Kaiwhakaako Taraiwa Waka
Driving instructors teach people how to drive, and instruct experienced drivers how to advance their driving skills and road safety knowledge.
Driving instructors usually earn
$47K-$80K per year
Source: AA Driving School and NZ Institute of Driver Educators, 2018.
Pay for driving instructors varies depending on the number of clients they have and the type of driver training they provide. For example, you can earn more by teaching defensive driving courses, corporate drivers or heavy vehicle drivers.
Driving instructors usually earn between $47,000 and $80,000 a year.
They normally charge between $55 and $75 an hour, and may do 15 to 30 one-hour lessons a week. From these charges they may need to pay fees for instructor courses, driving school contracts and vehicle leasing, and other car and business-related costs.
Some driving instructors are employed in-house by organisations with large vehicle fleets to do corporate driver training. These driving instructors usually receive a wage or salary.
Sources: AA Driving School and New Zealand Institute of Driver Educators, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Driving instructors may do some or all of the following:
- explain the basic mechanical workings of vehicles to clients
- demonstrate and explain how to drive a vehicle
- coach clients while they are driving
- assess employee driving skills for employers
- teach clients the road rules and about road safety
- teach defensive driving courses
- teach advanced defensive driving courses.
Driving instructors who are also qualified testing officers conduct practical driving tests.
Skills and knowledge
Driving instructors need to have:
- advanced driving skills
- a thorough knowledge of the Road Code
- awareness of defensive driving techniques and transport regulations
- good health and safety knowledge.
Those running their own business need small business skills.
Driving instructors usually work:
- when it suits their students, often in the weekends
- in their vehicle, driving school classrooms, schools and training centres
- in varied conditions that can be challenging, as they work with learner drivers on public roads.
What's the job really like?
Robyn Mackie always loved teaching and is a skilled driver. So after she was made redundant from her sales job, a career in driver training was a perfect fit.
Driving an important skill
“I had family members who shocked me that at 27 and 28 they still didn’t have their driver’s licence. It’s important to be independent these days. I enjoyed teaching my own boys to drive and that’s when I started to look into it.
“I really enjoy the one-to-one teaching and seeing students accomplish something they were actually a little scared of to start with.”
Setting your own hours
“Work-life balance is something that’s very important to me. Being a driving instructor allows you to choose your own hours. You really do work your own calendar and make it suit you.”
A passion for teaching
“Anyone can learn the technical aspects of driving and be a great authority on road use, but the one thing that’s really going to get you is if you have a passion for it or not. You need to be passionate about teaching people.”
Casey Earp talks about her job as a driving instructor - 2:10 mins.
So, most people get the wrong idea about driving instructing, thinking it's the same every single lesson. So everybody's different, everybody has their weaknesses, everybody has different strengths, everybody has different personalities as well, so you've just got to adapt to that.
So the job's quite interesting and challenging and you've just got to get past that, so it's good – it's never boring.
So what I had to do to become a driving instructor is I had to pass all my three tests, so your learners, your restricted and your full, and you have to have your full for at least two years before you can actually apply to become a driving instructor.
After you apply – so I did mine through the AA, I went to Auckland for a two-week I endorsement course – so you had to do a series of exams and then also a practical test on our own driving and a practical test on assessing someone else's driving while we were being assessed.
I really like the idea of being able to run my own business, especially contracting to such a well known and recognised company in New Zealand as AA.
I like the chance to be able to have my own hours, so I get to pick when I work, what days I have off etcetera.
The type of person you have to be to be a driving instructor is quite passionate. You've got to believe in what you're teaching. You also have to be quite a calm person – you've got to be able to relax the student, because there's nothing worse than getting in a car and you don't know what you're doing and you're quite stressed, and having someone that's quite stressed themselves.
So you've got to be quite passionate about your job, and patience also is a big one.
I like the reward of the job. I like getting that text saying that someone has passed their test and thank you for all the lessons and all the help. Yeah, that's probably the main one.
To become a driving instructor you need to:
- pass a full driver's licence test in a manual transmission vehicle, if you haven't passed one within the last five years
- have held a full driver's licence for at least two years for each type of vehicle you want to teach (including cars)
- pass an approved driving instructor's course
- pass a fit and proper person test (police check)
- pass a medical check if you will be instructing heavy vehicle drivers
- pass a medical check if you have a medical condition that could affect your ability to drive, if you haven't passed one within the last five years
- hold an I (instructor) endorsement on your driver's licence.
Self-employed driving instructors, including those contracted to driving schools, must have their own vehicle and full insurance.
- Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency website -I endorsements and how to become a driving instructor
- Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency website - course providers for I-endorsements
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a driving instructor. However, mathematics and English to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
To specialise in heavy vehicle and motorcycle driving you will need to obtain an instructor endorsement for each class of licence you want to teach.
To become a defensive driving instructor you will need to train with either the AA Driving School or Street-Talk.
Driving instructors need to be:
- friendly and patient, with excellent communication skills
- able to react quickly and remain calm in an emergency
- punctual, mature and responsible
- able to inspire confidence in learner drivers.
You need to be able to remain calm under pressure and be passionate about teaching people.
Useful experience for driving instructors includes any driving or teaching work.
Driving instructors need to have good reflexes, good hand-eye co-ordination and good hearing (with or without hearing aids).
Find out more about training
- AA Driving School
- 0800 500 444 - www.aa.co.nz
- Passrite Driving Academy
- 0800 727 774 - www.passrite.co.nz
- TR Driver Training
- 0800 637 000 - www.masterdrive.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Opportunities for driving instructors are average due to the small size of the occupation.
Good demand for Class 5 truck driving instructors
Demand is good for driving instructors to train drivers of Class 5 trucks as there is a shortage of people holding this type of driver's licences.
Employers of heavy truck drivers may also use qualified driving instructors to conduct employee driving assessments and teach fuel-saving skills.
According to the Census, 705 driving instructors worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Some demand for in-house instructors
Driving instructors may be employed as in-house instructors for organisations or companies that have vehicle fleets. For example, New Zealand Army, Salvation Army, St John Ambulance and New Zealand Police employ driving instructors.
Self-employment common among driving instructors
Most driving instructors are self-employed. They may find their own clients, or be contracted to a driving school.
New driving instructors contracted to driving schools may have higher chances of securing clients as they get bookings directly from the school. However, they must give the school a percentage of the fee for each session.
Driving instructors need to build their brand and network to increase their client base.
- Gallagher, I, operations manager, AA Driving School, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, February 2018.
- Knight, W, national president, New Zealand Institute of Driver Educators, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, February 2018.
- New Zealand Automobile Association website, accessed February 2018, (www.aa.co.nz)
- New Zealand Transport Agency, 'I endorsements: How to become a driving instructor', October 2017, (www.nzta.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Driving instructors may progress to become driving school managers or testing officers.
Driving instructors may specialise in:
- bus driving and passenger endorsement training
- corporate driver training – teaching defensive driving to commercial business employees
- defensive driver training
- motorcycle rider training – Class 6 licence
- specialist heavy vehicle driver training – including earthmoving machines and forklifts
- truck driver training– Class 2 to 5 licences.
Last updated 18 August 2023