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10 Tips For Choosing a Driving Instructor in Ontario

Mikael Castaldo

November 20, 2022

Unfortunately, we’ve all heard horror stories about bad driving instructors. Whether it’s instructors operating without a licence, teaching illegal manoeuvres, or constantly cancelling last-minute, these stories are more common than many of us would like. On average, around 1,000 formal complaints are made to the Ministry of Transportation each year against unprofessional driving instructors operating in the province. As a result, hundreds of instructors lose their license each year.

But – at the same time – there are thousands of great driving instructors out there making our roads safer. Talented driving instructors will influence your driving habits for life, and drastically increase your odds of passing your road test. Here are our top 10 tips for finding the best driving instructor in your area:

1. Do: Make sure your driving instructor is licensed by the Ministry of Transportation

In order to operate as a driving instructor in the Province of Ontario, individuals must be licensed by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO). Before enrolling in lessons with an instructor, make sure that they’re MTO-certified!

MTO-certified instructors are required to have completed a 160-hour college course, have a clean criminal record, and pass their G1 and G tests again. This helps to ensure a certain quality bar across driving instructors in the province, increasing your chances of receiving a quality education. Driving instructors are required to renew their license every year with the Ministry of Transportation, so you’ll want to make sure that your instructor’s license is up-to-date as well. If your instructor isn’t MTO-certified, they are not legally allowed to teach G1 license holders.

2. Don’t: Look on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace

Unfortunately, Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace have an extremely high concentration of driving instructor scams. Often, driving instructors on Kijiji will claim that they’re MTO-certified when they don’t actually have their license. Because Kijiji doesn’t have reviews, there is no guarantee of quality with any driving instructor you find. Instructors on Kijiji also tend to ask for payment in cash or via e-transfer upfront, which leaves you in a vulnerable position in case you don’t connect well with your instructor and end up needing a refund.

Instead, we recommend booking an instructor through a licensed driving school (it doesn’t have to be Kruzee, though we would obviously love it if you do book with us!). By booking your instructor through a driving school, you’ll have the protection of oversight from the driving school and the ability to switch to a different instructor in case you don’t connect with the individual teaching you. Driving schools tend to have a higher quality standard for the instructors they hire than a Kijiji listing, so the chances that you’ll receive a quality education are higher.

3. Do: Ask your instructor if they have driving instructor insurance

In order to provide driving instruction in Ontario, individuals must have proper driving instructor insurance, otherwise known as 6D Endorsement. New drivers tend to be significantly higher risk than experienced drivers, so they are required to have insurance that properly protects them (and other drivers!) against this risk. 

Unfortunately, driving instructor insurance is quite expensive, so many unscrupulous driving instructors opt to deliver lessons without it. This is highly illegal, and can result in the driving instructor losing their license. Proper driving instructor insurance also protects you, the learner, against any damages that might follow as a result of accidents. To keep yourself and other drivers safe, make sure your instructor has the correct insurance.

4. Don’t: Look for the cheapest driving instructor you can find

We all want to save money. However, if your driving instructor is operating significantly below the average market price (around $60-70 per hour), it can be a red flag.

In order to be able to charge a significantly lower price, driving instructors must cut their costs somewhere. Typically, this doesn’t tend to be their own salary, but rather the other additional costs that driving instructors must bear – insurance, safety / inspections on their vehicle, vehicle maintenance, or licensing fees. Most of the time, the cost that driving instructors cut is actually delivering your lesson – while it might sound shocking, last-minute cancellations and lessons never being delivered are common as you move into driving instructors that charge  less than $50 / hour. Generally speaking, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is!

5. Do: Ask your instructor how they manage their schedule

Driving instructors typically have hundreds of lessons that they need to deliver each month. Staying organized and on top of their schedule, then, is extremely important. The last thing you’ll want to do is believe that you have a lesson coming up, and have your driving instructor forget.

Before taking lessons with an instructor, ask them about their cancellation policy and how they actually record their schedule. Despite widespread adoption of digital calendars in other industries, most driving instructors manage their lessons out of a paper agenda. If your driving instructor is organized, this can work – but if your driving instructor is a bit disorganized, these pen and paper systems can break down. 

