data focuses specifically on how the first UK lockdown when lessons were paused (23 March – 22 July) and the second national lockdown (05 November – 03 December) impacted learners.

*Theory Test Pass Date Car ADI Bike LGV PCV
03/2018 3204 134 272 363 79
04/2018 11451 472 1049 1383 371
05/2018 12874 527 1542 1597 420
06/2018 10769 470 1197 1099 242
07/2018 4828 299 123 177 42
11/2018 6059 474 60 238 57
12/2018 358 27 4 11 2
Total 49543 2403 4247 4868 1213


The raw data shows that 49,543 people saw their certificates expire. At £23 per theory test, that’s a loss of £1,139,489 for UK learner drivers. The month of May recorded the biggest loss of £296,102, while the November/December lockdown cost learners £147,591.

Calculating the cost to learners if all those who had a theory test expire in the lockdown paid to take it again – total £46 per learner.  The below table is based just on car theory tests and also takes into account a separate figure where it assumes only half would pay to take the test again, as it’s unlikely that all would retake following the expiration.

*Theory Test Pass Date Number of car tests expired in 2020 Financial loss from initial expiration Cost if all learners paid to retake (incl initial expiration cost) Cost if 50% of learners paid to retake (incl initial expiration cost)
03/2018 3204 £73,692.00 £147,384.00 £110,538.00
04/2018 11451 £263,373.00 £526,746.00 £395,059.50
05/2018 12874 £296,102.00 £592,204.00 £444,153.00
06/2018 10769 £247,687.00 £495,374.00 £371,530.50
07/2018 4828 £111,044.00 £222,088.00 £166,566.00
11/2018 6059 £139,357.00 £278,714.00 £209,035.50
12/2018 358 £8,234.00 £16,468.00 £12,351.00
Total 49543 £1,139,489.00 £2,278,978.00 £1,709,233.50

Asking For Help

Currently, there are no plans in place to help these learners. If the theory test certificate expires during this time, they will need to take it and pass it again before they can take their practical driving test.

However, NASP (National Association Strategic Partnership) the driver training industry representative body, has written to the Department for Transport to request an extension to the certificates. They are also asking all ADIs to write to their local MP to make the same request.

Signing Up

On average there are over 400,000 driving tests taken every three months in the UK, a number of which are learner drivers with theory tests close to expiring. Apart from the situation seeming an unfair and expensive consequence for learners, it is also likely to add to the chaos and waiting times at test centres after lockdown.

Marmalade Insurance are petitioning for a three month extension once practical driving tests resume for those certificates that have expired.

You can find more information and sign the petition here.

2021-01-15T16:00:04+00:0015 January 2021|
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