Black Box Insurance for New Drivers

We wrote a blog last week about how to get cheaper insurance as a new driver. If you’ve tried all of those things before though and insurance still seems to be out of your grasp, why not look into telematics or, as it’s more commonly known, black box insurance.

What is Black Box Insurance?

When you sign up for black box insurance, the insurance company will fit a black box to your car (generally free of charge) so they can monitor how many miles you do, how much sudden braking you do and your speed on different roads in different conditions. All of this information is then assessed to see how much of a risk you are when driving.

How does it work

Different insurance companies have different policies when it comes to saving you money with a black box. Some will limit your miles and grant you extra if you’re a safe driver. Others will provide you with a discount for safe driving at the end of the year. Have a look at the different options and see where you could save the most money – while also having a package which suits you.

Benefits of the Black Box

A lot of people can be a bit wary and uneasy about having their driving tracked, however you could save thousands of pounds each year by having a telematics system installed in your car. The tracking data will help you reduce your premiums, which could put a car that you wouldn’t normally have been able to insure within your reach. The other big benefit of having a black box installed is that the car now has a tracking system installed in the event of it being stolen. This could very well put your mind at ease if you don’t have a modern immobiliser or alarm system fitted.

Who is Telematics Suited for

Black box insurance is aimed at younger people and more inexperienced drivers; however, it could also be useful to you if you haven’t passed your test. Most black box schemes work on a limited mileage basis, making it perfect for people who don’t drive a great deal anyway. If you have a second car in your household that only gets used very infrequently, look into a telematics insurance policy and see how much you could save.

Conversely of course, black box policies are no good for people who drive a large number of miles each year. If this is you, take a look at our previous blog post with some ideas of how to reduce your insurance policy costs.

How to get Cheap Insurance as a New Driver

Before you’ve even passed your test, chances are you’ll be shopping around for the best deals on car insurance. Insurance for young drivers can be painfully expensive with the average cost coming in at between £1000 – £2000 each year. Here are some tips on how to get the cost of insuring your first car down as low as possible.

Add a Second Driver

Insurance is all about risk and by adding a second, more experienced, driver to your policy you are saying that there is a lower risk of the car being in an accident. Try getting an insurance quote with your parents or an old family friend on the policy and see how much it brings down the price. There seems to be very little logic behind how insurance companies work this out however, so try with a few different combinations of people on your policy and also insurance companies to see how much of a difference it can make.

Minimise your Risk

If you add a security device to your vehicle like an aftermarket alarm or immobilizer it could bring the cost of your insurance down – make sure you check first however or the cost of installing could be more than the saving you’ll see. In some cases, it could even raise the price of your insurance as the car will be classed as modified. You should also be realistic about where you’re parking the car and how many miles you’re doing each year, if you’re only using the car to get to and from the shops once a week, you may only be doing 6,000 miles a year which could lower your premiums

Raise the Excess

If you get the option to change your excess, try pushing it as high as you think you could reasonably afford in the event of a crash. The difference between a £150 excess to a £1,000 one could make a huge difference to your annual premium. Bear in mind however, you will have to pay more in the event of a crash if you set your excess high – which could potentially catch you out at a later date.

Tweak your Job Description

Some job descriptions are classed as higher risk than others in the eyes of insurers. It may not make sense to you, but it all works on the averages and how many claims people with a similar job description have put in, in the past. You can use this tool to see how a little change to your job title could massively effect your premium.

Big Changes Coming to Driving Tests In 2017

The government is committed to reducing the number of deaths on the British roads each year and as such they are proposing a shake up in the format of the driving test to include more real world examples of modern day driving. The changes are due to come into place in early 2017 following a period of public consultation. Over a quarter of deaths of people aged 15 – 19 are due to road traffic accidents and these changes hope to reduce this figure. So what do the changes include?

Increase the independent driving part of the test from 10 minutes to 20 minutes.

Research has shown that this is the part of the driving test that people find the most beneficial for when they pass their test. Independent driving teaches the driver how to make decisions on where they would like to go and sets them up for driving without someone else in the car. It teaches a learner driver the importance of preparing for turnings well in advance and being in the correct lane when approaching junctions and roundabouts.

Include Following Sat-Nav Directions as part of the Independent Driving

Over 53% of drivers use a Sat-Nav when they’re driving and many people don’t realise quite how distracting one can be. By making a learner on their test follow a Sat-Nav system, it will give the assessor a good idea of how well the person can multi-task with the additional distraction of a screen in the car with them.