Currently, Kruzee is the only driving school in Canada that handles its instructors’ schedules fully digitally. With Kruzee, you can log into your customer portal and schedule your lessons, which are then linked to an app on your instructor’s phone. This makes sure that your instructors never miss a lesson because they had a hard time managing their schedule.

6. Don’t: Believe 98% passing rates for G2 / G tests

In Ontario, the average passing rates for a G2 test are around 55%. When driving instructors or schools claim that they have 98% passing rates, then, you should immediately be skeptical. A good driving instructor will definitely increase your odds of passing your road test, but passing rates above 90% are unfortunately just not true.

Rather than focusing on an instructor’s test passing rate (which is never verified by a third party anyways), focus on what you can do to improve your chances of passing your road test. A quality driving instructor should have a rigorous lesson plan that they work with to take students from being new drivers to being road test ready. Before booking driving lessons with someone, make sure that they actually have a rigorous methodology to help you pass their road test, rather than specious claims of high passing rates.

7. Do: Make sure your instructor follows a structured lesson plan

A structured lesson plan is the foundation upon which your driver education will be built. When a driving instructor has a proper lesson plan, it’s a sign of thoughtfulness and professionalism. Unfortunately, many driving instructors improvise each lesson, and even use the lesson to run their personal errands!

Before taking lessons with an instructor or driving school, ask to see a copy of their lesson plan. This will give you the confidence that your instructor has a plan to help you achieve your learning goals and pass your road test. While all good driving instructors adapt their lesson plans to their particular students, no driving instructor should operate without a lesson plan entirely.

8. Don’t: Always trust Google reviews

Reviews are a great way to check whether a driving school or instructor offers consistent quality service. Not all reviews are authentic, however, so you’ll have to do a bit of detective work to determine whether a driving school or instructor’s reviews are trustworthy. 

The first thing you’ll want to check is whether the school / instructor’s reviews are consistent across different review platforms. A good rule of thumb is that if a driving school or instructor’s Yelp reviews differ significantly from their Google Reviews, you should avoid that driving school or instructor. Often, driving schools and instructors will provide incentives for leaving a good Google review, decreasing the validity of many reviews. At first glance, things might look great, with a school or instructor having thousands of 5-star reviews. However, these reviews are often not earned legitimately. One of the more common review scams involves giving students bonus points on their in-class / online theory if they leave a positive review (this is, of course, illegal). So – take reviews with a grain of salt, and make sure that they are consistent across different review platforms!

9. Do: Make sure your instructor has a second set of brakes, mirrors, and a recent vehicle safety check

In order to be eligible to teach students in Ontario, driving instructors must outfit their vehicle with a secondary set of brakes (on the passenger’s side) and a secondary set of mirrors. These additional features help to keep you safe while you’re learning how to drive. If you’re entering a dangerous situation, for example, your instructor can use their dual brake pads to stop the vehicle before you put yourself at risk.

If your driving instructor’s vehicle does not have these safety features, they cannot legally teach G1 license holders in the province of Ontario. Some unscrupulous driving instructors may offer to teach you in your own car. While this might sound great at first (who wouldn’t want to learn in the vehicle they feel most comfortable with!), it comes with many hidden risks. First and foremost is that your vehicle won’t have the dual brake pads or mirrors. At the same time, though, your vehicle won’t have proper associated driving instructor insurance, putting you at risk for damages in case of an accident.

10. Don’t: E-transfer or pay your instructor in cash

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your driving instructor provides you with a proper receipt and a secure payment method. Driving instructors that ask for e-transfers or payment in cash put you in a vulnerable position; if you need a refund for any reason, you won’t actually have any proof of purchase. Instead, make sure that your driving instructor allows you to purchase lessons safely online through a secure payment portal or in-person with a physical receipt. While some driving instructors may offer you savings if you pay in cash, this is usually a red flag and should be avoided at all costs.

Conclusion

Learning to drive is a rite of passage. As you go through this important phase of your life, you’ll want to make sure you’re accompanied by a true professional that’s invested in your success. By taking the time to properly vet your driving instructor, you’ll be improving your chances of receiving a quality education, passing your road test, and becoming a safer driver.

If you’re looking to book driving lessons in Ontario, you can do so online through Kruzee here.

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