Cut cost of driving lessons in France

Learners can cut the cost of driving lessons by passing the highway code theory exam as an external candidate, rather than through a driving school.

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The cost of the exam is the same, set at €30 by the government, but you won’t be charged for highway code lessons and you can arrange it at a time and place to suit you.

In 2016, the government allowed private operators to become test centres to reduce waiting times and costs.

There are now five officially approved companies and more than 1,500 centres in France.

The two biggest are La Poste and SGS, with around 570 centres each, followed by Veritas with 190, Pearson Vue with 115 and Dekra with 131.

The price is the same, so which one you choose will depend on which is the most practical for you in terms of location and times.

Tests are taken on a tablet and answers are transmitted directly to the Ministère de l’Intérieur. Results are returned by email on the same day.

There are 40 multiple choice questions and candidates have to get at least 35 right to pass.

The Code de la Route booklet costs €9.90 and learners can practise with online courses, which are significantly cheaper than traditional tuition.

Prices for traditional lessons with a tutor vary.

Leading driving school ECF leaves each school to organise its own courses and prices.

In different towns, one three-day ECF intensive course with a tutor costs €290. In another it is €299. One centre charges €200 for a course with a tutor on a come-when-you-can basis, and an ECF-designed online-only course is €19.90.

The €30 exam fee is separate.

Ornikar is a new type of driving school which cuts costs by not having offices. Candidates contact instructors via their website. Their online lessons for the Code de la Route are €29.90 plus the exam fee.

To sign up for a highway code test, candidates must be at least 16 – or 15-and-a-half if they are going to take part in conduite accompagnée driving lessons.

To take the exam independently, candidates need to have what is called an NEPH number, which they can get from after creating an account by giving an email and password.

They then go to demander un permis de conduire.

They will need a number of documents at the ready, plus a passport-style photo.

It will take at least three weeks to get the number, so apply before studying for the exam rather than when you are ready to take it.

With the NEPH number, you can sign up online at the centre of your choice.