How to Start a Successful Driving School Business
Everyone drives and needs to learn how to drive before they do so. This creates the business opportunity for opening up a driving school. You’ll just need to be aware of some of your state’s requirements, who is currently providing driver education services in your area, and then – finally – how to get the word out about your driving school. Once you get up and running and position your business properly for your area, you’re success is almost inevitable.
Of course, it takes work, but these 10 tips for starting your driving school will help. This is based on a proven formula of watching driving schools across North America and Europe succeed.
10 steps for starting your driving school:
1. Research the driving school licensing requirements in your state.
Each state has its own requirements, usually at the website of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (here is New York, for example). Other states may call this the Department of Licensing or other names. Ultimately, you want to figure out if (a) you need to declare a place of business, (b) take a separate exam for becoming an instructor, and © need your vehicle(s) to meet a certain form of inspection.
Because state requirements vary greatly (for example, some do not require a physical location to represent your business status – some do), you will want to know this in advance. It will affect your costs for starting the business.
2. Create a driving school start-up budget.
Now that you know the state requirements, you’ll need to build a budget. If you have a working vehicle for your business, then your budget should include money for rent (if you need a location), advertising, vehicle maintenance, and gas. If you plan to hire an instructor or administrative help to start (most new driving schools do not do this), budget for that as well.
3. Research the driving school competition.
Since everyone needs to learn to drive, most locations already have some way to provide driver education to the local community – which is a good thing! Assessing the competition will give you a path to business victory.
You want to know (1) who are the other driving schools in the area, (2) what services do they offer and what are the prices for those services, and (3) do local high-schools, churches or other community organizations provide free driver education services to the community.
4. Create your driving school services and pricing list.
You already know what the competition provides, since you completed Step 3. You may find, for example, that offering behind-the-wheel driving lessons is a better opportunity for you than offering classroom-based defensive driving classes, especially if there are more defensive driving schools in your area.
Regardless, for your new driving school, try to pick a price that you think is competitive and that you can afford. You want to start getting customers, but you should also be making money from Day 1. Don’t just give the business lessons away too cheaply.
5. Get your driving instructor license.
At this point, you should know all the basics regarding your driving school – the services offered, the location if you need one, the area where your customers located, and the budget you plan to start with. When you finally get your driving instructor license, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running!
6. Develop a curriculum and lesson plan.
Whether you offer only behind-the-wheel lessons or a full suite or classroom and behind-the-wheel services, you’ll want to know what you plan to teach your students.
For classroom services, you can purchase pre-packaged lesson materials from your DMV’s approved list of providers. Some national providers, like AAA, provide a nice-cobranding opportunity for your school. Imagine telling parents that you driving school uses lessons direct from AAA – sounds pretty good, right? You can learn more about them here.
Your behind-the-wheel lesson plan should include routes that are safe for the student and over time allow them to experience different road and traffic conditions. If you can, try and learn the road test route provided by the local DMV – training to the test will help you and your students know the fundamentals are being covered.
7. Advertise your driving school!
Exciting! You’re an entrepreneur and the sky is the limit for your new business, and now it’s time to get you your first customer. DrivingSchool.Marketing is the leading provider in the world for Internet advertising services for driving schools – also we’ve written on driving school advertising as a two-part series. In short: website, Google, local high school connections, social media, and additional partnerships, such as hospitals and court systems. Call us if you want help figuring this stuff out.
8. Improve your driving school’s Internet presence.
Teens are on their phones constantly, and so are their parents. In the past, word-of-mouth was sufficient for growing a business, but now people stop at Google on their way to finding a local business. Make sure that your driving school can be found online when someone tries to find you by name and when some is just looking for “driving school + your location” on Google and related combinations of words. That is guaranteed business opportunity.
9. Ask your customers for testimonials and reviews.
As you’re building your brand, keep in mind that online reviews will help you. Ask parents, teens, seniors, defensive driving students, and any other customer you have to leave you a positive review online. Improving your online reputation will help you persuade more and more customers to choose you over the competition. Also, as your online reviews improve, you’ll be able to raise your prices – after all, you’re the premium driving school in town!
10. Organize your administrative systems – then grow your driving school!
Once you get to this point, you are well on your way to success. Different states have different requirements for record-keeping related to students meeting classroom and driving requirements. Know your state’s requirements and keep clean records from the get-go. There are software solutions to help you with this. This will also help you around tax time when clean records will help you save a ton of money.
And that’s it! We work with driving schools with 1 employee (the business owner!) and others that are multi-million dollar businesses. Starting a driving school may not be easy, but the rewards are incredible once you get the business right. For example, unsafe driving practices are the leading causes of teen deaths in the United States. If you can simultaneously help keep our families safe and make an honest and financially rewarding living for yourself and your family…well, that’s awesome!
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