Can I make this this journey in cars, cars, cars?
August 22, 2006 3:36 AM   Subscribe

I need to be in Sheffield, UK over Christmas (from evening Christmas Day until the day after Boxing Day). I don't have a drivers licence or a car. The only way I can think to accomplish this would be to learn to drive in the time between now and then, buy a cheap car on eBay (a Volvo?), get it insured and hit the highway.

Can anyone advise whether this is likely to be affordable, possible (i.e. within time boundaries), or simply folly?

I really ought to learn to drive at some point, so I'm really not worried about that expense or use of time - but I'm really worried about the insurance. At twenty-one, I'm probably likely to be regarded as something of a liability? What's insurance likely to cost? Any ideas? Thanks!
posted by dance to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total)
What's your starting point for this journey?

Could liftshare be an option?
posted by handee at 3:41 AM on August 22, 2006

It's folly. You'll want to arrange a taxi service in advance. Much, much cheaper.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:46 AM on August 22, 2006

OK, you need to clarify a few things.
1. you don't say how far away you are? A Christmas Day taxi going 2 hours for me costs £100. So if you double that tfor the return hat is a lot less than what you are describing. Also remember, there is public transport on Boxing Day.
A taxi driver I know recently quoted a fare to a lady from Hastings (south coast) who wanted to be sure to get to Inverness in Scotland (during the recent security problems when lots of flights were being cancelled) £600 and that's about a 12 hour trip.

2. You may be able to learn to drive but what about the waiting period for the driving test in your area? Without a full drivers licence you cannot get anything but a provisional licence which, and I hope someone corrects me if I'm wrong, only allows you to be covered with another experienced driver in the car. The point being to insure you while you are having your lessons. You will not be covered on a provisional licence if driving alone, so check out the wait times.

So if you need to learn to drive, yes it is a good opportunity but insurance even with a full licence for under-25 males in the UK is very expensive. Again I'm hoping someone can give some figures but a friend's son was recently quoted £1,000+
What young guys do here is become a "named" driver on the parent's insurance, otherwise they'd never get insured!

All -in- all I think this will work out a lot more expensive than you think
posted by Wilder at 3:51 AM on August 22, 2006

You'll be able to get public transport for the return trip. Are you in York (wild guess based on profile:-)? I'd imagine the taxi would be by far the cheapest option.
posted by handee at 3:55 AM on August 22, 2006

1. You're in York, this isn't crossing the moon.

2. The only day that'll be a problem is Christmas day -- everything will be running on the 27th.

3. Get a cab on Christmas day, it'll be a drop compared to insuring anything for a brand-new driver, assuming you could even pass in time

4. Why not just go on Christmas Eve?
posted by bonaldi at 3:56 AM on August 22, 2006

Do I take it the only reason you can't use public transport is because it doesn't run on Christmas Day?
posted by randomination at 3:59 AM on August 22, 2006

Response by poster: Yep, Christmas Day rules out public transport.

The only reason I'm considering this is because it's about time I learnt to drive and this seems like as good a kick in the pants as any. Becoming a named driver on parents' insurance might be a possibility.
posted by dance at 4:14 AM on August 22, 2006

Well, you could always sign up for a one-week intensive driving course. If you're motivated, you could pass the test after a week's intensive lessons.

Then if you don't pass, you can re-assess your plans. And if it all works and you pass you test, hiring a car is probably a cheaper option than buying one from ebay.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:26 AM on August 22, 2006

Response by poster: I've just registered on liftshare...I'm impressed with the website - I wonder if anyone's travelling at that time!
posted by dance at 4:26 AM on August 22, 2006

though, thinking about it, for some car hire firms (perhaps all?) the lower age limit is 25. Might be worth phoning a few to check though.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:27 AM on August 22, 2006

Best answer: Easycar has a branch in York, if that's where you are, and rents cars to 21 year olds - it costs extra if you are under 25 but will still be much cheaper than buying and insuring a car.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:35 AM on August 22, 2006

One possibility, although I am shuddering as I write this, is to go for a moped instead. Once you've passed your Compulsory Basic Training (CBT), you can ride unsupervised. This is likely to be much cheaper and easier than a car, based on cost of lessons, time to become proficient, cost of insurance, cost of vehicle etc.

However, learning to drive in that time should easily be possible, if you are the right sort of person. If you can stay calm under pressure, and are good at motor-type skills, then plenty of practice will help you pass no problem. I recently passed in 5 months, but I went at a very leisurely pace.

