If you like the idea of being a friendly, reliable face for passengers, ferrying them from A to B across the capital, a career as a taxi driver in London could be tailor-made for you.

And while you won’t always be picking celebrities up from The Ritz, this type of work can be very interesting.

According to the UK government, in 2015 there were more than 240,000 taxis on Britain’s roads.

More than a third (35%) of them were operating around the streets of London.

There’s no doubt that competition for work as a taxi driver in the capital is fierce, but it is ultimately hugely rewarding, with the chance to work anywhere in the Greater London area if you’re prepared to dedicate enough time to courses and exams.

How much is a London taxi licence?

It’s not cheap to apply for a London taxi licence.

There are various additional costs incurred with a basic application that cover all the necessary checks and examinations that you’ll need to pass in order to receive your licence. These include:

  • DBS disclosure application - £56.85 (online) or £58.85 (paper-based)
  • Non-refundable licence application fee - £120
  • Grant of licence fee - £180
  • Knowledge of London written examination (All London) - £200
  • Knowledge of London appearance - £400
  • DSA Hackney Carriage driving test - £92.94 (normal hours), £112.34 (evenings or Saturdays), £50 (wheelchair test)
  • Medical assessment – Approx. £80

Types of London taxi licence available

In Greater London, there are two types of taxi licences that you can choose from, depending on how you want to work.

Hackney Carriage licences are for those who want to accept work from passengers at the kerbside, while private hire vehicle (PHV) licences are for those who would prefer to take bookings or work on behalf of a taxi operator.

Hackney Carriage

Hackney cabs and coaches have been around for centuries, dating way back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Hackney carriage licences are typically granted to London’s black cab drivers. Hackney carriages are those that can either be hailed from the street or pick up passengers from public taxi ranks.

There are restrictions for Hackney carriage licence holders though. They are unable to make private, pre-arranged bookings.

Furthermore, the local council that grants your Hackney carriage licence sets the rates of fares day and night, stopping you from bumping up your rates during unsociable hours such as overnight or on Bank Holidays.

Although there are some restrictions, there are also plenty of benefits to driving a Hackney carriage.

Ultimately, it gives you total freedom to work the hours you want.

Those with Hackney carriage licences are self-employed and do not work on behalf of a taxi operator.

Therefore, every penny you make from your fares goes into your back pocket.

Private hire vehicle (PHV)

If the idea of being a Hackney carriage driver in London doesn’t appeal to you, the only alternative is to apply for a private hire vehicle (PHV) licence.

These taxis are known in the trade as minicabs. Unlike Hackney carriage drivers, it is only possible to make pre-arranged bookings as a PHV driver.

You are not permitted to park up at a taxi rank and tout for work and nor can you accept journeys from passengers hailing from the side of the road.

Some taxi drivers in London consider being a PHV driver the most efficient way to earn a living in the capital.

That’s because you only get behind the wheel of your minicab when you have bookings in your diary.

You don’t sit at a taxi rank like Hackney carriage drivers waiting for fares that may never materialise.

Additionally, PHV drivers may also accept work from app-based taxi services such as Uber that help to widen the net for customers.

However, if you like the idea of working as a PHV taxi driver in London, you’ll need to decide how you’ll take bookings.

It can be hard to answer calls and take bookings yourself while you’re at the wheel.

That’s why many PHV drivers opt to work for a taxi operator, but this may give you reduced flexibility, as operators will determine your working hours rather than you being in charge of your own destiny.

Character and medical requirements

First and foremost, when you make an application for a taxi driver licence in London, you’ll need to prove that you are of good character.

All applicants must be willing to undertake an ‘enhanced’ criminal records check via the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

This will highlight any current or past criminal convictions that Transport for London (TfL) will want to be aware of prior to granting a licence.

If you have any of the following convictions on your record, it’s unlikely that your licence will be granted:

  • Convictions for violent offences e.g. murder and manslaughter
  • Multiple convictions of any type of violent offence in the last 10 years
  • Those still serving a custodial sentence – regardless of whether you are released on licence or given a suspended sentence
  • Convictions, cautions or penalties for serious sexual offences e.g. rape and indecent assault
  • Those listed on the Children’s or Adults’ barred list
  • Convictions, cautions or penalties for touting in the last 12 months – or multiple penalties within the last five years

As part of your taxi driver licence application with TfL, you will need to be passed as medically fit by your GP. This means that you need to meet the DVLA’s Group 2 medical standards.

Equal opportunities for disabled drivers

TfL is an equal opportunities organisation and welcomes taxi driver applications from disabled drivers.

However, there are some medical conditions that, for public safety reasons, mean that disabled drivers cannot obtain a licence.

If you’re thinking of becoming a taxi driver in London, be sure to have a discussion with your GP first.

Some PHV minicabs can have their vehicles modified for disabled taxi drivers, including hand-operated brakes and accelerators, steering wheel balls and even an infra-red control panel for operating horns, indicators and vehicle lights.

Do London taxi drivers still take The Knowledge?

The short answer is yes, they do. The Knowledge was established back in 1865 as a legal requirement for all licensed taxi drivers in the capital and remains a key factor in becoming a London taxi driver today.

It has helped London’s taxi service become arguably the best on the planet, with all drivers equipped with the knowledge to take the fastest routes across London’s complex and congested road network for passengers.

