Almost every job comes with its advantages and disadvantages, taxi driving is no exception. If taxi driving is a consideration you’ve made, they you will want to know ‘Is taxi driving a good job?’
Let’s take a look at many of the benefits of being a taxi driver, followed by some of the disadvantages.
Being Your Own Boss
Being your own boss is an ambition that many have. In fact, many leave the 9-to-5 security of their current job to become self-employed. The attraction of being in control of your own destiny and not having a boss breathing down your neck all day will see many people enter the world of self-employment, even at the expense of a salary cut.
Almost all taxi drivers are self-employed and as a result, can work the hours they want to work. In most cases however, this may only apply to those that do the job to earn a little ‘pocket money’. In reality, most taxi drivers will need to earn a decent income to survive and will need to work when work is available. Inevitably that will rule the 9-5 hours of work out as evenings and late night ‘pub’ times are the most financially rewarding.
In busy areas, you may be able to acquire work during the day which may alleviate the necessity to work nights. Though this depends on the saturation point – or the amount of other taxi drivers in your district after the same hours of work.
In all likelihood, becoming a taxi driver will require that you work unsociable hours to include pub / club closing times and weekends in order to gain a reasonable income. If you have a partner, or children, unsociable hours may have a detrimental effect on family life.
Hours Per Week
Again, being your own boss this is down to you. Typically however, you’ll be looking at quite a long working week often within the region of 60 hours or more. A taxi, or otherwise known as hackney carriage (black cab) can be flagged down in the street or wait in dedicated taxi bays for prospective clients. Private hire (minicab) can only take pre-booked clients often arranged via an operator.
Whether a taxi cab or private hire, a certain amount of your working day is likely to involve waiting around for work. You’ll also spend time getting to and from locations to pick up passengers, all of which is unpaid. In areas where the saturation point of taxi drivers has been reached or exceeded, some drivers can see 60 to 80 hours per week in order to obtain a reasonable income.
If you are considering becoming a taxi driver, talk initially to your local council regarding the amount of taxis within your district and the availability of work to the individual. Initial and ongoing expenses of taxi driving are often high. Expenses vary depending on many factors, though the information provided below.
Expenses of a Taxi Driver
Expenses (outgoings) vary considerably for each and every taxi driver depending on their particular circumstances. Expenses quoted below include daily, weekly, monthly and yearly outgoings and are based on the typical minimum amounts and in some situations, are likely to be higher.
- The vehicle
A taxi driver (hackney carriage) may wish to purchase a vehicle or rent. Used vehicles start from over £5,000 and increase depending on mileage and condition, whilst new cost around £40,000. Renting a hackney carriage will cost around £170+ per week. Packages where insurance is included can be obtained (though will cost more), else you may wish to source insurance yourself. In a black cab (hackney carriage) it is compulsory to have a taximeter fitted. These can be purchased outright, previously used for around £100+, purchased new for a couple of hundred + or rented.
If you intend on becoming a private hire (minicab), then if you already own a vehicle, then this may be sufficient providing it is under 10 years old. If you do not own a vehicle and wish to hire, taxi rank operators who own a fleet of vehicles will charge you a weekly hire fee which include insurance. Weekly rates vary depending on location and company, but will typically be between £150 to £250.
Most taxis and private hire have radios where the operator makes contact to inform them of the various runs throughout the day (or night). Only taxis (black cabs) can pick up passengers who flag them down. In regards to this work, a radio isn’t required, though is often used for pre-booked appointments. As private hire can only take pre-booked passengers, a radio is a must. Radios are hired from the business you are associated with on a weekly basis. Radio fees vary considerably depending on the company and location. Expect to pay anything from £100 to £200+ per week.
- Vehicle Insurance
Taxi or private hire car insurance is something you’ll need if going it alone. Costs as with normal car insurance are related to your location and whether you have any motoring convictions and driving experience. As a taxi driver, you will clearly spend a considerable amount of your time on the road. The more time you spend driving, the higher risk you are to insurance companies. Taxi insurance starts off expensive and goes up from there. Expect to pay within the region of at least £2,000 per annum if not considerably more. Younger drivers will be hit worst due to the lack of driving experience and will be either hit by extremely high premiums or will be unable to obtain insurance at all.
As with normal car insurance, payments can be spread monthly, though this method incurs interest rates of up to 10% – quite a large sum if your premium is £3,000 per year. Monthly instalments may be your only option, or you can hire a vehicle from an operator where their weekly charge will cover the insurance.
- Daily Fuel Costs
This is of course relative to how many miles you cover each day, the type of roads frequented, they way in which you drive, how much fuel your engine uses per mile and the current cost of fuel per litre. Taxi drivers will typically spend anywhere between £30 to £50 each day.
- Initial expenses are dependent on the council you wish to work under. Most however require a taxi driving test and a knowledge test of the local roads and routes.
- Taximeter tests to ensure your metre is accurate (if you have one).
- As with all vehicles over three years of age, an MOT is required. Taxis and private hire vehicles may also be subject to additional local council inspections, which will incur additional fees.
- There are also ongoing taxi driving licence fees (plus an initial application fee which includes checks) and vehicle licence fees. Licence fees are ongoing and current prices can be found on your local councils website.
- Security camera equipment is a necessity for some, especially those working graveyard shifts who are likely to experience intoxicated passengers.
- Being self-employed means you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Personal insurance against injury or sickness may be an option to consider.
Salary of a Taxi Driver
Anyone considering entering this career wants to know if taxi driving pays well. There is no specific answer for this as there’s many variables involved. Circumstances that can determine your salary can include:
- whether you wish to be a taxi or private hire
- whether you are renting a vehicle or already own
- certain areas may charge higher fares than other
- weekly expenses such as operator fees (radio hire and supply of passengers)
- car insurance can be expensive depending on location, age and vehicle
- vehicle repairs and wear and tear
- current cost of fuel
- amount of hours worked
On average when taking the above into account, you can expect to earn anything between £15,000 to £30,000 pa on an average 40 hour week. Location, therefore fare charges being a factor, some drivers may well exceed £30,000 pa if they work long hours and extend their work through late evenings, nights and weekends. Long and unsociable working hours are often required to not only meet the ongoing expenses of a taxi driver, but to come out the other end with a reasonable salary.
Day-to-Day Life of a Taxi Driver
You will of course be dealing with people, sometimes many people each day, where on the whole, will be friendly and polite. You don’t necessarily need to be a people person to be a taxi driving, but there’s a few skills that you will need. The majority of customers will be friendly, easy to deal with and offer a good chat and laugh. There are those however that may provide a challenging situation that you must be prepared for and and know how to deal with appropriately.
We all have a bad day from time-to-time and there are those that may use a taxi driver to vent their frustration on. No matter how obnoxious a passenger may be, it’s important to try and defuse a situation rather than aggravate it. It’s far better to get a passenger where they need to be and get paid rather than see a situation escalate.
Late nights will bring out the drunks and possible drug users. These passengers may be unpredictable physically and emotionally can change in an instant. Remain firm, but relaxed, polite and calm. It is of benefit, especially during late hours to have cameras fitted internally to record events should any situation get out-of-hand. Video evidence proving you are clear of any wrong-doing is priceless.
Meeting lots of different and interesting people is often a highlight of taxi drivers day. However, driving for many hours each day may to some become monotonous. You may also find that ‘small talk’ will involve several repeated discussions about things like the weather.