Get the latest Startup news and information

Please verify before subscribing.

How to become a taxi driver in the UK

Want to drive a cab for a living, but not sure how to navigate the process? We'll guide you through the ins and outs of becoming a taxi driver, and get you from A to B

If you like being behind the wheel, enjoy talking with people, and want a living that offers variety and flexibility, then taxi driving could be the ideal job for you!

If you’re interested in joining the growing numbers of taxi drivers in the UK, you’re in the right place. We’ll steer you through how to get started, and what the requirements and differences are when working for yourself or working for a taxi firm. So whether you see yourself in one of London’s famous black cabs or working for a ride-sharing app like Uber, read on for all the information you need!

Why should you become a self-employed taxi driver?

If you decide to become a taxi driver in London, you can drive the iconic black cabs that the capital is famous for. Not only that, but you’ll have passed The Knowledge, in which you have to memorise all of the streets and landmarks within a six mile radius of Charing Cross – there are thousands of them, so it’s no mean feat!

But the capital isn’t the only place that you can cash in on the need for taxis: with services operating across the UK, there are a variety of places where you can base up. Better still, you won’t need any particular qualifications, besides the standard driving and licensing requirements. 

As a self-employed taxi driver, you can set your own working hours. Generally, popular times include in the evenings or at weekends, making it ideal if you don’t want to work a standard 9-5 job – or even if you want to supplement a 9-5 job.

Other benefits include receiving tips in addition to fares, potentially building rapport with regular customers, and the camaraderie from meeting other taxi drivers.

The UK taxi industry in 2020

A taxi can collect passengers from the street without a prior booking. Contrast this with a private hire vehicle (PHV), which can only take passengers who have pre-booked. 

The total number of licenced taxi and PHVs increased by 2.5% (7,200 vehicles) from 2018 to 2019 in England. 

This brings the total to 291,800 licenced vehicles – a record high, according to the Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Statistics, England: 2019 statistical release published by the Department for Transport.

Passing the taxi driver tests

So how do you become a taxi driver? Here, we highlight the key tests you need to pass.

The taxi driver knowledge test

You’ll need to complete a test which shows your understanding of the local area and geography. 

For private hire vehicle licences in London, this is referred to as a topographic skills assessment, in which you could be asked how to plot a route, for example. To drive a taxi in London, you’ll need to pass The Knowledge.

London taxi driver test: The Knowledge

The Knowledge involves learning the quickest routes within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross, and on average takes three to four years to learn.

 You can choose to operate as an All London taxi driver, with a green badge that allows you access across the Greater London Authority area. 

Alternatively, you could opt for a Suburban licence. This gives you a yellow badge, meaning that you can operate in one of nine suburban sectors.

There are several stages to completing The Knowledge. These are:

  1. Self-assessment – an optional test to monitor your knowledge of the first 80 routes (also known as ‘runs’) out of the full 320
  2. Written examination – a multiple choice test, with a pass mark of 60%
  3. Appearances – multiple one-to-one in-person oral examinations on routes
  4. Suburban examination – tests your aptitude of 25 extra routes
  5. Licence application and pre-licencing talk – the final stage is to attend a group talk, where you also receive your licence and badge

For more detailed information, visit the TfL page on learning the Knowledge of London.

The taxi driver practical test

Previously, The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) used to provide tests for taxi driving for local councils: however, this stopped on 1 January 2017. 

In London, TfL has created a temporary arrangement where licences are issued to those that pass the final exam, one the condition that they complete an assessment when a new solution is confirmed.

Depending on where you wish to operate, you may still need to complete a practical test: contact your local authority to find out if this is the case. For example, the taxi driver practical test in Northern Ireland examines your actual driving ability, as well as your understanding of road safety and transporting passengers, amongst other criteria. 

The taxi driver theory test

Theory testing varies depending on your location – your local council should be able to provide you with more information. 

In Northern Ireland, you must also complete the theory test before taking the practical test. The theory test involves answering multiple choice questions and passing a hazard perception exam, in which you watch video clips to measure how well you respond to road scene hazards.

Other parts of the UK may require theory testing as well. For example, Thurrock Council in England requires both hackney carriage and private hire drivers to pass a multiple choice theory test, examining the highway code, road signs, routes, and more.

Language test for taxi drivers

Since 2016, applications for a private hire driver licence in London must meet an English language requirement. One way to achieve this is by taking a test with a provider appointed by TfL.

Alternatively, you can provide documentary evidence of your English language ability, such as with a GCSE, NVQ, A Level, or degree certificate in any subject taught in English. Visit the TfL page on the English language requirement for private hire driver licences for more detailed guidance. 

If you are planning to operate outside of London, you may or may not have to meet an English language requirement – again, this depends on the local council. For example, Aylesbury Vale District Council requires taxi and private hire drivers to pass such a test. 

Taxi driver test costs

Here is a rough guide to costs for getting a taxi driver and private hire licence in London.

