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What are the key differences between a taxi and a private hire vehicle?

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

Unless you work in the taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) industry it can be easy to call all vehicles you hail or book a taxi. This is however incorrect and in some cases dangerous to assume.

First let's nail down the terminology. A ‘taxi’ is also traditionally known as a Hackney Carriage, taxicab or a ‘black cab’. A PHV is also know as minicab, ride-hail or by its operators name i.e. an ‘Uber’ or a ‘Bolt’.

One of the key differences between the two vehicles is that a PHV, unlike a taxi, cannot ply for hire, which means that all journeys must be pre-booked in advance through a licensed operator.

It is an offence for PHVs to pick up passengers from any location unless pre-booked. Local councils can, if they wish, also regulate the fares charged by taxis, whereas there is no power to do so with PHVs.

Only taxis can operate from taxi ranks located at train stations and other key places of interest within the region they are licensed. Taking a PHV off the street, without prior booking, will be uninsured and illegal.

Taxis will all offer a fare tariff set by the local licensing authority. Taxi drivers do not set the fare price, but can charge under the metered price of a journey.

PHV prices are set by the driver’s Operator. All bookings MUST go through the Operator and not the driver. Some of the UK’s biggest Operators include Uber, Addison Lee, FREE NOW, Bolt and Ola.

The number of PHV’s licensed cannot be restricted by authorities. The number of taxi licences issued by local authorities can be restricted.

In a newly published Taxi and PHV Licensing Best Practice Guidance paper, which is currently being consulted on, the Department for Transport provides the following terminology:

“Taxis are referred to in legislation, regulation and common language as ‘hackney carriages’, ‘black cabs’ and ‘cabs’. The term ‘taxi’ is used throughout this guidance and refers to all such vehicles.

Private hire vehicles include a range of vehicles such as minicabs, executive cars, chauffeur services, limousines and some school and day centre transport services. The term ‘private hire vehicle’ is used throughout this guidance to refer to all such vehicles.


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