How to Become a Taxi Driver: The Definitive Guide

how to become a taxi driver

Are you gazing out the window wishing you weren’t stuck behind a computer screen? Or are you dreaming of working more flexible hours so you can fit in a new hobby or drop the kids at school? A whopping 60% of us say we are not happy in our jobs. If you’re looking for a new career, becoming a taxi driver could be right up your street. Drivers can earn up to £30k and have the luxury of choosing their hours to fit in with their lifestyle. So, how can you join their ranks on the taxi rank? Get the knowledge on everything you need to know before you hit the road with our essential guide to becoming a successful taxi driver.

1) Kickstart your new career behind the wheel as a taxi driver

There are over 240,000 taxis on UK roads, with a massive 35% of them plying the streets of the capital. Every one of these drivers has to complete an application form, meet certain criteria and get essential paperwork, like taxi insurance, in place first. There are different specific requirements for becoming a taxi driver around the UK. But generally, you’ll need to do the same things to get started whether you’re in Bournemouth or Barnsley.

2) First things first – decide what type of taxi you want to drive

There are two types of taxi.

  • Hackney carriages (like London’s iconic black cab), which can be hailed from the street or can wait in a taxi rank for passengers.
  • Private hire vehicles (PHV), which must be booked by customers in advance.

This guide covers both.

Decide today which licence is right for you:

Hackney carriage

Pros:

  • You’re your own boss – you just turn up to find fares
  • Fares are set by your local council and can be higher than some minicabs
  • You can work any hours you want
  • There are taxi apps like MyTaxi, to help you get even more fares

Cons:

  • You can waste time on the road or in a rank waiting for fares
  • You’ll need to be organised as you’ll handle everything from money to buying your insurance yourself

Private Hire Vehicles (also known as minicabs)

Pros:

  • You only drive when you have a fare
  • Apps like Uber make it easier than ever to reach potential customers and let you set your own hours

Cons:

  • Fares need to be booked in advance through an operator (telephone) or you’ll need to sign up to a taxi app like Uber
  • There is lots of competition and fares can be lower than hackney carriages
  • If you work for an operator you may have less flexibility around your hours

 

Getting your essential paperwork in order

3) The right way to apply to get your taxi licence

You need to apply for a licence to drive a taxi or private hire vehicle. The way you apply varies on whether you’re planning on hitting the streets in London or outside of the capital. And the criteria you’ll need to meet to become a driver also varies depending on individual locations.

Steps to take today:

  • To apply to drive a taxi or private hire vehicle in London, you need to apply to Transport for London (TfL)
  • To apply to drive a taxi anywhere in the UK except London, you’ll need to contact your local council. Find contact details for your local council here
  • Because the licence requirements vary around the UK, you should create a checklist of all the things you’ll need to find out from your local council. This will make sure you get all the information you need ready at the start of your application. You’ll find these questions highlighted throughout our guide below

4) Have you got the driving experience you need to drive a taxi?

It might seem obvious, but you need to hold a full category B (car) UK licence (or equivalent Northern Ireland or EU driving licence) to be able to drive a taxi in the UK. The requirements across the country can vary. As a minimum, you normally need to have held your licence for at least 12 months.

Your council will also state if you need to complete a paper DVLA D796 mandate form. If you do, you’ll find the form on your council’s website and it will let you know if you have to pay for it. This could cost up to £15. Other councils will check your licence electronically.

Steps to take today:

  • In London, the requirement is to have held your licence for at least three years
  • If you’re not in London, add it to your checklist of things to find out from your local council. You’ll need to know how many years experience you need and if you’ll need to complete a mandate form, which will look a bit like this

5) Prove you can drive well to get your taxi licence

Many local councils will insist that you take and pass a taxi/private hire assessment test before you can get a taxi licence. This test is designed to check how you drive to make sure you meet modern driving standards. If you have already taken this test in the past, your certificate cannot be more than two years old or you’ll need to retake the test. Drivers who are applying for a hackney carriage licence will need to take the additional wheelchair assessment part of the test.

Steps to take today:

  • You can find out from your local council if you need to take a driving test – so add this to your checklist of things to confirm
  • If you need to take a test, you can book in with Diamond Advanced Motoring email: help@advancemotoring.co.uk or call 020 8253 0120

6) Know your way around your local area to get your taxi licence

Another test you’ll need to complete if you want to join the elite ranks of black cabbies in London is the world famous The Knowledge test. To pass, you’ll need to memorise 320 routes, 25,000 streets and remember 20,000 landmarks within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. It’s a real challenge to achieve the coveted “green-badge”, taking around 2-4 years on average to pass.

Proof of familiarity with your local area may also be part of your application in other parts of the UK too.

