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The Ultimate Guide to Going to Driving School in Ontario

Mikael Castaldo

November 20, 2022

Thinking of going to driving school in Ontario? We’ve pulled together this guide to help you sort the fact from the fiction and make an informed decision. Myths about driver’s ed and driving schools abound, and the sheer number of shady operators out there can make it difficult to differentiate between a quality school and a fly-by-night operation. Whether you’re looking to decide whether driving school is right for you or just want to understand how to properly evaluate a driving school you’re considering, read on.

Do you have to go to driving school?

Unlike other provinces like Quebec, driving school is not mandatory in Ontario. That said, driving school is heavily incentivized by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO). Drivers who go through an MTO-approved Beginner Driver Education (BDE) program can qualify for a discount on their insurance and the ability to get their G2 in 8 months instead of the usual 12. More on this below. 

Despite not being mandatory, 80% of Ontarians do choose to go through driving school as they get their driver’s license. The insurance savings and accelerated licensing times play a big part in this high participation rate, but many Ontarians also choose to go to driving school because they want to learn good lifelong driving habits and increase their odds of passing their G2 and G tests. So – while driving school isn’t mandatory in Ontario, most people do choose to go through driving school anyways.

What programs are offered through driving schools?

The type of program you’ll be looking for depends on which level in the licensing process you’re at. Driving school is typically most helpful for G2 students, though there are courses in place for those looking to get their G license as well. Read on below:

G1 license driving school programs

Since the G1 license only involves passing a written test, driving schools are typically not involved. There is no Ministry of Transportation-approved G1 test prep course – if you see a driving school saying otherwise, run the other way! Typically, the best way to prepare for a G1 license is to study from the MTO Driver’s Handbook and then test yourself using free online practice tools. Read more about tips for passing your G1 test. Once you have your G1 license in hand, then it’s the time to start looking for a driving school, since your G1 license allows you to practice driving in the car with an experienced driver.

G2 license driving school programs

Driving school is most helpful at the G2 phase of licensing. When you’re looking to get your G2, you’ll typically have little driving experience, but with your G1 in hand, you’ll finally be allowed to practice. This is where driving school comes into the picture.

If you’re looking to get your G2 license, the first thing you’ll want to do is look for an MTO-approved course provider. MTO-approved driving schools are the only institutions authorized to offer a Beginner Driver Education (BDE) course. If your friends or family went through driving school, they most likely went through a licensed BDE course. 

All MTO-approved BDE courses include:

  • 20 hours of driving theory (online or in a classroom)
  • 10 hours of quizzes (online or in a classroom)
  • 10 hours of behind the wheel instruction

Upon completion, MTO-approved BDE courses make you eligible for:

  • A confirmation of course completion on your Ontario driving record
  • A discount on your car insurance (ranging from 5-30%, typically 10-20%)
  • The ability to get your G2 8 months after getting your G1, rather than 12 months after getting your G1

The Ministry of Transportation publishes a full list of MTO-approved driving schools on their website. While we’d love it if you choose us for your driver’s education, if you do happen to go with a different school, make sure to check their status on the MTO’s website before enrolling.

If you’re not interested in taking a BDE course (or if you want to avoid the online / classroom theory and just do the in-car practice), you can take in-car practice lessons with any MTO-approved driving school. Most driving schools that offer a BDE course also offer a-la-carte in-car practice for students looking for this option. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that if you decide to skip out on the online / classroom theory, you won’t be eligible for 

G license driving school programs

When it’s time to get your G license, it’ll have been at least a year since you’ve completed driving school, so you may be a bit rusty. At this stage, driving school can help you brush up on your driving skills, build lifelong defensive driving habits, and help you pass your G test.

There are no MTO-mandated courses offered for the G license; instead, you’ll want to look for in-car practice lessons. Depending on how comfortable you are, you may want 5-10 additional hours of driving instruction to prepare you for your G test. The G test involves highway driving, which isn’t covered in the G2 test – so if highway driving is something that you’re not totally comfortable with just yet, make sure to practice this with your instructor.

