As if the cost of learning to drive isnâ€™t enough, right? With driving lessons, the theory test and the practical test to pay for, youâ€™d think learner drivers could catch a break with the price of a provisional licence. Well, not in Northern Ireland, where learner motorists pay twice the price compared to anywhere else in the UK. Book Theory Test Today investigates.
Chances are you think the cost of learning to drive is way too much. But, if you think youâ€™ve got it bad, spare a thought for your Northern Irish neighbours [if youâ€™re a learner driver reading this in Northern Ireland (NI), weâ€™re thinking of you]. It turns out; learners in NI pay double the licence fee of a learner based elsewhere in the UK.
In Britain, a provisional driving licence can be purchased online for just Â£34. However, in NI you cannot purchase one online, theyâ€™re only available by post and will set a learner back Â£62.50. Combined with theory test, lesson and practical exam costs, the finances of learner drivers in NI are stretched to the limit.
Sadly, it doesnâ€™t get any better after passing the theory test and practical exam. Renewing a licence online, in Britain, costs just Â£14. In Northern Ireland itâ€™s more than double, costing Â£30.
One parent, Lorraine Brown from Newry, was left aghast by the cost difference when helping her daughter apply for her driving licence.
Learner Drivers Penalised
She had this to say: â€œWe are supposed to be part of the United Kingdom, so why are we being penalised like this?â€
She added: â€œTimes are hard enough for young people and now they are being asked to pay twice the price for their provisional licence. It is just ridiculous that they are being penalised in this way.â€
In a statement from Northern Irelandâ€™s Environment Minister, Mark Durkan, he said: â€œDriver licensing in Northern Ireland is self financing. The costs include salaries, maintenance, support and development of the IT system, production of the licence, postage and the payment of fees for certain medical assessments.â€
He added: â€œFollowing a public consultation, driving licence fees were increased on 18 October 2012 which resulted in a gap across a range of transactions between the fees charged in NI compared to those charged in Great Britain (GB).
This gap exists largely due the lack of economies of scale for recovering the costs of processing driver licences locally. I am also aware that the DVSA recently introduced a reduction in their fees that has further widened the gap between NI and GB.â€
Itâ€™s our opinion at Book Theory Test Today that the cost gap has increased due to Northern Ireland lagging behind in offering online licensing services. Where Great Britain has reduced postal costs, the system in Northern Ireland still relies heavily on the postal system.
However, Book Theory Test Today understands that licences for NI drivers are printed at Swansea, which charges NI a unit price, so it remains a mystery why costs are severely inflated.
Watch this space for developments on this story.
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