Replace Reverse Around a Corner & Turn in The Road with More Real-Life Scenarios

While learning how to reverse around a corner and make a turn in the road is important, it’s not vital that someone is tested on their knowledge of how to do it. It’s been decided that it’s far more important for an assessor to look at a person’s ability to drive into and reverse out of a parking space; or another maneuver which a person will be more likely to undertake in their every-day driving life.

Ask One of Two Vehicle Safety Questions While Candidate is Driving

The questions which are known as the show me, tell me questions are traditionally asked when the car is stationary, before the candidate leaves the test center. These revisions will see these questions being asked to a candidate as they are driving, showing their understanding of the car’s controls and also their ability to concentrate on two things at once when driving. Currently the DVSA is working with the Transport Research Laboratory to assess how much difference the changes are making to real life driving. The trial is due to finish later in 2016 when a full report will be published on the findings.

Top Nine Reasons People Fail Their Driving Test

Failing your driving test isn’t all that uncommon, in fact over 50% of people fail their driving test first time around. Below are the nine most common reasons that people fail their driving test, in no particular order.

Inappropriate Speed

This isn’t just about going too fast – going too slow will more likely count against you when it comes to driving at an inappropriate speed. Holding up traffic or have a visible lack of confidence will mark you down so make sure you’re driving at the correct speed for the conditions.

Reversing Around a Corner

My personal least favourite maneuver, reversing around the corner requires you to stay as close as possible to kerb, without touching it, and controlling the car in a cool and collected manner while your steering is the wrong way around. Just like the Turn in the Road, take your time with this and try not to get flustered if things start going wrong.

Turn in the Road

What used to be called the three-point turn is a common failing point for a lot of people. If you get asked to do this on your test, take your time about it. Remember to check behind you before you reverse – as this is the most common failing point about this particular maneuver.

Lack of Control

This relates to steering the car at the right speed and in the right gear. Make sure you approach a junction in the right gear and turn at the right point – don’t ‘swan-neck’ your way into a right turning or cut up the left turn lane as you come across the road.

Reverse Parking

Either reversing into a bay or parallel parking – reverse parking can be tricky. If you’re parking in a bay, make sure you keep an eye on the white lines on the ground so you get in straight, then keep an eye on the car behind to stop before you hit it. If it’s parallel parking, make sure you remember your turning points to get as close to the kerb as possible.

Wrong Lane Usage

Read the road signs as you approach a junction – make sure you’re in the right lane for the direction you want to take. If it’s a roundabout you probably want to be in the left hand lane for the first or second exit – right hand lane for all other directions.

Not Moving Away Safely

Similar the above point, make sure you remember to indicate before you move away from the kerb, but also check your blind spot as well as your mirrors. If you see anything coming up behind you, indicate but don’t pull away until they have passed or stopped to let you out.

Observation at Junctions

When coming out of a junction, make sure you look both ways – even if you’re turning left! Your examiner will fail you if anyone else on the road has to change speed or direction when you pull out so make sure no one is coming or you can pull out in sufficient time so they don’t have to alter their driving.

Failing to Use Signals or Mirrors

This could be not providing a signal, providing the wrong signal or simply not being fast enough to provide a signal. It also covers not looking in the relevant mirror before you make any change to your position in the road. Just remember that before you make any changes to the lanes on the road – mirror, signal, manoeuvre.

How to Prepare for Your Practical Driving Test

So you’ve passed your theory test and you’ve either booked, or are thinking of booking your practical test. Now you’re going to want to make sure you do everything you can to pass first time and not have to re-book and re-sit the exam. Here are our top tips on how to fully prepare for your practical driving test.

Revise your Theory

As much as it might seem like a pain – your theory test is there to instill as much base knowledge about driving as possible in your mind. Read through all of your theory materials once or twice again and take a couple of tests to make sure you’re still up to speed (no pun intended).

If you’re failing on some aspects of your theory test, read through them again and make sure you fully understand all of the different rules – just being able to remember things is very different to understanding them!

Get as Much Practice as Possible

Book yourself in for a few extra lessons in the week running up to your exam. You want to make sure you’re as confident as possible behind the wheel before you sit down with your examiner. It might be an idea to book a single lesson with a different instructor and ask them to run through a test with you. This will give you a feel for being sat in the car with someone who isn’t your usual driving instructor and remove that safety net of a friendly face in the car with you.