Taxi driver licence

taxi driver licence costs

Source: TfL

So, you can expect to pay in the region of £1,132.09 at a minimum to become a taxi driver in London

Private hire licence

private hire licence costs

Source: TfL

To become a private hire driver in London, you can expect to pay £627.50 or more, plus the GP fee for the medical.

How much do taxi driver tests cost outside of London? 

Outside of London, the costs can vary depending on the area in which you want to operate – contact your local council to find out more.

Here, we provide some examples of costs across the UK. 

LocationTaxi driver theory testTaxi driver practical test
Northern Ireland£34Weekdays - £60, evenings and weekends - £90

LocationKnowledge testLicence
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council£70 (for hackney carriage, private hire and executive hire)Hackney carriage: £175 (one year), £215 (three years)

LocationLicence and badgeKnowledge testDBS application
City and County of Swansea£236£29 (per attempt)£44

How to get your taxi driver license

You’ll need to pass the necessary tests in order to receive your taxi driver licence. In most cases, you have to:

  • Hold a full UK or EU driving licence, for a minimum of 12 months (or three years if you want to work in London)
  • Meet the background and medical checks
  • Be aged 18 or above (or aged 21 and above in certain areas, including London)

There are differences between getting a taxi driver licence in London and outside of the capital, as well as differences between taxi and private hire vehicles. There are also operating licences to take into consideration. For more detailed information, read our article on taxi driver regulations

Essentially, you must apply to your local council for a licence to drive a taxi or a private hire vehicle (PHV) outside of London. This means that the costs and application process can vary between areas.

TfL manages licencing for taxis and PHVs in London. You can register online for either type of licence. It’s also possible to request an application pack. You’ll need to give some personal information about yourself to create the account, and provide a photo for the licence. 

The length of time it takes to become a licenced taxi driver varies depending on if you learn the All-London Knowledge or a Suburban sector. For more information, visit the TfL pages on how to apply for a taxi driver licence, and how to apply for a private hire driver licence.   

How to become an Uber taxi driver in the UK

Ride hailing apps have become increasingly popular in the UK. As the Department for Transport data shows, PHVs accounted for the majority (76%) of all licenced vehicles in England in 2019.

In order to operate an Uber service, you need to get a PHV licence. While there are some general criteria to meet (such as the age and driving requirements), the amount you’ll pay and the length of time for obtaining it depend on where in the UK you’re based. Also, you’ll need to ensure that the local council has granted Uber permission to operate in its district. 

Read our how to become an Uber driver guide for more detailed information.

As well as Uber, you could consider Bolt or Kapten, if you’re a licenced private hire driver. Alternatively, if you’re a licenced taxi driver, Gett may be the organisation for you.

The skills a taxi driver needs

As well as the practical aspects, like passing tests and having the correct licence, there are other skills needed to be a taxi driver. These include:

  • Communication – you’ll need to be able to talk with, and listen to, passengers in a personable way
  • Ability to stay calm under pressure – whether it’s dealing with challenging customers or navigating tricky traffic, a cool and collected demeanour is essential
  • Attention to detail – from knowing the quickest way to get somewhere to ensuring customers’ safety, you’ll need to be meticulous when running a taxi service

Becoming a working taxi driver: Next steps

Once you’ve got your licence, it’s time to start working. Here are the options available to you: 

Work for an established taxi company

When you’re just beginning your taxi driving career, it can be wise to join an existing firm. Technicalities like tax and insurance will be taken care of for you, allowing you to focus on growing your confidence and developing your skills as a taxi driver.

However, you may have less control over the routes and times you work, and may have to drive a certain type of car.

Start your own company

Hire who you want, drive the routes you want to, and manage your own time: these are just some of the benefits of starting your own company. If you decide to turn driving taxis from a job into your own full-time business, you could eventually manage a whole fleet of cabs, as well as operate across multiple locations. 

While you’ll have greater freedom running your own taxi firm, you should bear in mind that you’ll have to build a customer base and find a niche to help you beat the competition. For more in-depth insight, check out our guide on how to start a taxi or private hire firm

In addition, use our pages on card payment systems for taxi drivers and taxi insurance to help you with the practicalities of setting up your own business. 

Becoming a taxi driver offers you the freedom to work when and where you want to. 

Depending on your location, you can achieve this by passing practical and theory tests, as well as meeting an English language requirement. The exact details and processes are determined by your local council outside of London, or by TfL if you intend to work in the capital. You’ll also need to meet certain other requirements, such as driving ability and background checks.  

With the number of taxi and private hire vehicles increasing in the UK, there’s clearly opportunity in this industry. Whether you decide to work for a company or start your own business, now’s the time to accelerate your taxi driving ambitions!

Scarlett Cook
Scarlett Cook

Scarlett writes about a wide range of topics on the site, from business security to digital marketing and EPOS systems. She can also be found writing about diversity and sustainability in business, as well as managing the Just Started profiles.