If you type “driving school near me” into any search engine, you’ll likely come across an overwhelming number of options. Although it may seem that all driving schools offer the same fundamental services, the quality across these schools can vary significantly. Countless students have had nightmarish experiences with driver’s education, something they could have avoided by spending a bit more time researching schools upfront!
Here are the top 5 things you need to evaluate when searching for a driving school to make sure that you receive a quality education.
Tip #1: Confirm that the school is MTO approved
The Ministry of Transportation in Ontario (MTO) is responsible for evaluating and approving driving schools based on the merit of their applications. The approval process is quite detailed and requires applicants to show proof of vehicle safety, driving instructor licences, commercial auto insurance, business insurance, and other important items that protect students as they learn to drive. Furthermore, only an approved driving school can offer the Beginner Driver Education (BDE) course and other driver improvement programs.
In order to determine whether a driving school is MTO approved, all you need to do is search for the school’s name in this database of government-approved driving schools. Also, be sure to check that the school’s licence isn’t revoked (using the same link)!
With that said, being MTO approved doesn’t necessarily mean that the driving school provides great service. Even though the MTO does a fantastic job of ensuring that approved driving schools are meeting the minimum regulatory requirements, they do not rank or evaluate schools based on the student experience! That’s where the next few tips come in.
Tip #2: Compare prices, but don’t cheap out
Don’t get us wrong: price is an important consideration when choosing a school. Driver’s ed can be costly, after all! However, the old saying “buy it nice or buy it twice” is highly relevant in this industry. If you do some research, you’ll see that driving school prices range quite a bit across the board. For a BDE package, you can expect to see prices from $499 all the way up to $1,299! This largely depends on the quality of service the driving school offers and how much they invest in training instructors, maintaining vehicles, and developing a market-leading curriculum.
That’s not to say you can’t get a great deal at a good driving school, or that a $1,299 course is necessarily worth the price! Instead, use these prices as a guideline to determine what’s reasonable for the driver’s ed programs you’re interested in. Landing somewhere in the middle of that range is probably a safe bet.
Tip #3: Check if the school is online-first
Most driving schools you come across will have some sort of website showcasing their products and prices. However, most of these sites are only informational and have no real functionality for students to take advantage of. You might even need to call them and navigate their automated phone menu if you wish to buy a package or schedule an appointment—with no guarantee that the driving school will have capacity to take you on as a student!
Thankfully, there are online-first driving schools like Kruzee that allow you to select a package, schedule your first lesson, choose your pickup location, and checkout securely—all without waiting on the phone. These digital-first driving schools also typically offer the 30-hour “theory” portion of the BDE package entirely online and at your own pace, allowing you to take the course from the comfort of home. Compare this with some driving schools that ask you to commute to a classroom and watch videos from the 1990s (we wish this was a joke).
Tip #4: Determine who your instructor will be before paying
It’s no surprise that your driving instructor will make or break your driver’s ed experience. They’re responsible for teaching you driving theory from the ground up and preparing you for all the complexities you’ll face as a new driver on the road. This is no easy task! Remember, doctors and nurses save lives after a car accident, but a great driving instructor may be able to prevent that accident from happening in the first place.
Given that you’ll be spending hours upon hours with your instructor in a professional but personal setting (i.e., in a car), it’s totally reasonable for you to want to learn more about this person beforehand. However, that might be a challenge, as most driving schools don’t broadcast that information in advance.
If possible, try and ask for a bit of info about your driver before making a deposit or full payment (sometimes the driving school will agree and show you the instructor’s bio). That way, if it turns out you’d prefer a different instructor, you’ll be able to pick a different location or time slot to see who else is available.
Last but not least, ask the driving school how scheduling lessons with your instructor works. If it’s by text, you might be in for a frustrating experience (see examples below). Ideally, the school should have some sort of online scheduling system that would allow you to view the instructor’s availability and book time slots directly.
Tip #5: Learn more about the in-car curriculum
Many students go through driving school for the insurance discount or to get 4 months off their road test wait period. Equally important, however, is learning to drive with confidence and adopting the right defensive driving techniques to protect yourself in any situation. Ever heard of an S-curve? Slow speed maneuvers? These are critical techniques that you should be learning with your driving instructor.
If you’re torn between a few driving schools and can’t decide, it may be a good idea to ask about their curriculum and teaching methodology. Schools that are responsive to these questions will typically have a detailed lesson plan and refined approach for in-car lessons. Those that don’t respond probably won’t have much to say on the matter (and should be avoided)!
The bottom line
Driver’s education is a pivotal opportunity to develop great habits on the road; that’s why it’s so important to do your homework before choosing the right school. If you’re thinking about taking the Beginner Driver Education (BDE) course in Ontario, you’ll be dedicating 40 hours to the school you choose. Picking the wrong one could result in months of frustration and unsatisfactory results. Conversely, picking the right one could mean passing your road tests on the first try and being a safe driver for life!
If you’re looking for a driving school in Ontario, check out Kruzee, as Clutch recently partnered with Kruzee to offer their students $400 off their first vehicle purchase at Clutch!