The pros and cons of online vs. in-person driving school

Cost, convenience and quality count when choosing a driving school. There is no national standard for driver education, so courses and results vary. Licensing and education requirements differ from state to state, but a good driver's education course prepares teens to pass the state written exam and road test. If your state allows online driver education to fulfill learner's permit or licensing requirements, weigh the pros and cons to determine whether online or in-person driving school is right for you.

Pros of online driving school
The main benefit of online education is convenience. You can learn in the comfort of your home or wherever you get internet. Online courses are available 24/7, allowing you to learn when it's convenient for you. You can log into an online driving school as frequently as needed and you don't have to spend your weekends or evenings in a classroom. This setup works best for teens with busy schedules, who may live far from in-person driving schools, or teens who would otherwise have trouble finding a ride to and from a driving school.

Online driver's education benefits teens who work well in self-paced learning environments. Teens who can keep up with self-taught course work, who don't need person-to-person attention from an instructor, and who don't need a traditional classroom setting to learn may like online driving school. Online programs provide access to instructors and additional resources, such as websites and videos, to supplement the online lessons.

You avoid certain costs with online classes, such as gas, parking or public transportation expenses. Online classes are relatively affordable, usually costing between $50 to $100 for the entire course and may include several opportunities to take sample written exams. Some online driving schools allow you to pay only a portion of the fee upfront, which gives you the opportunity to try the program before you commit.

States that allow online driver education to meet all or a portion of licensing requirements include California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

Cons of online driving school
Online programs are not highly regulated, even in the states that allow them as prerequisites to licensing. As a result, the quality of education can vary greatly, according to The New York Times.

Online school isn't necessarily the fastest route to earning a driver's license. A good course should last at least four to six weeks to prevent students from speeding through material and missing the fundamentals that will make them safe drivers. Self-paced learning can take longer than in-person driving schools if students only log in to the course sparingly, sporadically or for a few minutes at a time.

The abundance of online driving schools can make it difficult to choose the best. Check if an online driver education program is part of the Better Business Bureau, if it belongs to any professional organizations, and get references and reviews from people you know, or from reputable online websites. Also, check your state's driver education regulations for teens to ensure that online education is acceptable.

Pros of in-person driving school
All states that require driver education for teens accept in-person driving schools to meet licensing requirements. Most teens attend school in a traditional classroom setting, making in-person driving school a familiar form of learning. Some public high schools offer driver education on campus, making it easier for teens to attend. Students can ask questions on the spot and can benefit from the questions other students ask in class.

Cons of in-person driving school
In-person driver's education is relatively expensive. The cost is based on local prevailing rates, teacher-to-student ratios and even gasoline prices. Classroom education is often offered in combination with behind-the-wheel training, which increases the cost. According to CostHelper, classroom and behind-the-wheel training averages $200 to $800 and classroom instruction alone costs $30 to $180.


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