Finally, many driving schools also offer the use of their instructors’ vehicles on the day of your road test. At Kruzee, for example, our instructors can pick you up from your home on the day of the test, drive you to the test location, do a 30min refresher lesson, and allow you to use the instructor’s vehicle for the test. Many students looking to get their G license will also look for this option, since doing your driving test in the vehicle you’re most familiar with tends to increase your odds of passing. More tips on passing your G test here.

Court-mandated driver improvement programs

If you’ve recently been in an at-fault accident or other notable driving violation, you may be required to go to a court-mandated driver improvement program. Typically, these programs involve classroom theory and in-car instruction to reinforce safe driving habits after a driving violation.

Not all MTO-approved driving schools offer driver improvement programs, though, so you’ll have to make sure that the driving school you choose offers the course.

When can you go to driving school?

In Ontario, as soon as you turn 16, you can go for your G1 exam and then driving school shortly after. You can enroll in driving school as soon as you’ve successfully passed your G1 written exam – even the same day. You’ll have to wait at least a year after getting your G1 exam to go for your G2 exam, though – unless you go to driving school. If you go to driving school, you can go for your G2 in 8 months instead of 12.

What are the benefits of going to driving school?

Driving school is critical for building lifelong defensive driving habits and making our roads safer. If you go to an MTO-approved driving school, though, and complete a Beginner Driver Education (BDE) course, there are additional benefits you can unlock. Read on below for the main benefits of going to driving school.

1. Learn lifelong defensive driving habits

While the insurance savings and accelerated licensing time are nice, learning lifelong defensive driving habits is the most important reason to go to driving school. While parents, friends, and family members may be great drivers, they’re not experts in driver’s education, and you may pick up some bad habits along the way. Going through an MTO-approved driving school will teach you how to operate a motor vehicle safely, in adverse weather conditions, traffic, and other complex real-life scenarios that you might face when behind the wheel. Driving school will teach you the basics (merging, parallel parking, reverse parking, left and right-hand turns, etc.) but also more advanced techniques like evasive maneuvers, situational awareness, defensive positioning, etc. These advanced techniques may not be something that your family members or friends know, even if they’re great drivers.

2. Save 10-20% on auto insurance

One of the more well-known benefits of going through driving school in Ontario is the insurance discount for which you’ll become eligible. Driving school can save you from 5-30% on auto insurance, but averages around 10-20% in savings. 

Completing an MTO-approved BDE course (it has to be a BDE course, it can’t just be in-car lessons) makes insurance companies perceive you as a safer driver. Insurance companies rate drivers on a star system. All new drivers start at one star. When you complete an MTO-approved BDE course, though, you’ll be rated as a 3-star driver – the same as if you have several years of experience behind your belt. With auto insurance rates being as high as $6000 / year in Ontario for new drivers, the driving school auto insurance discount can result in thousands of dollars in savings per year. Learn more about the insurance savings in driving school.

3. Get your G2 in 8 months instead of 12

If you want to get your G2 license as quickly as possible, driving school is your best bet. The Ministry of Transportation makes G1 drivers accumulate a year of driving experience before getting their G2, to make sure they’re getting the necessary hours in behind the wheel. 

If you go to driving school, though, the ministry views you to be a safer and more experienced driver – meaning that you can get your G2 in 8 months instead of 12. If you’re in high school, this can often be the difference between getting your license before graduation or not.

4. Increase your odds of passing the road test

Whether you’re going for your G2 or G test, driving school can improve your chances of a successful outcome. Good driving instructors typically know exactly what you have to do in order to pass your road test, and can coach you on areas where you’re falling short. For example, did you know that you have to turn your head when you look at your mirrors? The examiner can’t always see where your eyes are looking – but they can always see your head turn. These are the types of tips that a driving instructor can help you with, to make sure that you maximize your odds of passing. The typical pass rate for G2 exams near Toronto is around 50% – but mostly because folks are taking the test without the proper driving instruction. Going through driving school can improve your odds considerably. More tips on passing your road test here.

5. Unlock the ability to drive on highways earlier than everyone else

G1 drivers are typically prohibited from driving on 400-series highways – unless they’re with a driving instructor. If you want to get in some hours behind the wheel on the highway before going for your G2, the only way you’ll be allowed to do this is with a licensed driving instructor. While highway driving isn’t part of the G2 test, it may well be part of your day-to-day life when you have your G2, making it especially important to get some practice in beforehand.

