Fancy spending your days driving around meeting new people? It’s easy to see why so many are attracted to the life of a cabbie, thanks to the flexible working hours, consistent work and social interaction.


But if you are thinking of cab driving as a potential career option, you may want to consider how well suited you are to the job. There are certain things that set an average driver apart from a successful one – and these qualities could make or break your business. For example, the way you interact with clients, the condition of your vehicle and crucially, your driving skills can all impact your chances of succeeding.


So let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of what exactly makes a successful taxi driver and how you can reach your goal of setting up a prosperous cabbie business.


A taxi driver provides a service, so the ultimate judge of what makes a successful one lies with the passenger. The problem with this is that they are people and so their opinions, desires and needs can vary. Successful taxi drivers change the way they perform their job to suit their customer.


And if you are thinking of this as a possible career path, now isn’t a bad time to get into the taxi driving world. In fact, a UK market report shows that the UK industry is forecast to increase at a rate of 2.1% annually over five years. Now let’s explore what will make your business flourish a little further and how you can protect your business with taxi insurance.

 Black and white image with a union flag styled taxi in colour driving on road

How can I make my taxi business successful?


There are some things that most, if not all, customers will want, and these are clear in the job description for a taxi driver. You need to take them from their location to their destination in a speedy, safe, smooth and comfortable manner.


You will know, as will most of your passengers, that the shortest route is not necessarily the fastest and you should have enough knowledge of the area to be able to pick the best route given the time of day, the amount of traffic and the various blockages. Satellite navigation just won’t cut it.


Your passenger will want to get to their destination in good time, but the most important thing is that you get them there in one piece. The maximum speed limit should never be seen as a target, and driving safely is more than just not having an accident.


Taxi fleets cover high mileage throughout the year and this increases the risk and, therefore, taxi insurance premiums. However, there are ways to help reduce insurance premiums and gain benefits.


The best skill a taxi driver can perfect is anticipation. If you treat every other road user, be they commercial vehicle driver, a tourist looking for somewhere to park, or a pedestrian looking at their mobile phone, as likely to do something unpredictable, then you’ll be right when it matters.


Avoiding accidents will help to reduce your taxi insurance premiums. If you run a fleet, ensure your team understand this. If a particular driver has a level above the norm, find out why and correct it. Here at Taxi Insurer, we can show you what types of taxi insurance are available to suit your requirements.


One way to be successful, whatever line of work you’re in, is to take pride in what you do. When your fare leaves your cab, you should aim at receiving a ‘thank-you’ for the service.


Ensure their journey has been comfortable, even if it was someone dressed for a board meeting, who flagged you down by jumping in front of your cab. Comfort is a clean cab, devoid of sweet wrappers and empty coffee cups so make sure you give your taxi a good clean out at the start of every shift. That goes for the front seats as well as the passenger seats in the back.


Taking care of your customers


A skill that every cabbie should develop as quickly as possible is the ability to judge what a passenger wants from first glance. It’s what sales staff do in, for instance, a car dealership. It’s an ability that comes with experience, but the problem with experience is that it comes after you need it the most, so be prepared to make mistakes until you’ve adequately mastered the tricks of the trade.


A parent with three children might appreciate a little help with any luggage, for example. What really sets the best cabbies apart is their attention to detail and abilities to meet the needs of each individual customer. People love a personalised service, and providing insightful tips and advice can make all the difference.


People skills and cab conversations


Thinking of becoming a taxi driver? If you are a people person then it might be just the job for you. After all, what you do is meet new people every day.


Sometimes it can be hard to judge if someone wants a good old natter, or if they’d prefer to sit there and relax in silence. If you have no idea whether they want to talk to you or not, it can be best if you wait until the passenger actually opens the conversation.


A person will choose a taxi for a variety of reasons. Similar to reasons why a person chooses to become a taxi driver. If you can work out theirs then you can modify your performance to suit. Accept that most of us welcome the solitude that a taxi affords and will not take kindly to repeated attempts to engage in conversation, even if we are stationary in traffic. If they wanted to know the day’s news, they would have probably read about it on their mobile phone.


If they appear to want to talk, and the length of journey suggests it is worthwhile, ask them a non-personal question. If they are going to an airport, there are a plethora of non-technical subjects that might help break the ice. They could be meeting someone and you can ask about them without getting into too familiar territory. If they ask for a card, then remember their face. Nothing generates loyalty like asking them if they enjoyed their holiday when they come back.


There is no requirement for you to entertain your passengers. Making them comfortable in your company by showing you are interested in them, but not too much, will put them at ease. While you will be as pleased as they are when you reach their destination, by engaging with them you show you are not just doing what is necessary. A happy passenger is a bigger tipper normally.

