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Learning to Drive and Buying a Car


gmoney
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I decided to learn to drive recently after relying on public transport miserably for years. I decided to learn automatic only as I wanted to do it quickly, and when everything's electric they'll all be automatic. The chances of me needing to drive a manual in some sort of emergency seem to me to be pretty slim. 

I've cycled for years on the roads so I've got some basic road sense. However my first lesson I was absolute shit, at one point hitting the accelerator instead of the break. I was steering like someone who's ridden a bike most of their life, expecting a small increment to take me around corners. I've only had a couple more lessons now, but I'm much better, been out on the main roads and feel a lot more confident. Got any horror stories from being shite when you first learnt? 

Anyone got any tips for buying a car?  

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4 minutes ago, gmoney said:

Got any horror stories from being shite when you first learnt?

After about ten lessons with an instructor I started practicing with my Dad.  Approached a roundabout with the whole family in the car.  I was going to slow and go down to second, when the old fella suggested that it could be taken in third.  This unprompted advice lead to a few moments delay in deciding what my hands and feet should do, by which point we went more over the roundabout than around it.

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It's a good idea to only do automatic, especially the way London traffic is. Only time I drive manual nowadays is when I hire a Zipvan to move stuff.

My main horror story from lessons was on my third (I think) when I hadn't got used to keeping distance from parked cars, was driving a bit fast, and smacked the school car's mirror off. Instructor was very patient, but clearly not pleased.

As to buying a car, no real tips other than "don't buy brand new", which is probably fairly well known. As you live in the London area, one thing to bear in mind is that they have a rolling 6-year period for hybrids being exempt from Congestion Charge - basically, if your hybrid is more than 6 years old, you won't get the exemption. 

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I had one driving lesson about 20 years ago. It was with a bloke called Albert (stylised with the L like an L-plate). He had the flu and spent the lesson drinking Lucozade and coughing. I nearly crashed into a bus. That was the end of my adventures on the road.

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My Dad taught me before I had lessons. He worked on a huge industrial estate (Winnersh Triangle) and decided he would teach me there on Sundays as there's no one ever there at the weekends, plenty of car parks for parking manoeuvres, roundabouts etc and lots of scope for different skills to be learnt.

Problem is that after watching an estate car (yep that's what I Iearned in) slowly crawl round a massive car park back and forth for an hour, stop and start, and then crawl slowly round again, one of the weekend security guards called the police and 4x massive meat wagons screeched into the car park and surrounded us, demanding to know what was going on and what we were doing. 

Dad had forgot about the spate of break ins and robberies that had gone on in the previous few weeks. So one of my first lessons ended in me being screamed at by coppers thinking I was casing up IBM.

The drive home was subdued.

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38 minutes ago, Keith Houchen said:

No horror stories as I’m a very boring, safe driver. I do have this tale. 

 

Where's the link to that great blog post you did about learning to drive via Johann Cruyff?

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I had some lessons when I was 17, but spent most of the time crawling around at 20mph because I wasn't good at the gears and it was a lot to concentrate. A friend offered to teach me in his automatic car, but I don't think I'd be able to do it. It may be easier as I can drive the forklift at work, but I'd be more concerned about other road users. 

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8 hours ago, gmoney said:

The chances of me needing to drive a manual in some sort of emergency seem to me to be pretty slim. 

I will say that one thing to consider is if you go abroad and rent a car you may find yourself stuck with a manual. Maybe/probably rare but there is some value in learning on a manual as it truly is like "riding a bike" even if you buy an automatic.

My driving horror lesson was two fold. The instructor I had was highly rated and in my first lesson I was absolute dog shit. Stalling, revving the fuck out the engine, crunching gears, almost hitting the curb, but the instructor was super nice about it which made me feel good. A couple weeks into lessons I bumped into a kid on my street who also had him for lessons and he asked me "how is it going with him?" and I said great and he replied "ah well maybe that will change, but I don't want to give you the wrong idea about him, maybe it was me" which I remember thinking was odd. Roll on several weeks and he started to get meaner and meaner, gone was the 1st lesson friendliness and encouragement, now it was less encouragement and more harsh comments - maybe just making me focus and not get complacent I thought.