6. Improve your provincial driving record

When you complete an MTO-approved BDE course, a permanent record of completion is added to your provincial driving record. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no actual certificate that driving schools hand out (if they do, it’s just for show) – what happens instead is that your driving school uploads a record of course completion to the Ministry of Transportation’s database. Insurance companies can then access your driving record here to check if you’ve completed a BDE course, which lowers your insurance rates.

Learn more about the other benefits of going to driving school.

What do you learn in driving school?

MTO-approved BDE courses are broken down into two parts; the 30-hour online / classroom course, and the 10 hours of in-car instruction. While curriculum differs across driving schools, the Ministry of Transportation has set curriculum standards that all driving schools must follow. The challenge, though, is that despite the MTO’s best efforts, the quality of instruction you receive across driving schools can vary considerably. To learn more about what you can expect in a rigorous BDE program, we’ve shared a bit about what goes into the Kruzee curriculum below. Please note that while the curriculum below is the base from which all of our instructors operate, your individual lesson plan will always be tailored to your specific skill level – for example, if left hand turns make you nervous, your instructor will be sure to practice that with you further before moving onto freeway driving.

First driving lesson

Your first driving lesson is all about getting familiar with your vehicle – don’t expect to be driving down the highway just yet! During your first driving lesson, you’ll learn how your vehicle works, how to position yourself safely, and do some light driving practice. Typically, the first driving lesson includes:

  • Performing a circle check around your vehicle
  • Understanding your vehicle dashboard & instruments work
  • Positioning yourself and your mirrors properly in the vehicle
  • Covering the horn and brake
  • Steering properly (i.e. hand-over-hand technique)

Second driving lesson

In your second driving lesson, you’ll be spending more time directly behind the wheel. Your second driving lesson is all about familiarizing yourself with your basic driving maneuvers. Typically, the second driving lesson includes:

  • Learning proper curb judgment
  • Practicing right-hand turns in a residential area
  • Practicing left-hand turns in a residential area
  • Understanding how an intersection works
  • Performing lane changes and signaling
  • Understanding where your blind spots are

Third driving lesson

By your third driving lesson, you’ll hopefully be increasing your confidence and starting to drive in more complex situations. You won’t be on a highway or super busy area just yet, of course, but your driving instructor will be simulating more difficult situations than you had previously faced. In your third lesson, you’ll be:

  • Practicing city driving
  • Mastering lane changes
  • Learning proper stopping positions
  • Understanding right of way rules
  • Doing intersection checks

Fourth driving lesson

Your fourth driving lesson will be all about parking. By now, you’ll be more comfortable with driving and turning. This means that you have the base of skills needed to master parking. In your fourth lesson, you’ll be:

  • Doing three-point turns
  • Practicing hill parking / using the parking brake
  • Learning parallel parking
  • Practicing emergency roadside stops
  • Performing reverse parking

Fifth driving lesson

Your fifth driving lesson will be all about reinforcing what you’ve learned in lesson four. Hopefully, after your fourth lesson, you’ll have had some time to practice parking maneuvers on your own – your fifth lesson will be your chance to test how well you understand parking maneuvers. In your fifth lesson, you’ll be:

  • Doing three-point turns
  • Practicing hill parking / using the parking brake
  • Learning parallel parking
  • Practicing emergency roadside stops
  • Performing reverse parking

Sixth driving lesson

Your sixth driving lesson will move you to a more advanced stage in your driving journey. In this lesson, you’ll be learning how to work with dangerous driving situations in a safe, defensive manner. In your sixth lesson, you’ll be:

  • Predicting dangerous situations in city driving
  • Learning about the point of no return
  • Understanding the importance of braking early
  • Mastering following & stopping distances

Seventh driving lesson

Your seventh lesson will be about advanced city driving and intersections. In your seventh lesson you’ll be:

  • Learning the S-approach to turning
  • Understanding how to drive defensively with traffic lights

Eighth driving lesson

Your eighth driving lesson will be about understanding the flow of traffic in city driving situations, and beginning to familiarize yourself with freeway driving. In your eighth lesson, you’ll be:

  • Practicing freeway driving
  • Understanding how to safely merge into high-velocity traffic
  • Maintaining the flow of traffic in city driving & freeway situations

