UK Private Hire: Get Your PHV & Taxi Licence Fast

Written by Zego

Published on

Working as a private hire driver comes with lots of benefits, including the freedom to earn money when you want. But before you can become a private hire driver, there are a few steps you need to take.

Here’s what you need to know.

To become a private hire driver, you’ll need to apply for a licence from your local council. You’ll need to be at least 18 years old (or 21 in London and some other areas), and you’ll also need to pass a DBS and background check.

A private hire taxi driver stood by his car

How to get a private hire licence

Thinking of becoming a private hire taxi driver? You’ll need a private hire driver licence. Here’s how to get one:

Step 1: Check that you’re eligible

Before you can apply for a UK private hire licence (or PHL), you’ll need to meet the minimum requirements. You’ll need to:

  • Be at least 18 years old, or 21 in some areas (including London).
  • Have the legal right to work in the UK.
  • Have held a full DVLA, Northern Ireland or EU driving licence for at least 12 months.
  • Provide proof of address and your National Insurance number.
  • Be a ‘fit and proper person’ — which means your background and character will be checked with the government’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

You’ll find the full list of requirements in your area on the website.

Step 2: Securing Your Licence from the Local Authority or TFL in London

In the United Kingdom, the responsibility of issuing taxi licences falls upon local councils, except in London, where Transport for London (TFL) takes charge. The criteria for obtaining your Private Hire Licence (PHL) might vary depending on your location.

You will need to provide comprehensive information to your local council or TFL, which might include:

  • Undergoing a medical check to ensure you are physically fit to drive.
  • Completing a test of local geographical knowledge to demonstrate your familiarity with the area you'll be serving.
  • Passing a driving assessment to verify your capability to safely transport passengers.
  • Taking an English proficiency test to confirm effective communication with passengers.
  • Registering for tax with HMRC to declare your income from private hire activities.

Additionally, there are costs associated with the application process, including fees for the application itself, the medical examination, DBS clearance, the local knowledge test, and the English language test. These expenses can differ across regions, so it's advisable to consult with your licensing authority for precise details.

Step 3: Joining a Recognized Private Hire Entity or a Digital Ride-Hailing Service

To operate legally as a private hire driver, aligning yourself with a recognised private hire operator, or 'Base', is essential. This affiliation must be established before your licence is granted by TFL or your local council.

For those interested in joining modern ride-hailing platforms, Uber offers a unique onboarding program known as 'Ignition'. Additional information about this process is available on Uber's official website.

Step 4: Receive your licence and buy insurance

Once you have your private hire driving licence, you’ll need to register a suitable vehicle with your council. Then it’s time to buy private hire insurance, to keep you covered in case you have an accident while working.

Private hire insurance costs can vary a lot. Depending on your vehicle and personal circumstances, the price difference from one insurer to the next can add up to hundreds of pounds per year. So it’s important to get the best quote for you and your needs.

Zego is partnered with the big ride-hailing apps like Uber, Ola and Bolt. So when you take out private hire insurance with us, the process is really easy. It only takes a minute to get a quote, too.

two private hire taxi drivers chatting

Private hire driver licence requirements

Here’s a summary of the main requirements for getting a private hire licence:

  • You’ll need a full DVLA, Northern Ireland or other EEA state driving licence.
  • If you live in London, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old (other areas in the UK may differ) — and there’s no upper age limit.
  • You’ll need to prove you have the right to live and work in the UK.
  • If it’s your first time applying, you’ll need to confirm that you’re aware of your tax obligations as a private hire driver.
  • Once you have your private hire driver’s licence, you’ll need to register with HMRC and pay any income tax due on your earnings.
  • You’ll need to pass an 'enhanced' criminal records check from DBS, to prove that you have no criminal records and you’re of good character.
  • You’ll need to pass a medical examination to show you’re fit and able to drive professionally.
  • You’ll need to take a skills assessment to prove your speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in English.

Depending on where you live and your personal circumstances, there may be other requirements to add to this list (or ones you don’t need). So check with your local issuing authority before you get started.

Taxi driving in London

London private hire requirements

As mentioned above, you’ll need to apply for a private hire driver licence (known as a PCO licence) via TFL if you live in London. And the requirements may be slightly different from other regional councils and authorities in the UK (for instance, you need to be at least 21 years old to get a private hire licence in London, whereas some areas require you to be at least 18).

You’ll find a detailed list of the things you need to apply for a licence on the TFL website.

Here are a couple of commonly asked questions about applying for a driver licence through TFL.

What is a TFL PCO Licence?

A TFL PCO licence is just another name for a private hire driver’s licence. It refers to licences that are issued by the PCO (Public Carriage Office), which is part of Transport for London (TFL).

So if you’re applying for a licence in London, you may hear it referred to as a TFL PCO licence.

Which English test is required for TfL?

All private hire drivers need to take an English language speaking and listening test, consisting of a 15-20 minute conversation. They also need to show that they can read and write in English, which is assessed through the safety, equality and regulatory matters (SERU assessment).

These tests are needed to prove that, as a licensed private hire driver, you meet the English Language Requirement (ELR), which was introduced in London in 2016.

When you apply for your PHL, you’ll get all the information you need to take each skills assessment.

What is a PCO Licence?

A PCO licence is a licence that allows private hire taxi drivers to carry passengers in return for payment. In London, these licences are issued by the Public Carriage Office, or PCO (hence the name). If you work for ride-hailing apps like Uber or Bolt, you’ll need a PCO licence.

How long does it take to get a PCO licence?

It can take between 12-16 weeks to get a PCO licence. The actual processing time depends on your application and the information you’re submitting. For instance, if there are any missing details, or your DBS check raises issues, you may have to wait a bit longer.

What is a PCO driver badge?

The PCO driver badge is another name for the PCO (or private hire) taxi licence. It’s the standard plastic card you get when you’re issued with a licence, plus an A4 certificate for you to keep. It contains your driver serial number, expiry date, basic personal information and a photograph.

How long is a PCO Licence valid for?

PCO licences are valid for 3 years. So if you plan to work as a private hire taxi driver for the long term, you’ll need to renew your PCO licence every 3 years.

What's the difference between PCO and PHV?

A PCO (Public Carriage Office) licence allows you to carry passengers in exchange for money. It’s a licence for private hire drivers. The PHV (Private Hire Vehicle) licence does a similar thing, but for your car or minivan. It allows you to use your vehicle for private hire driving.

To work as a private hire driver, you'll need both types of licences before you can start to drive professionally and carry paying passengers. And each type of licence is valid for a different length of time, so it's good to check when you'll need to renew if you plan to drive for the long term.

Which car can I use for PCO?

You can use any 4-door car or minivan as long as it’s roadworthy, seats up to a maximum of 8 passengers and passes a TFL vehicle inspection. It will also need a valid private hire vehicle (PHV) licence before you can start using it for private hire work.

Find out more about the TFL private hire vehicle requirements.

Uber driving in London

Is Uber a Private Hire Vehicle?

Uber drivers are required to get a private hire licence (PHL, or PCO) before they can start working. That’s why Uber cars and minivans are classed as private hire vehicles.

Do I need a PCO for Uber?

As an Uber driver, you’ll need a private hire licence (known as a PCO) before you can start carrying passengers in return for payment. You’ll also need private hire motor insurance, so that you’re covered in case you have an accident while you’re working.

Need a private hire insurance quote? You can get one right here. It only takes a minute. And if you choose Zego Sense, our app-based cover for good drivers, you can pay even less on your renewal when you drive well.

Get a quick quote now — it only takes a minute.