Many states are allowing new student drivers to take the classroom portion of driver's ed online - especially now. Taking the classroom portion of Driver’s Ed online is not only a time-saver, it will also save you money. Here are the top online classes we recommend at Car Talk:
These courses are designed to help new drivers qualify for a learner's permit and fulfill the classroom requirements towards earning a driver's license. You can expect to receive a driver's education transcript after passing the course. When you receive that transcript, you can then register for your driving hours with a certified instructor.
Many online driver's ed programs claim to be the "most popular" or "#1 in the industry" and maybe one of them actually is - who knows? We think you just need to choose a course that (a) is actually licensed in your state, (b) is taught by professional instructors, and (c) receives positive reviews from customers. We narrowed our recommendations to online driver's ed programs that are highly popular on the web (as evidenced by a number of users) and have at least 90% positive reviews on customer feedback websites that have at least 1,000 reviews from customers of the driver's ed course.
Aceable has “re-imagined driving school to fit your lifestyle,” meaning that they’ve focused on getting you out of a hot, sweaty classroom, and onto your couch, where you can take the classroom part of driver’s ed. Their state-accredited, DMV-approved courses are available on smartphones, tables or desktop.
DriversEd.com bills itself as "the industry leader in drivers education," and notes that its mission is to bring you the most effective driver's education on the internet. The idea is to deliver an interactive curriculum that's designed to teach you how to drive and pass the license test in your state, rather than a generic one-size-fits-all approach.
Obviously, these classes can change at any time, so we'll continue to keep an eye on them and keep our recommendations updated.
Save time and money with online classes
The first thing you need to do is investigate where to get your Driver's Ed training. For the purposes of this article, we're really focused on the classroom portion of the training, which in many states can be taken either in-person or online. At the moment, there's no virtual reality substitute for driving around your town with a rumpled instructor in his 2003 Ford Fusion, so you'll still need to do the driving hours in person. But more and more states are allowing online Driver's Ed for the classroom portion of the training, which will not only save you from having to sit in a hot room with your drowsy, sullen peers, it should save you money, too.
We’re going to break driver’s education in to two groups for the purposes of this discussion. There are many more types of driver’s education, and we’ll talk about several of those in the section entitled “ADVANCED DRIVER TRAINING” below. Right now, we’re talking about the very basic driver’s ed that’s going to allow you to take your state’s driving test.
Depending upon your community, you may be offered some type of public driver’s education option. Public driver’s education relies upon teachers or coaches from the local high school that has been certified as driving instructors by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The classroom portions of these classes take place in high school. Fees for public driver’s education may be lower than those of a private driver’s ed class. It’s a good idea to check with your local high school to find out if your community offers such a program.
Private Driver’s Education is administered by a private agency licensed by the state to train young drivers. Private classes may be at the driving school’s facility, or they may have an arrangement with the local high school to offer classes after normal school hours.
There are some benefits to enrolling for driver’s ed, either privately or through a high school:
Like any business, private driver’s education programs run the gamut from exceptional to exceptionally bad, but with a bit of planning upfront, you can learn a lot about the facility and feel confident that it’s going to provide the training that will make you a better driver. Some things to think about as you evaluate schools in your area:
Once you’ve gone through driver’s ed and gotten your license, don’t think your education has come to an end. In fact, it’s just beginning. With every mile you drive, with every intersection you cross, you’ll be learning how to drive safely and how to interact with other drivers on the road. That real-world experience is invaluable, but how do you practice for the unthinkable?
The job of a driver’s ed course is to teach you how to safely operate an automobile under fairly optimal conditions. The training is never designed to teach you how to react in an emergency. Your practice time with your parents or guardians is great, but they most likely don’t have the wherewithal to teach you about the intricacies of how anti-lock brakes perform, or how stability control will help you to avoid a skid. Technology has changed drastically since your parents learned to drive, and the lessons that they may remember often don’t apply to a modern automobile.
That’s where Advanced Driver Training comes in. These programs are designed for young people who have a driver’s license but have minimal time behind the wheel, and they’re designed to show students how all of these technologies work in a safe, controlled environment, but at the kind of speeds that can get teens in trouble in the real world. In an anti-lock braking exercise, for example, instructors will demonstrate how to fully activate the brakes and swerve to avoid an obstacle like a stopped vehicle in your lane.