It’s often been dubbed the World's Toughest taxi driver test, with some 25,000 streets to remember.

All you need to know about The Knowledge

The crux of the world-famous Knowledge of London examination is that drivers must be able to safely negotiate their way around thousands of streets and landmarks within a six-mile radius of London’s Charing Cross.

All of these streets and landmarks must be memorised over time before applicants are tested in written and verbal examinations.

There are two types of taxi drivers in London. Drivers with green badges are known as ‘All London’ drivers.

Drivers with yellow badges are known as ‘Suburban’ drivers. Green badge holders are required to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Greater London’s streets and landmarks within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.

Although this might sound extreme, it does enable them to ply for hire anywhere within the Greater London Authority region.

On the flip side, yellow badge holders are those who prefer to focus their attentions on driving in just one of London’s nine suburban areas in the Greater London Authority region.

Whether you want to become a green or yellow badge holder, you’ll still need to prove your knowledge of the places of interest and streets in your chosen area.

From the moment you pass the necessary character and medical checks, you’ll receive the infamous ‘Blue Book’. This contains a list of 320 routes or ‘runs’ within the six-mile radius of Charing Cross.

You will be required to learn these routes and name all the roads and landmarks within a quarter-mile radius of the beginning and end points of each run.

You won’t be expected to memorise these overnight. In fact, it takes most London taxi drivers between three and four years to eventually receive their green or yellow badge!

There are seven stages to the Knowledge of London assessment, following an initial talk with your Knowledge of London examiner:

    1. Optional self-assessment
      Within the first six months of taking The Knowledge, you can book yourself in for an optional exam, based on the first 80 runs listed in the Blue Book. No record of the exam is made and is purely designed to get applicants thinking in the right way.
    2. Written exam
      The written examination must be taken within two years of receiving your introductory pack and Blue Book. The exam will feature five questions on runs within the Blue Book and 25 questions on the major landmarks or ‘points’ along the way. You only need 60% to pass and it is a multiple-choice test.
    3. One-to-one oral appearance
      Providing you pass the written exam you’ll move on to one-to-one oral ‘appearances’ with a Knowledge of London examiner. During which, you’ll have four questions on taking the shortest route between any two points given in London. If you accumulate enough points, you’ll move on to Stage 4 appearances.
    4. One-to-one oral appearance
      Stage 4 oral appearances are about 28 days apart and require you to accumulate enough points based on four more questions on taking the shortest route between any two points given in London.
    5. One-to-one oral appearance
      Stage 5 oral appearances are about 21 days apart and require you to accumulate enough points based on four more questions on taking the shortest route between any two points given in London.
    6. Suburban exam
      Drivers must also demonstrate sufficient knowledge of London’s suburban areas, passing another examination that proves your knowledge of at least 25 suburban routes.
    7. Licence application and pre-licensing briefing
      Once you’ve reached this point, you can make the final application to have your licence issued.

Tips and tricks for passing The Knowledge

      • Visual learners may prefer riding the routes within the Blue Book themselves. Take a scooter to head out on these routes and familiarise yourself with the nearby landmarks and terrain.
      • Classroom learners can enroll in one of the independent schools across the capital that charge fees for classes to review the entirety of the Blue Book.
      • Reading learners may choose to study the Blue Book carefully and revise the information using flash cards, breaking the information down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Choosing the right vehicle for taxi driving in London

You might think that a diesel vehicle would be best given the mileage a taxi does in a year, but you should probably think again.

Primarily, you won’t reach speeds of more than 20-30mph in Central London, so the efficiency of diesel vehicles is negated.

Furthermore, ride-hailing services such as Uber are committing to tackling pollution in Greater London by insisting that London’s PHV drivers must drive hybrid or electric vehicles by the turn of the next decade.

Protect your livelihood with specialist taxi insurance

Once you’ve been successful in your goal of achieving a London taxi driver licence and you’ve selected the right vehicle for working across the capital, you’ll need to look into your options for taxi insurance and safeguarding your livelihood.

It is widely acknowledged that taxi insurance premiums are somewhat higher than conventional car insurance, simply because of the nature of a taxi driver’s work and the length of time they spend on the roads and motorways.

London’s taxi drivers drive far more miles than an everyday motorist, often in congested conditions with heavy traffic either side of the road.

It’s also worth noting that your taxi vehicle may also be used by a spouse to drive for non-work-related purposes, which can also bump up taxi insurance premiums in the long run.

If this is the case, it’s important to check with your licensing authority to ensure they allow this.

Whether you own an MPV, saloon or traditional black cab, at Taxi Insurer, we have an extensive panel of taxi insurers that can offer a tailored quote and the best possible deal for your specific requirements.

With Taxi Insurer, you can expect to receive some of the following benefits from your taxi insurance:

      • Interest-free payment plans
      • Low deposits and monthly payments
      • Discounts for DAS taxi test (with some insurers)
      • Comprehensive cover
      • Third Party Fire & Theft cover
      • Third Party only cover
      • Public Liability cover
      • Employers’ Liability cover
      • Protected No Claims Bonus (subject to acceptable criteria)
      • 24-hour claims management service
      • UK-based call centre

Get your specialist taxi insurance quote today from Taxi Insurer’s leading panel of UK-based insurers and secure a policy that’s right for you and your cab.

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