The complete guide to PCO car rental for taxi drivers

If you are searching for a flexible way to earn an income through Uber or another popular driving app, PCO car hire is a term you have likely come across. What is there to know about PCO car rental for taxi drivers? What are the advantages and disadvantages? How do you even get started?

We have created this guide to answer all of your PCO car hire related questions, providing information on the PCO license application process, the required documents and a breakdown of fees as well as how to renew your license.

The basics of private hire (PCO) driving

What is a PCO licence?

The first thing to know is that PCO stands for the Public Carriage Office. This is a department within Transport for London (TfL). In simple terms, a PCO license is a document that enables you to drive for Uber or any other ride sharing app for that matter in London. It’s useful to know that the official name is a Private Hire Driver License. However, the majority of people will refer to it as a PCO license.

What is a PCO car?

A PCO car is a four-door car or minivan that has met all of Transport for London’s personal transport requirements. These will also have an active Private Hire Vehicle License. Similarly, a PHV license is identical to a PCO license, although it is for your car. This will provide proof that TfL has approved your car for private hire use in the capital city through their criteria

Do I need PCO for Uber?

You will need a valid PCO license for any ride sharing service in London, this includes Uber.

Who can apply for a PCO licence?

If you have held a valid UK driver’s license for a minimum of three years and also have the right to work in the UK, you will have the opportunity to apply for a PCO license. In addition, you will also require other documents before you start the application process. Fortunately, these can be acquired in a relatively short space of time.

What does a PCO licence look like?

A PCO licence is the same size as any standard credit card. It will include a registration number, basic personal information about you, your photo and a date of expiry.

How long is a PCO licence valid for?

Typically, you can expect a PCO license to be valid for three years.

PCO vehicle hire requirements

What car can I use for PCO driving?

If you want to obtain a PHV license, your vehicle must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a Euro 6 petrol or diesel engine, or a Euro 4 petrol-hybrid engine
  • Must have four doors that can be opened independently
  • Be in good condition without any cosmetic damage
  • The vehicle should not have any commercial branding

It’s useful to know that you do not actually have to be the owner of the vehicle you use for PCO driving. The main thing to note is that the car has a valid PHV license and hire and reward insurance policy in place.

If you’re looking for competitive pricing on PCO insurance cover, Utility Saving Expert could help you save hundreds of pounds on your renewal.

The advantages and disadvantages of PCO car hire

It isn’t always easy keeping your car and all the paperwork up to date. This administration work requires a lot of time and effort on your part. For this reason, many drivers would rather focus on their actual work instead of the business side of things.

This is where PCO car hire offers a useful solution. It gives drivers the added peace of mind that their car is always ready for the next job. Your car will be part of a PCO fleet, which will be managed by a dedicated team who will ensure things are always up to date.

Many people may incorrectly assume that on-demand Uber drivers use their own taxis for these ride sharing apps. Although this is possible, most will choose to rent their private hire vehicle. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of PCO car hire:

Advantages

  • Minimum commitment – You will be able to change your mind and return the car for more favourable terms.
  • All-inclusive – You will have a PHV licence, the necessary insurance policy, and most routine maintenance will be covered within the agreement, allowing you to focus on transporting passengers.

Disadvantages

  • You will not own the car – However, you may have the option of ‘rent to buy’ and still have access to the same perks. This will allow you to make weekly payments towards ownership.
  • A limited range of car makes, models and colours to select from.
  • The age of the car may vary depending on who the provider is.

PCO license requirements

To obtain a PCO license, you must meet the following requirements before you can apply:

  • Be aged 21 years or older
  • You must have a full DVLA driving licence that is a minimum of three years old
  • You must have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom

On top of this, you will also need to acquire the following documents listed below:

  • A full DBS enhanced criminal records check
  • Proof from your GP that you are medically fit to work
  • Topographical skills certificate from an accredited assessment centre
  • An English language certificate

How do I apply for a PCO licence?

Once you have met the above requirements and have all the necessary documentation ready, you will be able to submit your PCO license application to Transport for London. You can register here and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the application process.

Do I need to pass an English language test for the PCO licence?

Yes. TfL will require proof that you have passed the English language qualification. Since September 2020, here are a list of certificates that they currently accept:

  • UK GCSE / O level (or equivalent) certificate – grades A* to G
  • UK AS-level / A-level (A2) certificate
  • UK NVQ*/BTEC/City & Guilds qualification – along with confirmation that the qualification is equivalent to GCSE or above
  • UK BA Hons, BSc Hons degree or higher degree e.g. Master’s or PhD
  • UK HNC / HND qualification
  • SELT certificate, issued by Trinity College London or IELTS showing proficiency in reading, speaking, listening and writing – B1 level or higher

How much does it cost to get a PCO licence?

In total, the PCO application will currently cost you around £700. Although, your particular circumstances may mean the price can vary. If you already have some of the relevant documentation, you may have less to pay in total. On top of this, if there are still courses that you must take to prepare for the various examinations, you will likely have to pay a larger sum.

Check out the table below which provides a rough guide on how much your PCO license will cost:

Licence application fee (this is non-refundable) £124
Grant of licence fee £186
Medical fee £80
Enhanced DBS check £56.85 (online) / £58.85 (paper)
Topographical assessment £40 (assessment only) / £75 (with training)
English language assessment £180 to £200
Foreign licence conversion £43
Post Office ‘Check and Send’ transfers £7.15 (unless paid via credit/debit card)

How long will it take to get a PCO licence?

You can expect it to take around three to four months to have your PCO license application processed. This makes it a good idea to start collating all the necessary documents as soon as you can, helping you move forward at a steady pace.

Renewing my PCO licence

How long does it take to renew my PCO licence?

If you wish to renew your PCO license, it will take a couple of weeks for TfL to process the renewal application. It’s highly recommended that you start to think about this at least one month before your PCO license is due to expire.

How do I renew my PCO licence?

TfL knows that the renewal process can take time for drivers. This is why they will send you an application pack around four months before your existing PCO license is due to expire. Once you receive the application pack from TfL, you should start collating the necessary documents as soon as possible.

You can save time and money by applying for a DBS check through the DBS update service. Additionally, use TfL’s official photo guidelines before taking a new photo of yourself.

At this stage, you should already have an existing TfL account. If you don’t already have one for any reason, visit tfl.gov.uk to create one. Once you have signed in into the site, you will be able to apply for a PCO license renewal as you are an ‘existing license holder’. You should be able to use your current driver’s license as your ID.

Can I renew my PCO licence offline?

If you would prefer not to use TfL’s online application form, you can always complete the paper-based application pack and return to TfL. If this is the case, make sure you check the form and update any details that are incorrect, provide your DVLA Share Code and an email address to receive updates on your application. Remember to sign the declaration box before you send the completed pack in the post.

What should I do with my expired PCO licence?

Your expired PCO license should be returned to TfL within seven days of the date it is due to expire on, as this will no longer be valid moving forwards.