Ninth driving lesson

Your ninth driving lesson is the most open of all of your driving lessons – while you’ll be learning about one-way roads, the rest of the lesson will focus on brushing up on areas where you need practice. In your ninth lesson, you’ll be:

  • Practicing driving safely on one-way streets
  • Reinforcing / practicing any areas where you need to improve

Tenth driving lesson

Your tenth driving lesson will be a sample driving test for you. By now, you’ll have (hopefully!) mastered the elements you need to pass your road test, and your instructor will do a mock test to see how you do. In your tenth lesson, you’ll be:

  • Performing a mock driving test
  • Going through errors made
  • Developing a plan to improve 

How many driving lessons should you take?

The amount of driving lessons you need depends entirely on your individual driving record, level of experience, and level of anxiety behind the wheel. That said, there are some rules of thumb that you can follow that we’ve outlined below.

How many driving lessons should I take to pass my G2?

If you’re going through an MTO-approved BDE course, the choice will be simple – you’ll need to complete 10 hours of in-car instruction before going for your G2 test. That said, you may need additional lessons beyond the initial 10 hours. A simple rule of thumb to follow is that if you don’t do well on the mock exam your instructor will do in your 10th lesson, you should probably consider enrolling in an additional 5 lessons. If you pass the mock exam with flying colours, though, you probably don’t need any more hours of instruction.

The good thing is that with Kruzee, you can always add on more lessons and schedule / reschedule them as you need – so you can plan your lessons as you go, without having to worry about buying everything upfront. How many driving lessons should I take to pass my G?

We recommend a minimum of 5 lessons for students going for their G test. When it’s time to take your G test, it will have been at least a year since you went for your G2. Additionally, your G exam will be quite different from your G2 – it will be longer (a full 30 minutes) and will involve highway driving. 5 lessons will give you enough time to review key concepts from your G2, practice the new highway driving concepts that you’ll need to pass your G, and perform 1-2 practice exams before your real G test. As with the G2, if you don’t feel ready to pass your G test after your practice exam, we usually recommend enrolling in an additional 5 lessons.

How much does driving school cost?

Driving school prices vary based on the type of program you’re enrolling in – full Beginner Driver Education (BDE) courses cost more than individual driving lessons, for example. Learn more about the average cost of driving lessons in Ontario below:

How much does driving school cost in Ontario (BDE programs)?

While the exact price of driving school varies based on exactly where in Ontario you’re based, BDE programs typically cost $600 – $800 in Ontario. This includes 10 hours of in-car instruction, 20 hours of online / classroom theory, and 10 hours of online / classroom quizzes. As with most things, you probably don’t want to look for the absolute cheapest or the most expensive provider (seriously, don’t go with the absolute cheapest provider – more on driving school nightmares here). Learn more about the average cost of driving school for the largest cities in Ontario below:

  1. Toronto – $786
  2. Mississauga – $660
  3. Scarborough – $624
  4. North York – $682
  5. Brampton – $647
  6. Vaughan – $722
  7. Richmond Hill – $682
  8. Markham – $704
  9. Ajax / Pickering – $619
  10. Oshawa / Whitby – $612
  11. Oakville – $849
  12. Burlington – $772
  13. Hamilton – $645
  14. St. Catharines – $614
  15. Kingston – $682
  16. London – $668
  17. Ottawa – $712
  18. Barrie – $634
  19. Windsor – $628
  20. Sarnia – $605
* Average of 52 driving schools across Ontario in April 2022

What is the average price for an hour of driving lessons in Ontario?

The average rate for an hour of in-car instruction in Ontario is $55-80. As with BDE packages, prices tend to be higher in downtown Toronto and lower in more rural areas, but the general going rate tends to remain in that range. Be careful for driving instructors or schools that claim to charge below $50 / hour – because individual practice lessons are not monitored by the MTO, there is no guarantee of quality, especially with the cheaper providers. While you may save $5-10 on your driving lesson, you may pick up some bad habits along the way which would impact your ability to pass your road test.

What should you look for in a driving school? And how do you avoid shady operators?

Unfortunately, not all driving schools are made equal. For every great driving school out there, there’s an equally shady operation – and it can be sometimes difficult to differentiate. 