 Man talking to taxi driver for service

Do taxi drivers make good money?


The pay varies from area to area and from mini-cab to black cab. The latter will generally have a higher rate of pay because of their qualifications. You can research the salary in any specific area on websites such as Indeed where you will find a range from £1,700 per week for airport transfers to £18,000 per annum in mid-Sussex.


How much does it cost you to become a taxi driver?


You need to factor in the cost of purchase and maintenance for your vehicle and the premium for taxi insurance, too. Look after your mini cab, even if you don’t own it. It makes a good first impression and will cut down on garage bills.


If you are thinking of starting a tax business here are some of the basic costs you’ll need to consider:


  • The cost of purchasing a vehicle
  • London Knowledge test if you want to work in the capital
  • Taxi insurance
  • Licence
  • Taxi metre
  • Getting a private hire vehicle licence
  • Petrol costs
  • Car cleaning costs and vehicle maintenance


How much you’ll need to spend from the outset depends on whether you’re planning to completely go it alone, set up your own fleet of taxis or work as a taxi driver as part of a company. There’s the requirement for a medical, and the cost for this can vary a little, but everything else is surprisingly affordable.


Choosing the right company to work for


You may want to go solo and run your own business, but the initial costs are greater and you don’t have the security of working for an established firm.


The various ways to become a taxi driver are covered here. There’s a certain allure to being your own boss, but even if employed, you are on your own and can take care of how you provide the service to your customers.


If you opt for employment, pick a company with a good local reputation. If they provide specialist services, like airport runs, then find out the peak times and distances to see if you are happy with them. Ask how many bookings you are likely to get, the expected working hours and what percentage they take.

 View looking in to taxi with smiling driver at the wheel

Hours to work


Hours can be long but they are governed by legislation. Briefly, after 5½ hours of driving you must take a minimum break of 30 minutes, or 45 minutes in any period of 8½ hours. You mustn’t work more than 16 hours and then there is a compulsory break of 10 hours. There are variations to this, which are explained on the DVLA’s website here.  


If you work for yourself, you’ll need to make sure that you abide by these rules. But aside from that, it’s up to you to decide the hours you want to work. If you work for a cab business, you’ll need to discuss the shift options and negotiate your working hours based on how their business is run.


Taxi driving in London - learning The Knowledge


It’s widely accepted that The Knowledge was the most difficult geographical examination in the world. If you have qualified, then you have a right to be proud of your accomplishment. No university student would have studied as hard, or have been tested so assiduously. The financial cost of becoming a London ‘black’ cab driver is surprisingly low.


You can’t fail the Knowledge exam, or, to put it more accurately, you can have as many attempts as you wish, and can afford. It is, however, extremely difficult to pass and the drop-out rate for trainee taxi drivers is high.


Probably just as difficult as The Knowledge is the need to remember where roadworks, blockages and other circumstances that will increase journey times are. In addition, if you can remember the location of potholes this may save you having to repair your car in the future.  


How much does a taxi driver earn in Singapore?


You may be set on starting a business in the UK, becoming a London cabbie or working for a UK firm. But it’s also worth considering what you could get working in the same role in other countries. Singapore, for example, is a fun place to be a taxi driver as there are lots of different districts to negotiate and a mixture of clientele. The average earnings for a cabbie in Singapore is roughly 19 dollars an hour. Companies like Hold Dreams Together Singapore Taxi offer a basic salary of S$1,600.

 Time lapse of Singapore at night with city lights

Driving habits - delivering a smooth ride


Cab drivers have the potential to irritate passengers. Take harsh braking for example. You should have been aware of that pedestrian hovering at the kerbside. Your customers want to be able to hop in your mini cab, have a smooth relaxing ride and most importantly, feel safe while they’re driving with you. Erratic driving is not going to give them any confidence.


On the subject of being paid; don’t take your time looking for the correct money. Everyone knows that trick. Give the change in full, quickly and with a smile. You are much more likely to get a decent tip.


Look after your passengers not only when they are in the cab, but when getting in and alighting. If they are infirm or have some form of impediment, get out and help them. It’s a brilliant job, one that can be rewarding. There can be a lot of laughs. Ensuring your passengers enjoy their journey can bring big tips as well as the satisfaction of a job well done. 


Protecting yourself with taxi insurance


Lastly, if you want to become a cabbie, one of the most important things to consider is getting adequate insurance cover. If you’re going to be driving on a daily basis and doing a lot of miles in sometimes congested conditions, you’ll need to have taxi insurance you can rely on.

Get a quote online today and get protected with specialist taxi insurance from Taxi Insurer.