If you enjoy the freedom of spending time at the wheel on the open road, ferrying your passengers safely from A to B and providing service with a smile, taxi driving could be right up your street.
In the UK, there are no official qualifications required to become a fully-fledged taxi driver. However, you’ll need to tackle several hurdles before you can start touting for business online and in your local area.
If you’re wondering what kind of licence is needed to drive a taxi, you should note that there are two types available, depending on what kind of taxi driver you wish to be:
So-called Hackney carriages are those that can either be hailed from the kerbside or wait to pick up passengers from public taxi ranks.
Those with a Hackney Carriage licence will only be legally permitted to pick up people from the roadside and won’t be allowed to take private, pre-arranged bookings.
Hackney coaches and cabs first appeared in London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
There are several advantages to driving a Hackney carriage. Primarily, you can be your own boss and work the hours you want.
You simply get in the car, put the key in the ignition and drive around to find fares.
The biggest downside is that your local council – i.e. the organisation that will grant you your Hackney carriage taxi licence – set the fare rates, which doesn’t give you the flexibility to cash in during unsociable hours such as Bank Holidays and late nights.
If you don’t want to drive Hackney carriage taxis, the only alternative is to drive a PHV.
PHVs, also known as minicabs, are only permitted to pick up pre-arranged bookings and cannot accept fares for those looking to hail a cab from the kerbside. There are plenty of advantages to being a PHV taxi driver too.
Firstly, you only work when you have bookings and don’t waste time sitting in taxi ranks waiting for fares that might never come. Secondly, apps such as Uber have made it even easier to expose your services to potential customers.
However, if you plan on being a PHV taxi driver, you’ll need a system for taking bookings in advance.
Of course, the easiest way is to work for a taxi operator, but this may give you less flexibility in terms of the hours you can work.
There’s also heaps of competition on apps like Uber in the bigger cities, so be prepared to work hard to find your fares.
Regardless of whether you choose to become a Hackney carriage taxi driver or a PHV taxi driver, you’ll require a license for both. How you apply for a license ultimately depends on your location.
If you’re planning on working inside the boundaries of Greater London, you’ll need to apply for a license with Transport for London (TfL).
Those wishing to work as a taxi driver outside of the capital will need to liaise with their local councils. If you’re unsure what is your local council, Gov.uk has put together a landing page to make it easy to find out based on your postcode.
Requirements for taxi driving license applications differ from council to council. However, it’s likely that an application will need you to provide the following:
Any application for a taxi driving licence will also be followed up with DBS checks, undertaken by your local council.
These checks used to be known as Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks and are carried out to uncover any hidden convictions or cautions you may have incurred through the years that could legally prevent you from serving the general public at the wheel.
These DBS checks are also known as the enhanced version, so all applicants have to consent to their respective local authorities looking into their past affairs.
It’s not all doom and gloom if you have a criminal conviction, but it will be much easier to obtain a licence with a squeaky-clean background.
If you’ve lived outside of the UK for a prolonged period and wish to return to work as a taxi driver, you may be required to provide a ‘certificate of good conduct’ from the relevant foreign embassy.
If you’re planning on applying for a taxi driver licence outside of London, your local council will set the fees for approved licences. These will differ from council to council.
However, as an example, Cambridge City Council charges the following fees for Hackney carriage, PHV and dual taxi driver licences:
In London, TfL set the fees for applications for taxi driver licences as:
For those planning to drive a taxi outside of London, it’s possible to obtain a taxi driver licence for a maximum of three years. However, vehicle licences are only valid for 12 months at a time and must be renewed annually.
Note: The driver, vehicle and any connected taxi operator must all be licensed by the same local authority.
If you wish to drive taxis in London, you’ll need to have held a full driving licence for a minimum of three years. If you wish to drive taxis outside of London, you’ll need to ask your local council for their own unique requirements.
It’s possible you will be required to file a D796 mandate DVLA form. This can cost £15 and some councils now allow this to be completed online rather than as a paper-based form.
Speaking of experience, if you’re thinking of applying for a taxi driver licence in major cities, your local council may put you through a knowledge test.
This will prove to them that you are serious about becoming a competent taxi driver, with a solid core knowledge and awareness of your local roads and landmarks.
The most famous knowledge test of them all is in London. ‘The Knowledge’ is world-famous for its stringent pass mark.
Prospective cabbies are required to memorise as many as 320 routes across a six-mile radius of Central London, spanning tens of thousands of landmarks and busy streets.
On average, it takes new taxi drivers up to four years to pass this test.
The Knowledge was established back in 1865. If you wish to drive your taxi and work in all four corners of the Greater London Authority area, you’ll want to apply for a green badge.
If you’re prepared to work in one of nine suburban sectors of the Greater London Authority area, you can also apply for a yellow badge.
When you seek to apply for a taxi driver licence from the TfL or your local council, you must declare any health conditions you may have that could affect your suitability or safety at the wheel.
As part of the medical checks during the application process, you should request that your doctor completes a group 2 medical form from the DVLA.
If this form is approved it will be valid for a maximum of five years from the date of issue for applicants aged under 65 or one year for applicants aged over 65.
Want to know the kind of medical conditions that you should be notifying to the DVLA when applying for your taxi driver licence? Take a look here.
According to leading recruitment agency Reed, an estimated average salary for a taxi driver is £25,000. Drivers can either work as a self-employed individuals or employed as part of a taxi operator.
For PHV taxi drivers that are prepared to use popular apps such as Uber, it is possible to make a solid living.
According to Uber, their typical drivers can take home around £565 for working 35-to-45 hours per week – after it has taken its own 25% service fee, of course.
Ultimately, you have to factor in additional start-up costs as a new taxi driver, including taxi insurance. It can be some time for new taxi drivers until they’ve paid off their annual fees and premiums and begin making a profit.
If you want to improve your profitability per journey as a taxi driver, it’s important to choose the right type of vehicle for your needs.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re thinking of specialising in transfers to and from national airports or train stations, it’s a good idea to use a vehicle that has ample storage space for luggage and is economical over longer journeys.
Diesel vehicles may be best suited for taxis putting this many miles on the clock in terms of miles per gallon.
If you’re thinking of using Uber as the basis of your PHV work, you should be driving a vehicle that was registered in 2008 or later.
Buying a plug-in hybrid may save you on fuel costs but the initial outlay on purchasing a hybrid can still make these prohibitive as taxis at present.
It’s also a good idea to consider that the type of car you choose to drive as a taxi will influence other costs, such as taxi insurance premiums.
Vehicles in lower insurance group ratings will help to bring down your overall policy fees.
As your new taxi is likely to be on the road for most of the 365 days in a year, you’re going to need adequate taxi insurance to protect you should the worst happen, and your vehicle is out of action.
Anyone in the taxi insurance industry worth their salt will admit that taxi insurance premiums are more expensive than conventional car insurance.
That’s because most taxi insurance policies also include public liability insurance.
This safeguards you and your taxi in the event a customer or member of the public makes a claim against you for damage to their property or an injury.
As a newly licensed taxi driver, it’s important not to cut corners with your taxi insurance. That’s why it’s also important to have legal assistance as part of any taxi insurance policy.
This will be invaluable if you are involved in a no-fault accident and need to take legal action against another individual.
At The Taxi Insurer, we can help you find a taxi insurance policy that matches your unique needs and budget.
Different vehicles require different policies and our panel of insurers can provide tailored policies that also offers protection for everything from individual cover to insurance for entire taxi fleets.
Get a quote for your new taxi insurance premium at The Taxi Insurer – it’s simpler than you think!