If you can’t afford to book a lesson with another instructor, sit in the passenger seat of a family member or friend’s car and practice critiquing their driving. Assess everything they do and tell them where they are going wrong – it will annoy them no end, but it will be great practice for you.

Work Through your Driver’s Record

The DVSA has published a resource called the Driver’s Record, this is a checklist for working through how confident you are on various aspects of the driving test. You can download it from the DVSA website here. The tool itself is aimed at driving instructors to keep a record of how they think you are progressing with your lessons. It would be a good idea though to download a copy for yourself and make sure you’re happy with all of the items on the sheet. If there’s anything you’re not sure about – go back to your instructor and tell them you’d like some extra tuition on that particular area of the test.

Tips for finding driving test cancellations

How to find an earlier driving test

When do cancellations get put on the DVSA system?

The DrivingTestCancellations team investigated this for you,  using our last couple of weeks of reservation data. As you can see in the chart below, most driving test cancellations become available during working hours- 9am and 6pm. Just when a lot of us are out at school, college or work!

When driving test cancellations become available

If you need to find an earlier driving test, it seems a lot more cancellations become available at the start of the month than the end of the month:

More driving test cancellations at start of month than end of month

Is there a Cancellation ‘List’

No- the DVSA maintain there is no special list of cancellations that are not available on the website. When someone cancel or moves their driving test date, the cancellation appears almost straight away on the DVSA booking site. Whoever clicks this date first will be able to book it. This is what gives our service such an advantage- as we check every 5 or 10 minutes between 6am and midnight.

Why is there such a long wait for a driving test cancellation?

Quite simply- the DVSA (Driving Standards Agency) do not have enough test centres in urban areas (e.g. London) to satisfy demand. This means people are having to wait up to 18 weeks for their driving tests at West Wickham, while those booking at Melton Mowbray can get a test in a week or two.

Remember- use our automated system to find yourself an earlier driving test. Signup for a free trial.

How do I check for Driving Test Cancellations?

There are loads and loads of questions on the internet about how to check for driving test cancellations, so we thought we’d take the time to put together some advice, and weigh up the different ways you can do it, as well as dispelling some myths about the process on the way.

Myth Number 1: There is a ‘driving test cancellation’ list, you can be put on, or search to let you get an earlier driving test:


Unfortunately, this is simply not true, (although it is in Ireland, maybe this is where the confusion comes from). There is no secret list that you need a special telephone number to access, nor is there a hidden part of the DSA website where all the cancellations are kept.

Myth Number 2: You can only find cancellations by ringing the DSA.


Again, not true. The DSA have told me that their telephone operators have access to exactly the same lists of tests that you see when using the DSA website. And as anyone who’s tried to get through on their phone line will know, it can take take hours just to get to talk to anyone. If you do want to ring them though, you can do so on 0300 200 1122. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you need an extended retest, or are doing an upgrade from automatic to manual, you will not be able to change your test online, so will have to ring the DSA.

Checking yourself:


If you want to check for driving test cancellations manually, we think that the best way of doing it is using the DSA website. Log on here , enter your details, and then search for the closest date at your test centre. If nothing suitable shows up, try again. And again. And again. Cancellations do come up, but you have to be vigilant and quick if you want to change your driving test to a closer date. We’ve put some stats together on the best time of day, and best days to check for cancellations, so make sure you check around these times.

Getting us to check for you:


Well, of course we’re going to say this is the best option, but let me tell you why…

  • Guaranteed, a driving test at a time and place you are happy with, or your money back. No catches, time limits, or small print (unlike all of our competitors).
  • No hassle. With our online driving test finder there is no software to download, just enter your details and we’ll text and email you when dates come up, you just text/email back to book them.
  • Less than the price of a driving lesson. At under 20 quid, even if you only move your driving test a week earlier, you’ll have saved yourself money.
  • No need to sit in front of the computer, or phone stressing out about finding a test, let us do the work, and you can get on with life.

Driving Test Changes- An update from the DSA

I’ve been in touch with the DSA about why they only let you change your test date three times, and why this isn’t made clear on the test booking website.

They have told me that the 3 changes to your driving test date rule is to ‘prevent abuse by some customers’. The good news is, that this rule is under review, so watch this space.
They’ve also agreed to my recommendation to make it clearer that you are only allowed to change your driving test date three times.
They have updated their website to make the three change limitation clear. It now reads:


You can only change your test three times – after that, you need to cancel your test and book a new one.

