What kind of licence do I need to drive a minibus?

Before getting behind the wheel of a minibus, there are a few things you need to check to ensure that you’re keeping on the right side of the law – firstly that your driving licence meets the criteria to drive one.


In this article, we’ll help you understand what the law is regarding minibus driving, as the official wording can sometimes mean that it’s less than clear.


As well as holding the correct driving licence, you’ll also need some minibus insurance. Here at Taxi Insurer, we take the time to understand you, your vehicle and what you usually use it for, so we can find the right minibus insurance policy for you, at our most competitive rates. But more on minibus insurance later.


First, let’s answer the question of whether you can drive a minibus on a normal licence.



Does my licence allow me to drive a minibus?


A minibus travelling at speed through a town


Before we start, it’s a good idea to have your driving licence in hand. Then, as we go about outlining the law, the reference points should make more sense.




The entitlements you have listed on your driving licence come down to when you passed your driving test. The important date here is 1st January 1997.


If you passed your driving test after this date, you don’t automatically have the D1 entitlement, which allows you to drive a minibus without having to meet a list of conditions.


However, don’t despair just yet. You might still be able to drive a minibus without the D1 entitlement, it’s just that you have to ensure that you stay within the guidelines as outlined in UK law.


If you don’t meet those following conditions – and you don’t have D1 entitlement – you won’t be able to drive a minibus without taking an additional driving test.


Whether you have D1 entitlement or not, you’re not allowed to transport passengers for profit without a PSV and a PCV licence. To find out what types of minibus you can drive now, whether you need to seek D1 entitlement and what to do if you need to charge your passengers, read on.


Can I drive a 12 seater minibus on my licence?


The ability to drive a 12 seater minibus on a car licence in the UK is dependent on certain conditions as stipulated by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). According to these regulations, you are permitted to drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats using your current car licence if you meet certain criteria:


  • Must be at least 21 years old and have held a valid driving licence for at least two years
  • The minibus must be used for social purposes by a non-commercial body
  • It's also important that the vehicle does not exceed 3.5 tonnes, or 4.25 tonnes including specialist equipment for disabled passengers (e.g., a wheelchair ramp)
  • Should not be receiving payment or compensation for driving the vehicle


If these above conditions are met, then you can indeed drive a 12 seater minibus with a standard UK car licence. If not, an additional entitlement (D1 or D) may be required on your licence in order to legally operate larger minibuses in the UK.


If you passed your driving test on or after 1st January 1997


A new driver handing L plates back to her instructor


As we’ve already stated, if you passed your driving test on or after this date, you won’t see ‘D1’ in section 9 (Entitlement categories) on your driving licence. Nor will you see a date next to the D1 section on the rear of the card.


However, as long as you meet the conditions below, you can still drive anything from a nine-seater minibus up to a 16-seater:


  • You’re at least 21 years old
  • You’ve had your driving licence for at least two years
  • You’re driving voluntarily
  • You’re driving for social purposes
  • You’re not charging passengers
  • The minibus doesn’t exceed 3.5 tonnes in weight, or 4.25 tonnes when it’s carrying equipment for disabled passengers like a wheelchair ramp
  • You’re not towing a trailer


If you’re over the age of 70, you will also need to meet the ‘Group 2’ medical standards in which your GP has confirmed you’re fit to drive.



If you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997


A set of UK driving licenses


Things are a little more straightforward if you passed your test before 1st January 1997. As long as the D1 entitlement is present and correct on your driving licence, you can legally go ahead and drive a minibus.


However, you still won’t be able to charge passengers for your minibus service. The NFHR (Not For Hire or Reward) restriction means that you’re not allowed to charge passengers in your motor vehicle, no matter how entitled to payment you might feel for giving up your time.


Read our recent blog on the 7 target markets for taxi and minibus services to have a good idea on where to drive once you have got your D1 driver's licence.


The category D1 licence is the comprehensive minibus licence that allows you to drive any minibus or other vehicle as long as:


  • There are no more than 16 passenger seats
  • It has a maximum length of 8 metres
  • If you have a trailer, its maximum weight does not exceed 750kg


Please note: If you don’t have a D1 licence yet and you want to drive some of the larger minibuses, you might have to apply to add the higher category to your diving licence.


To do this, you will need to get medical clearance from your GP, pass a two-part theory test and take a 90-minute practical test while driving a category D car.



What do I need to do if I want to charge passengers?


A minibus parked outside of a bus station


Regardless of whether you have the D1 entitlement, you are not allowed to charge passengers without applying for extra permits.


If you’re driving the minibus for a voluntary organisation (such as an educational organisation), you can charge passengers to cover running costs with a minibus permit. To get the permit you need to fill out an application form and send it to the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency).


A minibus permit is not applicable if you want to drive a minibus commercially. That being the case, you will need both a PCV licence and PSV licence.



Driving a minibus abroad


Finally, if you’re planning to cross country boundaries and drive a minibus abroad, it’s down to the respective licensing authority in the country you’re visiting to decide whether you can or not. Make sure you’ve reached out to the right body in advance of your trip for clearance.


Driving a self-drive minibus from a van hire company


Choosing to drive a self-driving a minibus from a van hire company in the UK can offer a myriad of benefits. This option provides an excellent solution for those requiring temporary transportation for a larger group, whether for business events, school trips, or family outings.


When you choose to drive a self-drive minibus from a van hire company, it provides you with the flexibility to control your schedule without the necessity of relying on public transport timetables. These companies typically offer a wide range of minibuses to choose from, accommodating various passenger capacities.


The vehicles are usually well-maintained and equipped with the latest safety features to ensure peace of mind throughout your journey. Moreover, hiring a self-drive minibus can often prove more economical than other transport options, especially when the costs are shared among a larger group.


In summary, opting to drive a self-drive minibus from a van hire company in the UK is an efficient and flexible solution for group transportation needs.


Take out some minibus insurance cover


In order to drive a minibus legally, you need to ensure you’re covered with minibus insurance.


Policies arranged through Taxi Insurer can cover a wide range of vehicles and uses from private occasional use, to frequent use for a range of groups and organisations including schools, charities, churches, scout groups and sports clubs.


Call our specialist team today and let us help find the cover to suit your individual needs.