The taxi industry is broadly categorised into two segments: private hire vehicles (PHVs) and public hire taxis, commonly known as “black cabs” or “hackney carriages”.

Both serve the essential purpose of providing transport services, but they operate under different regulations, have distinct operational frameworks, and cater to diverse customer needs. This article will explore the differences between these two types of taxis, focusing on what each can and can’t do, the benefits they offer, and how insurance costs differ between them.

What Each Can and Can’t Do

There is quite the difference between both private hire and public hire taxi’s.

Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs)

  • Booking Requirements: Private hire taxis cannot be hailed directly off the street. They must be pre-booked through a licensed private hire operator, either via phone, app, or in-person at a designated office.
  • Pick-up Restrictions: They are restricted to picking up passengers only when a booking has been made, not from taxi ranks or by being flagged down.
  • Identification: These vehicles are less conspicuously marked than public hire taxis, often requiring only a small licensing badge or sticker.

Public Hire Taxis

  • Hailing: Unlike PHVs, public hire taxis can be hailed directly from the street and can pick up passengers from designated taxi ranks.
  • Availability: They are typically more readily available in urban areas and can be flagged down anywhere within the area they are licensed to operate.
  • Identification: They are highly visible with a uniform design (like the traditional black cab in London) and a prominent ‘taxi’ light on top.

Benefits of Each Taxi Type

Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs)

  • Cost: Typically, PHVs tend to be cheaper than public hire taxis because their operating costs are lower.
  • Convenience: Booking in advance allows for a planned and assured pickup, which is convenient for airport transfers or scheduled appointments.
  • Variety: Private hire companies often offer a broader range of vehicle options, from standard cars to luxury and specialty vehicles.

Public Hire Taxis

  • Flexibility: The ability to hail a taxi on the street is particularly beneficial for spontaneous travel needs or in areas where mobile signal or internet access is poor.
  • Trust and Safety: Public hire drivers undergo rigorous checks and their vehicles must meet specific standards, which many passengers find reassuring.
  • Speed: In busy areas, it might be faster to catch a hackney carriage than to wait for a pre-booked private hire vehicle.

Insurance Costs

Differences in Insurance Costs

  • Higher for Public Hire: Insurance for public hire taxis is generally higher than insurance for private hire taxis. This is because public hire taxis operate more extensively in congested urban areas and are available for immediate hire, increasing the risk of accidents and damage.
  • Factors Affecting Premiums: Key factors influencing insurance premiums include the area of operation, the vehicle type, and the driver’s personal insurance history. Public hire taxis typically face higher premiums due to their constant availability and the higher risk associated with street pickups.
  • Specialised Insurance Providers: Both types of taxis require specialised commercial taxi insurance, which covers not only the vehicle and driver but also provides for passenger liability.

Which Is Best?

Choosing between a private hire and a public hire taxi often depends on the specific needs of the traveller.

For those planning ahead or seeking a more cost-effective ride, private hire vehicles are ideal. In contrast, public hire taxis offer unmatched immediacy and flexibility for on-the-go travel.

Understanding these differences helps passengers make informed decisions and can also guide new drivers in the industry when deciding which license to pursue. As the UK continues to advance in its transportation offerings, the lines between private and public hire may evolve, but the core distinctions are likely to remain significant for both users and providers.