General advice: apply for your provisional license right now. If you are going to go through with it, book your theory test as soon as possible. (You need to pass your theory to book your practical test). I highly recommend Driving Test Success to help you get through your theory.
posted by spark at 4:42 AM on August 22, 2006

Best answer: OK, here's a crazy suggestion. It's only 50 miles between York and Sheffield. Why not cycle? The roads will be beautifully clear, and you have the bonus advantage of working up an appetite for Christmas dinner.

(I intend to hold off learning to drive for as long as possible, and I'm 27 next week)
posted by randomination at 4:47 AM on August 22, 2006

Best answer: It's certainly doable in terms of timescale - I passed in five months, the last two of which were waiting for test dates (passed third try), and there's always the short-course option.

Insurance may not be as bad as you think if you shop around. I passed just under a year ago (at 21, though I'm female) and my insurance on my 1.4ltr Peugeot is £50/month with Quinn Direct, third party, parked on road. Off-road parking and a smaller engine would be cheaper. is a good place to look for a good insurance deal.

Also, if you've got time, do the Pass Plus certificate - only takes 8 hours, helpful motorway experience, and some insurers regard it as equal to having a year's worth of no-claims.
posted by corvine at 5:05 AM on August 22, 2006

You don't have to buy a whole year's insurance - you can insure yourself for a month, or a week.

But then you're left with a car you can't use. I'm wondering if it would be cheaper to hire.
posted by Leon at 5:30 AM on August 22, 2006

Response by poster: Wowee, thanks.

Cycling is definitely an option - I'll give that some thought.

Also, thanks for the heads up on EasyCar as I found Hertz don't rent to under 25s (or 23s with added premium!).

Also Corvine, thanks for making free with some actual figures. It's good to have a benchmark for what it may cost.
posted by dance at 5:35 AM on August 22, 2006

Sorry, man, but don't you have any friends who could help you out? It's only a 90 minute round trip.
posted by Keefa at 5:52 AM on August 22, 2006

Response by poster: @Keefa
Essentially, yes, I'm sure - but where's the adventure in that? Also - asking for someone's 90mins on Christmas Day is different from 90mins any other day, IMHO.

I did not know that - do you know of any UK companies who offer quote for this on the intertubes?
posted by dance at 6:07 AM on August 22, 2006

do let us know how you do! I think it should be possible to get provisional licence>take theory test>book intensive driving course (one-week or weekend)>do course>take test (and perhaps retake)>hire car>get to Sheffield in time for Christmas dinner, but it would be great to hear how you get on.
posted by altolinguistic at 6:32 AM on August 22, 2006

Response by poster: I'll definitely let you know how I get on. I think hiring the car is probably the only sensible option, especially when Easycar have quoted only £80 for a few days over the period...
posted by dance at 6:43 AM on August 22, 2006

Is arriving the day before Christmas at all an option?
posted by smackfu at 7:06 AM on August 22, 2006

Response by poster: I wish it were - it would make it all a great deal easier! No, the idea is to spend Christmas Day with the family and then meet up with SO and friends in Sheffield...
posted by dance at 7:54 AM on August 22, 2006

I was in a similar situation last year, living in Sheffield and having to take a flight to Madrid from Manchester Airport on the 25th. In the end I booked a taxi, which cost me £70, and things worked amazingly well (considering the Peak District road had a good layer of snow and we were running without snow tyres - the second half of the trip was pretty much a continuous, barely controlled skid).

If it's any help, I only booked the taxi a couple weeks before the flight, so booking very far in advance is not always necessary. Even if you decide to try and get a drivers licence, I'd suggest asking around for taxi prices just in case. They could be a lifesaver.
posted by doctorpiorno at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2006

Do you drink? That might be another consideration. I know that my family xmases contain a non-negligible amount of fine wine, often starting before lunchtime.
posted by handee at 10:16 AM on August 22, 2006

Take a cab. Or look to liftshare.

Even if you've managed to pass your test by Christmas, you'll probably feel a bit daunted by the A1(M) / M1 -- you won't be allowed to drive on motorways as a learner -- and even if you take the back roads, there will be people driving who have been to the pub for the traditional Christmas afternoon pint or have knocked back a few glasses of Liebfraumilch with the turkey. (They don't run the annual drink-drive campaign at Christmas for no reason.) It'll be dark very early, too.

And the trains will be running by the 27th.
posted by holgate at 10:35 AM on August 22, 2006

asking for someone's 90mins on Christmas Day is different from 90mins any other day

True, so why not ask your family for a ride? Your parents might value that extra time spent one-on-one with you and probably wouldn't mind driving you around (years of practice, yes?)
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:17 PM on August 22, 2006

Cycling would be a fantastic option and would guarantee you something to talk about not only this Christmas, but for many Christmases to come. You could try it out one weekend while the weather is still warm to see how long it takes.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:05 AM on August 27, 2006

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