Steps to take today:

  • Read TfL’s The Knowledge exam notes to find out exactly what you’ll need to know
  • If you’re not in London, add it to your checklist to see if your local council will require you to prove your familiarity with the area you’re going to drive

7) Understand the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to secure your licence

Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks are now called Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. The DBS check identifies any convictions or cautions you have received that could prohibit you from working with the public. When you apply for a taxi or PHV licence you’ll have to consent to an enhanced DBS check to ensure you are suitable to drive to drive a taxi. It’s important to remember that a criminal conviction does not always mean you won’t be able to get a taxi licence.

You can’t request an enhanced DBS check yourself, but you can request a basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland. You don’t have to be in Scotland to do this. It costs £25 and normally takes around two weeks to be issued.

Drivers are also required to subscribe to the DBS update service. This ensures your record is always up to date. You need to subscribe to this update within 19 days of being issued your DBS certificate.

Steps to take today:

8) Do you need a ‘certificate of good conduct’ to be issued with a taxi licence?

If you have spent extended periods of time living outside the UK or are a foreign national you may be asked to provide a certificate of good conduct when you apply for your taxi licence. It will need to be authenticated by the relevant embassy and must normally be less than three months old. You’ll need to obtain and pay for your own certificate, and it will need to be translated into English.

Steps to take today:

  • Add this to your checklist of things to find out from your local council to discover if you’ll need this
  • If needed, find contact details for your relevant embassy here

9) Can you show you are healthy enough to drive a taxi to obtain your licence?

Medical standards for taxi drivers are higher than those required for car drivers. When you are applying to become a taxi driver, you must give details of any health condition likely to affect your suitability to drive.

You will need to arrange for your doctor to complete a DVLA group 2 medical form. Depending on the information it contains, further medical checks may be required which could delay a decision on your licence. Your medical will then last five years from the date of issue for applicants under the age of 65 and one year for applicants over the age of 65, unless your doctor states a more regular medical is required.

Steps to take today:

  • Check this list of medical conditions to see if you have a condition that could affect your ability to drive a taxi
  • Your local council will normally provide you with the required medical form with your application pack

10) Have you got the correct evidence of your right to work in UK?

To drive a taxi, you’ll need to be able to provide evidence that you have a right to work in the UK. This could include a UK or EU passport, an identity card proving you are a national from a country in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, or a permanent residence card issued by the Home Office.

Steps to take today:

  • Use this online tool to see if you have the right to work in the UK

11) Say cheese for the camera to prove you are who you say you are

For your taxi licence, you’ll need to provide one signed and endorsed photograph of yourself. The endorsement, to confirm that you are the person in the photo, must be completed by a professional person, for example a doctor, solicitor or teacher. That person will need to confirm that they have known you for more than three years and can’t be anyone associated with the taxi trade.

Steps to take today:

  • Decide who you will ask to endorse your photo for you, and check that they are happy to do it
  • Get your photo printed using an online passport photo service, like persofotoor idphoto4you, which will check that your picture meets the official requirements 

12) Speaking the lingo to avoid confusion on the job

Whether you’re applying for a new private hire licence in London or are renewing your licence, you have to prove you can communicate in English to a minimum level. There’s a range of certificates and qualifications that you could use to prove this, including:

  • UK GCSE/O level (or equivalent) certificate at grades A* to G (the subject of the qualification does not matter as long as it was taught in English)
  • UK AS-Level/A level certificate (as above)
  • UK NVQ*/BTEC/City & Guilds qualification, along with confirmation from the awarding body that the qualification provided is equivalent to GCSE or above (for example, a Blue Badge Guide qualification)
  • UK BA Hons, BSc Hons degree or higher i.e. master’s, PhD
  • UK HNC/HND qualification
  • Interim English Language Test (IELTS) showing proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening

Steps to take today:

  • If you need to study and take your IELTS test, you can find your closest approved test centre here
  • You could also use the British Council’s online tool to get an indication of the current level of your English

13) Book in to do safeguarding training

In many parts of the country, taxi drivers need to participate in compulsory safeguarding training. Without your certificate of participation, you won’t be able to take to the streets.

The training is designed to help tackle child sexual exploitation. With enhanced knowledge and understanding of what to look for and how to report concerns, taxi drivers can help play a vital role in protecting children who are vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. It’s mandatory in various locations across the country, including Surrey Heath, Cambridge, Wolverhampton, Barnsley and Poole.

Steps to take today:

  • Your local council will advise if this is a condition of your taxi licence, so add this to your checklist of things to ask. They can also let you know where to take the training

Driving up your profits

If you’re asking “How much can I earn as a taxi driver?” the amount can vary. The National Careers Service estimates taxi drivers can earn up to £30k. It depends on how many hours you work, when you work, the number of journeys, and the level of fares. Your profits also depend on your outgoings. And here are the steps you can take to maximise the amount you make.