The Toronto Star did an investigation on driving schools in the province and found questionable business practices abounded – schools that claimed to be MTO-approved but weren’t, instructors that didn’t have the proper licensing or insurance, and schools that take students’ money without delivering lessons and never return it. To further complicate the matter, many driving schools have thousands of reviews that were purchased or earned through other unscrupulous means. Therefore, it’s never been more important to make sure that the driving school you choose will provide a quality education. Whether you book lessons with us at Kruzee or choose another driving school, make sure to look for these 4 things:

1. Is the driving school MTO-approved?

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that the driving school you select is on the MTO’s list of approved driving schools. MTO-approved driving schools are authorized to administer Beginner Driver Education (BDE) courses that allow accelerated G2 licensing times and discounts on your insurance. If a driving school is not MTO-approved, they will not be able to offer these benefits, and may not legally be allowed to teach you to drive at all. 

To become an MTO-approved course provider, a driving school must meet ministry requirements on their curriculum structure and instructor licensing. Unfortunately, the MTO’s evaluation process doesn’t guarantee that schools stick with the curriculum – only that they show that they adhere to the curriculum at the time of application, or when they are audited by the MTO. MTO audits are few and far between, though, so just because a school is MTO-approved does not mean that their curriculum is always up-to-date.

If a driving school falls foul of the MTO’s rules, they can end up on the list of revoked driving schools. Make sure to consult this list before enrolling with a driving school.

2. Are the driving instructors properly insured and certified?

Both the driving school and all of their instructors must be certified by the Ministry of Transportation. Before booking with a driving school, make sure that their instructors have their driving instructor licenses (and that all fees and dues have been paid and are up-to-date). Additionally, driving instructors must have specific driving instructor insurance. Typically, this insurance costs much more than traditional car insurance (it can cost $7-10k per year!), due to the higher risk of teaching new students. Due to this cost, many unscrupulous driving instructors avoid paying for driving instructor insurance altogether. If you get into an accident, or get pulled over by a police officer, however, the consequences for your instructor not having proper insurance can be severe. It is illegal to teach students without proper driving instructor insurance.

3. Does the school have legitimate, quality reviews? (Google reviews can be fraudulent. Yelp usually isn’t)

Reviews are usually one of the top filtering criteria students use to select a driving school. Just because a driving school has thousands of reviews, it doesn’t mean that those reviews are legitimate. Usually, Yelp tends to have more realistic reviews than Google. Unscrupulous driving schools often bribe students to leave reviews by promising higher scores on their in-class tests, free food, or general bullying. To make sure a driving school’s reviews are legitimate, compare their Google reviews with Yelp. If Yelp is showing 2-3 Stars and Google is showing 4.5 stars with a thousand plus reviews, there’s probably something fishy going on.

Finally, be sure to ask if the driving school publishes and tracks reviews for individual instructors – both the good and the bad reviews. Your individual driving instructor is the person from whom you will be actually learning, so it pays to make sure that they are also well reviewed. 

4. How does the driving school handle scheduling for in-car lessons? Does the driving school force you to complete the in-class / online theory before doing in-car lessons? (if so – it’s a red flag)

When it comes time to schedule your in-car lessons, you’ll want the process to run as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, the approach most driving schools take to scheduling in-car lessons is to give you the phone number of your instructor and ask you to schedule your lessons over text. This often results in you being left on read, left hanging, or otherwise ignored. Because driving instructors have so many different students they need to work with, they’ll often forget about appointments when they use the text approach. To make sure your driving school keeps their commitment to delivering your in-car lessons, ask them whether they use an online scheduling system or have a team of scheduling coordinators in-house. When driving instructors are left to schedule the appointments themselves, it’s typically not in the best interest of students.

Not to toot our own horn here, but with Kruzee, students can book all of their in-car lessons directly online, so they can schedule them when and where they need lessons. Additionally, all Kruzee instructors are outfitted with a mobile app for schedule management so they’ll never forget about your appointment.

Conclusion

Driving school is an important step in your journey towards beco

ming a safer driver. While driving school is something that you (hopefully!) only need to go to once, the habits will stick with you for life. We hope that this guide has helped you make a more informed decision, and wish you the best of luck in your new driver journey.

If you’re looking to book driving lessons in Ontario with Kruzee, click here.

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