Drivers all over the UK undoubtably offer rides to friends and family who throw a few quid into the “petrol pot” so-to-speak, but how many are actually aware that if they accept payment that exceeds the cost of the fuel used for that trip may land them with a hefty fine and even a driving ban. Only licensed taxi drivers and private hire drivers are legally allowed to make a profit from lifts, so technically, if you’re taking more cash than you’re spending you could be considered an unlicensed taxi, which could come with a heavy fine of over £2,000. As highlighted originally in The Mirror, it can obviously be very difficult for the authorities to know if someone without a valid licence to do so is making an extra few quid from any given journey, but social media groups that advertise local lifts in exchange for fuel have given them a platform to track down offenders. A Facebook group created in Bournemouth and Poole was investigated by Dorset Police after it was reported that up to 5,000 people were involved in the illegal lift service. A spokesperson for the police stressed their concerns surrounding the safety of such groups that offer rides in exchange for cash. Even if the driver doesn’t accept payment that exceeds the fuel cost you have to take into consideration the fact that you are entering the vehicle of a stranger. Major implications involving insurance issues need to also be considered by anyone considering paying for a trip by someone who doesn’t hold a valid taxi or PHV licence. Advice from the police is for the driver to get confirmation from their insurance company before accepting “fuel money” from a passenger because it may in fact invalidate the vehicles cover. As we know, driving without insurance is illegal and may result in the vehicle being seized, a fine, points on your licence and even a driving ban. If an accident was to occur, both driver and passenger could find themselves having to cover any of the implications that come with being involved in a serious collision. The general rule is; if you’re unsure of whether or not you are paying more than the fuel cost of a journey, don’t pay at all. Or even more so, if you require a trip somewhere then leave it to the professionals and use a licensed taxi or pre-book a private hire vehicle from a reputable operator.