The interlude, and part two, of the horror story was my theory test. I studied the shit out of it and felt very confident. I had to take it in Harlow which was a fairly easy bus ride from Waltham Abbey. I checked the timetable and decided to take an earlier bus, giving me plenty of time before the exam and reducing the risk should the bus just not show up. So on the day of I'm on the bus well on the way on a country road (up the Crooked Mile for those who know the area) and realise that I've forgotten some important piece needed to take the exam. So I freak out, beg the bus driver to pull over and let me out, as this was a country road there was no bus stop for ages and begin running the roughly 3 miles back home. I get home, get the thing I'd forgotten and realise there is no way I can get the next bus in time. Luckily my Nan and Granddad lived around the corner so I go there and ask my Granddad to give me a lift to Harlow - he was not happy but he did it. I get there on time, still fueled up with panic and adrenaline, and proceed to fail the fucking exam by one question.

On to the conclusion, my instructor continued to be a prize cunt with the harsh comments now being more of him yelling and making accusations about "have you gone out with your mum for a drive and picked up all her bad habits?" (not that he knew anything about my mothers driving) and "you'll fail in the first 5 minutes driving like this", made me do a three point turn on a narrow road with a refuse truck breathing down my neck with him yelling at me about how I'm holding them up and to hurry up. This was all going on during the "refresher lesson" before my practical test so already being nervous and after all of that from him I was a wreck and convinced I was going to fail. Ended up passing with ease, picking up just 3 minor faults on a 45 minute test (new examiner got lost) and being made to do every single one of the bloody maneuvers.

Instructor had the nerve to get back in the car, act shocked that I passed and then goes "I warned you about that" in reference to the minor faults. He told me to drive back home and I didn't say a word to him. He had the nerve at the end to go "its been a pleasure and by the way I offer motorway lessons if you like".

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I’ve been learning in an auto since the end of August 2021. Been ready for a test since November, but there lies the problem at the moment. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest booking your theory and begin practicing for it immediately. I passed mine in December.

There is a huge backlog and waiting list for practical tests, which you aren’t able to book until you pass your theory. I have my practical booked for May 2022 and have paid for one of those apps to find a cancellation for me. Otherwise it’s going to be an expensive 4 months to continue having lessons.

No other tips for you, but get that theory booked ASAP! Good luck.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, neil said:

I will say that one thing to consider is if you go abroad and rent a car you may find yourself stuck with a manual. Maybe/probably rare but there is some value in learning on a manual as it truly is like "riding a bike" even if you buy an automatic.

I've never experienced that. I've got a manual license but have always been able to get an automatic driving in Europe.

And the reason that the ability to drive manual is retained so well is the fact that you have to completely commit it to muscle memory to be able to do it proficiently. Which will take a lot of hours, particularly for someone learning later in life. I don't think it's really worthwhile unless he's got time to kill.

More and more driving manual is an unnecessary skill these days. I think he's made the right choice not to bother. I think you'll save a lot of time and money on lessons @gmoney, particularly if you've not got access to a car and willing driver to practice with regularly outside of them.

Edited by Chest Rockwell
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I learned in a manual and stuck with that for the first 12 years of driving thinking that was the proper way to drive and that automatic was for nonces and women. Had an automatic for the last 3 years and there’s no way I’d ever go back to manual, although I do still drive company cars which are manual. 
If you live in an area prone to congestion, which seems to be everywhere these days, then you’ll have absolutely no regrets learning automatic. 

You tend to pay a bit more for automatics, particularly second hand, but that’s really the only downside I can think of. Oh and if you’re going to do much motorway driving then cruise control is a must have. 

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I'd say learn in a manual because it's definitely worth knowing even if you don't necessarily think you'll ever drive a manual. As someone else said you're then covered to drive both manual and automatic cars when you pass your test and most importantly you'll know what Vin Diesel is on about in the first Fast And The Furious film.

I've only recently started driving automatics as my father-in-law prefers them so I use his from time to time. They're great fun, especially in stop-start traffic but I'm still grateful to know manual, especially in semi-automatics that have the flappy paddle gears aswell on the steering wheel.

I've been driving for 13 years, I learned whilst my wife was pregnant so we didn't have to resort to public transport once my son was born. I had two instructors, one was an absolute dinosaur who was teaching really old-fashioned techniques and seemed like he was dragging my lessons out to make me spend more and the other was a complete bellend but he was efficient. Definitely shop around for a good instructor, there'll be loads of people with an opinion on who is good if you ask around your friends/ family/ local Facebook groups.

I failed the first time I took my practical test because I was shitting myself, went to do a hill start, didn't have the car in gear and rolled back a foot. Instant fail. Passed second time but the examiner, after discovering I worked for a telecoms company, went on a 30 minute rant about "them Indian call centres" which made the whole experience just that bit more stressful.

A mate of mine failed three times, he hit a wheelie bin on his first.

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