Wondering how to become a taxi driver in the UK?

Picture shows a yellow light up sign with word 'TAXI' glowing in black on a black taxi - red bus in the background

Have you been thinking about becoming a taxi driver, but don’t really know where to start? We’ve put together a handy guide to help you join the ranks. From the reasons why you should be a taxi driver, to how to get your licence, to what to do when you’re ready to go. Read our simple guide to see how you could be the driving force in your new career path.

Why should I become a Taxi Driver?

Being a taxi driver can provide more flexibility and freedom than a standard 9 - 5 job. You can be your own boss, pick your own hours, and work as much or as little as you want to. This means that you can pursue driving as a full-time career; or if you already have a full-time job, you can pick up driving shifts as and when you need to supplement your income.

The average working week for a full-time taxi driver is around 40 hours, and the average salary for an experienced driver is around £30,000. However, it’s good to keep in mind that the most popular working hours are evenings, weekends, and busy holidays, such as bank holidays and New Year’s Eve. So, if you want to earn the big bucks, you would have to be prepared to work some long, unsociable hours. However, this does mean that you have plenty of time in the day to catch up with friends and family, get through some of those never-ending house improvements, or even sneak in a few rounds on the golf course.

If you’re a naturally social person, and you enjoy meeting people from all walks of life, then becoming a taxi driver is definitely the job for you. You never know who is going to jump in the back of your taxi, but you can guarantee that more often than not, they’ll be keen for a conversation. People look to taxi drivers for local knowledge, insider tips on where to eat, and even for a sympathetic ear or life advice. Tipping taxi drivers is also commonplace, so the more that the passenger enjoys their journey, the more likely they are to leave a friendly tip.

If you want to be your own boss and set your own hours, and want your day-to-day life to be varied and flexible, instead of being stuck in an office working 9 - 5; then keep reading to find out what steps to take next.

How do I get started as a taxi driver?

Unfortunately, becoming a taxi driver isn’t quite as simple as getting a car, putting a ‘TAXI’ light on top, and taking to the streets. There are certain rules and regulations that must be followed to become a taxi driver in the UK.

Becoming a taxi driver inside and outside of London has different requirements. Depending on where you live, there will be different steps to take. If you want to drive one of London’s famous black cabs, then there are some additional measures you will have to consider.

How do I get a Taxi driver licence?

There are two types of taxi licence that you can apply for; Public Hire, or Private Hire Vehicle licence. The difference between them is that Public hire taxis, also known as Hackney Carriages, can be hailed on the street, can operate from taxi ranks, and must display a fare meter. Whereas, Private Hire taxis must be pre-booked, meaning that they cannot operate from ranks or be hailed in the street.

If you want to work outside of London, you will need to apply to your local council to get a licence. Before applying, you’ll need to make sure that you meet the eligibility requirements:

  • You must be able to work legally in the UK
  • You must have held a full GB, NI, or EU driving licence for at least 12 months
  • You must be willing to undergo a full background check, that may include a DBS

In addition, there may also be a medical examination that you’ll need to pass. You may need to take a ‘knowledge’ test, a practical driving test, and you might also need English and Maths qualifications, depending on which local council authority you fall into. In general, the council wants to make sure you’re a ‘fit and proper’ person and suitable for a job that involves working so heavily with the public.

The application process to get a licence usually takes around 12 - 16 weeks, so if you’re looking to start working shortly, you’ll need to get your application in as soon as possible.

If you want to work in London, the process is slightly different. You can get a public hire licence, which are the famous London black cabs; or you can get a Private hire taxi licence. TfL manages all the applications for Public hire and Private hire vehicles. You’ll need to go to their website to register, and follow the online guidance. The requirements are similar to outside of London; however, you will need to be 21 or over, and will need to take an additional map-reading test to gain your cabbie licence.

Passing the Taxi driver theory test

If you’re outside of London, all UK council jurisdictions differ slightly. But if you’re a fledgling taxi driver, then it is probable that you will have to take an assessment before you’re able to get your licence.

The assessment is made up of ‘Cabology’ questions, which are designed to make sure that you have all the knowledge that you need to become a great taxi driver. The questions cover safeguarding, vehicle maintenance, as well consideration towards your passengers.

The test can be quite in-depth and will require some time and effort to learn. To get a head start, you can see example questions and answers here. But remember, all councils are different, and the questions may vary, so the best thing to do is to find which council area you’re in, and get in touch with them for more information.

If you’re in London, you’ve probably already heard of (or had nightmares about) ‘The Knowledge’. All black cabs can be hailed on the street and can go anywhere in London, so drivers are required to have a comprehensive understanding of London’s road networks.

First introduced in 1865 and containing 320 different routes, it typically takes aspiring cabbies around 3 - 4 years to master. For more information on how to take on the gargantuan task, see the TfL website. The good news is that plenty of support is on hand to help you through the process.

Start-up costs as a new taxi driver

So you’re eligible for a licence, you’re clued-up on all things Cabology, have mastered the Knowledge, and now you’re looking into start-up costs.

There are a lot of start-up costs associated with becoming a taxi driver, and it can all start to mount up to be quite expensive. We’ve listed all the things you’ll need to take into consideration below, so you’ll be prepared when the time comes.

The costs can vary depending on location, but generally speaking if you’re outside of London, the total cost is around £530 as of April 2022. The payment covers the Licence application cost, a skill's assessment, a ‘Cabology’ test, a DBS certificate and a Medical examination certificate.

If you’re in London, the costs are considerably higher and can total over £1000. The cost covers the Licence application, the Knowledge of London written exam and appearance cost, the DSA Hackney Carriage driving test, a DBS certificate and a Medical assessment.

So now that you’re a legal, qualified and knowledgeable taxi driver, what next?

This may be somewhat stating the obvious, but you can’t be a great taxi driver without a taxi! The question is, what is the best car for a taxi driver?

There are a multitude of things to consider when buying a taxi. Should you go for a new or used vehicle? Petrol, diesel, or electric? Your taxi is going to become your second home, so you need to feel comfortable in it, and so do your passengers.

Check out this handy guide with more information about different types of taxis, and the pro’s and con’s of each. It’s important to note that different districts have different rules and standards for their taxi drivers to follow. So before making a purchase, make sure that you consult with your local council to see what their requirements are.

What insurance do you need as a taxi driver?

You’re ready to head out on the open road and start collecting fares. But you need to make sure that you, your taxi and all of your passengers are fully protected. Insuring your taxi is possibly the most important part, as it is a vital way to protect your livelihood if things were to get bumpy whilst out on the road.

Whether you spend your days driving through congestion as a city taxi driver, or putting in the miles doing airport runs, there are potential risks of crashing, accidents and damage to your vehicle. Depending on the type of taxi that you drive, you will need either Public Hire Insurance, or Private Hire Insurance. There are plenty of varying levels of cover to choose from, and many optional extras to add to your policy, so you can ensure that you are covered for any scenario. If you have more than one taxi, or are thinking of expanding your business, many insurance companies offer a Fleet Insurance policy, which really reduces the headache of managing several policies all at once. You can get in touch with one of our helpful advisors for a taxi insurance quote, or if you need some extra advice. 

So, if you feel like you’re stuck in the pit-stop with your current job, then becoming a taxi driver could be a great, new career move. Be your own boss, set your own hours, and get out there and meet new people.

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