This is sure to make things a lot clearer for learners. Lots of the users of our service to find driving test cancellations have been caught out by this rule in the past.

Why does the DSA only let me change my test three times?

We hear from learner driver after learner driver who has got absolutely no clue that the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) only let you change your practical test date up to three times. There is no indication anywhere on their main website, or on the practical test booking website that this is the case (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Diol1/DoItOnline/Doitonlinemotoring/DG_197300 – specifically says you can change your date as long as your instructor is available).
The first time most people realise it, is when they have already changed their practical test date twice, and start seeing a message when they log in to the DSA site saying ‘You can only change your test details one more time’.
The problem is, that if you aren’t aware from the start that you can only make three changes to your test date, you may waste two changes (say moving your date earlier by a day or two), and then be stuck with a test many months away, and only one chance to change it. In this situation, if one comes up a few weeks earlier, it is impossible to know whether to change it, or to hold out for an even closer test.
But fear not. There is a way round the DSA’s arbitrary restriction on test date changes (though it is not without a little risk). You need to cancel your current booking, you will receive a full refund from the DSA (as long as your test isn’t within the next few days). You can then rebook, and voila, you will have three more changes to make to your test. The risk is that you won’t be able to get the date you’ve just cancelled when you rebook, and will have to settle (at first) for a more distant date.
Lots of people looking for driving test cancellations use this approach, as it gets them a fresh set of three changes, and second time around they will know not to waste them.
I think the DSA needs to do one of the following:
1.) Remove the arbitrary and unnecessary limitation that only allows people to change their practical driving test date three times. It serves no discernible purpose, and just makes life harder for pupils and instructors who need to change their test date multiple times for perfectly valid reason.
2.) Put a clear indication, every time you use the DSA test booking service, that you are only allowed to change your test date three times (don’t save this message until you’ve already done so twice as happens at the moment). Then people are much less likely to get caught by surprise after already having made two changes to their test date, be forced to cancel and rebook their test.
It is hard enough trying to find a decent driving test date without silly restrictions being put on the system.
I’ve emailed the DSA asking for why the system works like this, so I’ll update when I hear back from them.

The DSA- and a rather broken website

I’ve been receiving numerous complaints from people over the last couple of months about error messages on the DSA website.

You’ll be navigating the website and then suddenly receive a message saying
Invalid navigation!
You are attempting to use an invalid path through the booking application
Please click here to return to the booking homepage
What’s even more annoying- is that the link to contact the site administrator goes to “dsawebmaster@driving-tests.info” . Which is just a made up address on a non-existent domain.
If this happens to you- the best way to contact the DSA is by emailing customer.services@dsa.gsi.gov.uk . Though they generally take around 10 days to reply. Hardly sterling customer service.
For those of a more technical bent- I’ve worked out why their website throws these random errors…
Inspecting the HTTP Response headers I see the following:
  1. Cache-Control:
    private
  2. Content-Length:
    13044
  3. Content-Type:
    text/html; charset=utf-8
  4. Date:
    Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:25:08 GMT Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:25:08 GMT
  5. X-PoolMember:
    2 2
  6. X-Powered-By:
    ASP.NET ASP.NET
The item of interest here is X-PoolMember. This suggests to me that they are using a number of load balanced webservers. The X-Powered-By header informs us they are using ASP.NET and this is confirmed by the “VIEWSTATE” fields we see on the forms:
ASP.Net uses these viewstate fields to keep track of form state. But in order to prevent tampering by the client, they are encrypted.
Now, by default each web server will use its own encryption key to encrypt and decrypt the viewstate (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms972427.aspx for details).
This means that if you get an HTTP Response from one of the web servers, and your request is handled by a different web server, the second webserver will be unable to decrypt the viewstate fields (as they are using different encryption keys) and will throw an error.
To fix this the DSA need to add a setting like this:
 machinekey validation="SHA1" validationkey="  F3690E7A3143C185AB1089616A8B4D81FD55DD7A69EEAA3B32A6AE813ECEECD28DEA66A 23BEE42193729BD48595EBAFE2C2E765BE77E006330BC3B1392D7C73F"  

to all their web.configs, in order to ensure that all the web servers are using the same validation key. Then we not see quite so many errors being returned quite so much of the time from their website. DSA Techies- if you read this, feel free to pop a cheque in the post!