14) Make the most of the digital revolution to start your career as a taxi driver

Starting a private hire vehicle business has never been easier thanks to taxi apps like Uber and Gett. These apps link customers to drivers, letting you know where to go to pick up your fare and providing support. To drive for Uber you’ll need a private hire licence. You also have to be a minimum of 21 years old, have a valid UK or EU driver’s licence, and complete an online safety screening.

Steps to take today:

  • Check out the apps available and sign up
  • If you drive a black cab, try MyTaxi (previously known as Hailo) or download Gett on your phone
  • Private hire drivers could sign up to Uber or register to drive with Addison Lee

15) Get the right car for the job to maximise profits

If you want to work for yourself, you’ll obviously need a car. But not all cars are equal. If you’re planning on running airport transfers, choose a car with plenty of luggage space. Plug-in hybrids can represent lower running costs, but will cost you more to buy. To drive for Uber, you’ll need a car registered in 2008 or newer. And the type of car you drive can affect other costs, such as essential insurance costs. Just like private car insurance, the lower the insurance group rating of your vehicle, the lower the cost of insurance you can expect to pay.

Steps to take today:

16) Get yourself a credit card reader for easier payments or to meet your licence conditions

Accepting credit cards as payment makes life easier for your customers and saves you from carrying cash around. If you’re a cab driver in London, you have to offer a credit card payment service as a condition of your licence. You’ll need to arm yourself with a fixed card payment device fitted in the passenger compartment of your vehicle, and you’ll have to give a printed receipt if you’re asked. Without this, you’ll be issued an unfit notice and won’t be able to drive.

Steps to take today:

  • Decide which card payment device is best for you. Providers you could go to include: io, www.cabvision.com www.cmt.london, www.farepay.co.uk, ingenico.co.uk, www.izettle.com www.taxiworld.co.uk, and www.verifone.co.uk.

17) Invest in a coffee machine (unless you’re already a night owl) to help you drive through the late shift to make the most dosh

One of the biggest draws of becoming a taxi driver is the chance to choose your own hours. There’s always a high demand for taxis late at night, but many drivers choose not to work unsociable hours. To maximise your income, be prepared to work the late-shift.

Steps to take today:

  • If you’re trying to cut back on caffeine, read this article instead for tips on how to stay awake without the coffee

18) Put your phone away and keep an eye on your speed if you want to keep on driving

If you’re a taxi driver, one speeding conviction shouldn’t be a problem (depending on the severity of the offence). But if you’re repeatedly caught or found using a handheld mobile phone, you’re likely to face enforcement action. That could mean an end to your livelihood. Don’t use your phone when you’re driving or make sure your car has hands free. And keep your eye on your speed and any restrictions in place.

 Steps to take today:

  • Read this guide on the rules around using your phone in the car to make sure you stay within the law

19) Get cheap taxi insurance to maximise your income and minimise risk

To drive a taxi, you’ll need to take out specialist taxi insurance to meet your legal obligations as a road user as ordinary car insurance won’t be valid. But taxi insurance doesn’t stop at covering your car against accidents or theft. It can also cover you for a range of other risks.

Is cheap taxi insurance value for money?

Does your taxi insurance policy include public liability insurance? If it doesn’t, you could be in for a shock if a member of the public makes a claim against you for injury or damage to their property. With public liability cover as part of your annual policy, you’ll have peace of mind that your legal fees to defend your case or pay out compensation are covered. It comes as standard with many taxi insurance policies, but is left out of many of the cheapest deals. Do you want to risk it

What other insurance do taxi drivers need?

Ask your broker if your policy provides legal assistance. This can be invaluable if you have an accident that isn’t your fault and you need to take legal action. Loss of earnings cover, to reimburse you for time forced off the road, is also worth bearing in mind as well as personal injury cover, to give you a cash payout if you have an accident and are unable to go back to work.

Low-cost taxi insurance that you can rely on

Getting the right taxi insurance is an essential that can make all the difference to your success as a taxi driver. Securing a low-cost deal can help you to minimize your outgoings. But a great value deal also needs to cover all bases, or it could end up costing you a lot more in the long run.

Steps to take today:

  • Shop around for the best price taxi insurance or get a broker to do the running around for you

Our expert taxi insurance team at Park Insurance has over 30 years experience helping taxi drivers to get the best value for money insurance. We’re independent brokers and we shop around the UK’s biggest insurance providers, negotiating the best price on policies that are tailored to your specific needs. We’ll talk you through all your insurance options, so you can be certain you have the cover you need with no surprises in the small print. Call us today on 0117 955 6835 or get in touch for your free, no-obligation quote.