One program – B.R.A.K.E.S. – was founded by former NHRA Top Fuel racing champion Doug Herbert, whose teen sons were killed in a car crash that stemmed from the kind of inexperience and immaturity that we’ve talked about here. The B.R.A.K.E.S. program is sponsored by Kia Motors and trains students all over the country. The program is free, though students are asked to place a nominal deposit to hold their space in the class, which is refunded once the class is completed. Similarly, Ford Motor Company has run its Ford Driving Skills for Life program for more than a decade, teaching many of the same advanced skills as the B.R.A.K.E.S. program.
Okay, you screwed up. Or maybe you’re a super-goody-two-shoes who actually has two matching shoes. Fine, Your Majesty, here you go:
These courses are designed for existing drivers to help reduce their car insurance premiums with defensive driving discounts, and in some jurisdictions may help reduce points from or even dismiss traffic tickets, or regain a driver’s license. Be sure to call your insurance company and make sure they’ll give you credit for taking the course!
The aim is for more drivers to act defensively and drive safely, regardless of their years of experience. Depending on your state, the courses may be called "Defensive Driving," "Driver Improvement," or "Traffic School." We've taken inventory of the most popular courses and have made recommendations here: best online traffic schools.
Save time and money with online classes
You've really got to do the research in your individual state to know whether or not the class you're about to pay for is licensed in your state. There are plenty of shady operators that are willing to take your money for nothing, so clear, visible license number should be obvious on the registration page for any online vendor. That said, do you really want to take it in a stuffy classroom if online is an option in your state?
It depends on your state. However, nationally, we found by reviewing ratings from students that DriversEd.com, Aceable, Improv Traffic School, iDrive Safely, and First Time Driver all looked like fine choices. Page up for more details.
The requirements vary by state, but the answer is almost always YES. Most states require that if you're under the age of 18 that you spend a number of hours behind the wheel with an instructor. Massachusetts, for example, ups the ante a bit by requiring parents or guardians to provide several hours of that instruction, along with the requisite time with a licensed instructor. You can find the links to each state's driver's license and learner's permit requirements here: Car Talk's Guide to Getting a Driver's License.
When we say "Driver's Ed," we're talking about classes -- both in the classroom and in the car -- that provide students with the information and practice they need to get a provisional driver's license. "Traffic School" is a whole different type of training primarily designed for existing drivers who have either gotten traffic tickets or insurance surcharges that they'd like to remove.
In some states, such as Texas, a parent/guardian can be qualified online as their kid’s driving instructor. So that behind-the-wheel training can be in your own car and on your own time. Be careful what you wish for! Check with the online drivers education companies above on how to get set up for parent-taught driver's ed.
Well this isn't something to take lightly. First, take a look at Car Talk's Guide to Teen Driving where we have included many recommendations, sources, and an editable "Teen Driving Contract." Second, and perhaps most importantly, lead by example. Kids take a cue from their parents. If you flout traffic laws, drive over the speed limit, and text while driving, your kids take notice. You may remember the TV public service ads to combat drug use, "Dad, I learned it from watching you." The same applies to bad driving habits.
Defensive driving courses can teach the most important strategies for keeping safe on the road. Some people take them to receive an insurance discount, reduce traffic ticket fines, clear a ticket, or remove points from your driving record. But you or a family member may also consider taking a defensive driving course for an even more important benefit -- your own safety.
Similar to a defensive driving course, but often with a specific goal such as clearing a speeding ticket or reducing fines. Generally, “Traffic School” and “Driver Improvement" courses mean the same thing.
Many insurance companies -- if not most of them -- offer discounts for certain drivers who take a defensive driving course. Seniors and younger drivers are most often in the higher risk categories, and some insurers limit the discount to these groups. Check with your insurance company to find out what’s available for you -- the course may pay for itself.
Yes. Aceable says that its 30-hour permit test is approved in California. Aceable will mail you a Certificate of Completion for free once you're done with the course.
Taking classes online is often faster and cheaper than the classroom.