Teaching someone to drive is a huge responsibility—whether it’s your child, sibling, spouse, or friend. But with the right mindset and a plan in place, you can help your student learn habits that will make the roads a better, safer place for everyone.
In most states, you need to be at least 21 years old and hold a valid driver's license before you can teach someone else to drive. Your state may also require you to pass an additional driver's education course or knowledge test before you’re allowed to teach someone to drive.
Every state has its own laws and regulations around what it takes to get a driver's license. These laws vary depending on the state, but they typically involve a period of supervised driving before a driver is granted full driving privileges.
In most states, the process starts with obtaining a learner's permit. A permit allows new drivers to start learning the process of driving under the supervision of a licensed driver. Drivers in most states can get their learner's permit between the ages of 14 and 16.
Once someone has had their permit for a certain amount of time (usually six months to a year), they can take a driving test to get their official driver's license.
In most states, you can teach someone to drive in your own car as long as you have a valid driver’s license and the person you're teaching has a learner’s permit. But just because you can doesn’t always mean it’s the wisest decision.
For example, if the student already has access to a vehicle and they plan on using it for their test—and potentially driving it afterwards—it may make sense to have them practice in that vehicle instead of yours. Each vehicle has its nuances, so expecting the student to become familiar with two different vehicles while also learning the basics of driving might not set them up for success.
If you decide to teach someone to drive in your own car, be sure your auto insurance policy can protect you if your student’s lack of experience leads to an accident.
It’s a good idea to double-check not only the laws about teaching someone to drive in your state but also with your car insurance provider. It may be time to add them to your insurance policy. Also make sure you meet your state’s minimum auto insurance coverage limits and your policy is up to date before letting an unskilled or inexperienced driver drive your car.
Even if you’re a safe and experienced driver and you’re comfortable teaching someone to drive, accidents can still happen. Car insurance coverages can help reduce your financial burden for covered damages or injuries that may occur during a lesson, including damage to your car, damage to someone else’s property, and medical bills.
Before teaching someone to drive, consider adding the following insurance coverages to your policy or increasing your limits on coverages you already have:
As you prepare to teach someone to drive, consider these tips to make the most of your lessons:
Learning to drive is a big deal, and there’s a lot to learn. That’s why it’s important to start with Driving 101 and make sure your student has a good understanding of the following before they hit the open road:
Once you’ve established the rules of the road, it’s time to hit the gas… in a calm, quiet, and safe area. Find a school parking lot on a weekend or a church parking lot during the week. Not only is there less risk when practicing in an open area, but it’s also less stressful for the student—and teacher.
These settings also allow for gradual learning and the chance for you to correct their errors in a low-stakes environment. With plenty of room for error, your student can practice their maneuvers and techniques without the fear of damaging another vehicle or causing an accident.
Many scenarios requiring quick thinking can pop up when driving. It’s important to expose your student to as many of these scenarios as possible so they can get used to reacting appropriately:
Defensive driving is an essential skill for new drivers to learn. It can help prevent accidents and keep everyone on the road safe. Encourage defensive driving by teaching your student driver to:
Driving is often stressful even for seasoned drivers, but for teens and first-time drivers, it can often feel overwhelming. Make sure you monitor the behavior of the person you’re teaching to drive and "pump the brakes" if they start to show signs of duress, anxiety, or fatigue.
Developing a checklist for yourself to follow as you teach your driving student will help you stay on track. Use the following steps as a starting point for your checklist:
1. Get your student used to the vehicle. Make sure they know:
2. Start with familiar, open areas. Once your student demonstrates skill and confidence in controlled environments, you can progress to highways and more challenging routes.
3. Create a plan for each lesson. This will help you focus on specific topics in each lesson and teach efficiently.
4. Ask your student what they know—and want to learn. If your student is also taking a driver education course or something similar, make sure your lesson aligns with what they’re learning. That way, you can reinforce those lessons, answer follow-up questions, and give them more time to practice critical skills instead of confusing them by teaching irrelevant or conflicting information.
5. Keep the sessions short and frequent. Driving can be exhausting. Aim for three 30-minute sessions per week to reinforce your lessons without overwhelming the learner.
6. Cut the lesson short if you need to. You’re better off ending a lesson early than allowing a struggling student to become frustrated or overwhelmed. Especially once you’ve progressed to more populated roads, stopping anxiety and mistakes from escalating can help protect your student, your vehicle, and other drivers.
There’s no getting around it—driving is a massive responsibility and carries significant risks. It’s no surprise some people feel nervous about learning to drive. You can help calm their nerves with these tips:
We’ve gone over how to teach someone to drive, but what about things you shouldn’t do? Here are a few actions to avoid as you teach from the passenger seat:
Helping your student become a safety-conscious driver not only helps prepare them to get their driver’s license—it can also help them save money on their own car insurance policy. Many car insurance companies offer discounts for safe drivers as a way to encourage and incentivize responsible behavior.
Right from the get-go, teach your new driver how to avoid road rage. Review and share these 10 ways to keep your cool behind the wheel.
What do you do when you hit a deer? Hitting a deer with your car can be an unsettling experience—especially for a new driver. Review the helpful tips in this guide.
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*Data accuracy is subject to this article’s publication date.