Vehicle licensing

Private Hire FAQ's

Can I get a new licence for a private hire car?

Yes, there are no limits on the numbers of private hire cars that can be licensed, so provided your vehicle meets the Councils criteria you can obtain a licence.

How long is a licence issued for?

Licences are issued for one year or less if the vehicle MOT expires before.

How much does a licence cost?

Details of the costs of a new licence can be found on our Vehicle Licensing page.
Details of the costs for renewing a licence can be found on our Vehicle Licence Renewals page.
You can pay for your licence by credit card or debit card when you attend for your vehicle licensing appointment.

How old can a car be when it is licensed?

There is no age limit for cars being licensed for private hire purposes, either for the first grant of a licence or for the renewal of a licence providing the car remains in good condition and continues to pass the required MOT test and the Council vehicle inspection.  The only exception to this is for stretched limousines, which will not be licensed after they are 10 years old.  Licensed stretched limousines will not have licences either granted for the first time or renewed after they are 10 years old.

What sort of vehicle can be licensed for private hire purposes?

Saloon cars, hatchbacks, estates or people carriers can be licensed providing they have four doors.  Purpose-built London style hackney carriages are not permitted for licensing for private hire purposes.  Licensing of unusual vehicles will be considered on a case by case basis.

How many passengers can a private hire car carry?

The maximum number of passengers that a private hire car can be licensed to carry is 8.  The vehicle log book will specify the total number of persons that the vehicle can carry, the licence will be issued for this number minus the driver, to a maximum of 8.

Can I licence a left hand drive vehicle?

No, left hand drive vehicles are not permitted to be licensed on safety grounds.

How do I make an appointment to licence a private hire vehicle?

You can book an appointment on our Vehicle Licensing and Vehicle Licence Renewals pages. Please ensure you have read and understood the relevant sections of the website regarding licensing a vehicle prior to making an appointment.

How long will an appointment to licence a private hire vehicle take?

Appointments take around an hour.  It’s important that you arrive promptly for your appointment,  if you are late we may not be able to see you.  If you are 10 minutes or more late your appointment will be automatically cancelled and you will need to rebook online.

What documents/notices/equipment do I need to bring to my appointment to licence my private hire vehicle?

  • You must bring your current vehicle insurance policy, that names the licensed driver who is insured to drive the vehicle.  The insurance certificate must detail that the vehicle is insured for private hire.
  • MOT certificate issued within the last 30 days if the car is over a year old.
  • The DVLA vehicle registration document.  If you have recently bought the vehicle and don’t have the registration document you should bring the new keepers supplement and provide the registration document when you receive it from the DVLA.
  • Your vehicle must be taxed, officers will check the tax status of your car during the appointment
  • A supply of pre-printed receipts that can be given to customers at the conclusion of journeys where the date, the fare and the drivers badge number can be added.
  • No Smoking signs must be displayed on at least one near-side (passenger-side) and one off-side (drivers-side) window to be clearly visible to passengers before entering your vehicle.
  • A first aid kit suitable for use in vehicles, with the registration number of the vehicle permanently marked on it.
  • A 1kg (2.2lb) dry powder fire extinguisher must be provided, with the registration number of the vehicle permanently marked on it.  The extinguisher should be secured within the vehicle.
  • A bracket to mount the vehicle licence plate must be permanently fitted to the rear of the vehicle in advance of your appointment.  It must be able to be clearly seen and must not obstruct the number plate or lights of the vehicle.  If the vehicle is being licensed for the first time and a new mounting bracket is required one should be collected from the Council Depot at Wiggenhall Road during our drop in sessions, between 9am-10am or 3.30pm-4.30pm.
  • Door signs positioned in the centre of each of the front doors of the vehicle.  They must contain the words ‘Private Hire – Advance Bookings Only’ and the operator’s company name and/or telephone number.  No other wording is permitted.  The operator that you will be working for will supply you with door signs and these must be fitted prior to presenting your car for inspection.

What condition must my car be in for a licence to be issued?

  • Your car must be clean and in generally good condition.
  • It must have a mounting bracket for the licence plate to be fitted into permanently affixed to rear of the vehicle where it can be clearly seen and is not obstructing the number plate or lights.  If the vehicle is being licensed for the first time and a new mounting bracket is required one should be collected from the Council Depot at Wiggenhall Road during our drop in sessions, between 9am-10am or 3.30pm-4.30pm.
  • Paintwork should be bright and well matched, vehicles with dull or mismatched paintwork won’t be licensed. 
  • Vehicles should be generally free from rust, areas of rust or blemishes larger than 10mmx10mm will result in the vehicle not being able to be licensed.
  • Dents over 40mm in diameter and over 2mm deep or scratches over 300mm long  aren’t acceptable.
  • Poor or unsatisfactory repairs or modifications aren’t acceptable.
  • The vehicle interior, including the boot, should be clean, not excessively worn and odour free.
  • Only equipment or tools that relate to the maintenance of the vehicle should be stored in the boot and should be securely stowed.  Oil or petrol cans shall not be carried in any part of the vehicle.  You must ensure you have appropriate equipment and/or tools to change or repair a punctured tyre. 

Do I need to be able to provide receipts to customers?

Yes.  You must offer and be able to provide for each journey undertaken pre-printed receipts to customers where you can add the date, the fare and the drivers badge number.

Does my vehicle need to be fitted with a meter to calculate the fare for each journey?

No, there is no requirement for a meter to be fitted in your vehicle.  The fares you charge will be set by your operator, who allocates work to you, not by the Council.

Can I have a roof sign on my private hire car?

No, roof signs aren’t permitted on private hire cars.

Does my private hire car have to have door signs displayed?

Yes, signs must be positioned in the centre of each of the front doors of the vehicle.  They must contain the words ‘Private Hire – Advance Bookings Only’ and the operator’s company name and/or telephone number.  No other wording is permitted.  The operator that you will be working for will supply you with door signs and these must be fitted prior to presenting your car for inspection.

Can I display advertising on my private hire car?

Advertising can only be displayed on a private hire car with the written permission of the Council.  If you wish to seek permission for advertising you should e-mail licensing@watford.gov.uk.

Do I need a spare wheel?

You must ensure you have appropriate equipment and/or tools to change or repair a punctured tyre.  These tools/equipment must be in good condition and must be securely stowed in the vehicle.  Equipment or tools will be a spare wheel, a space saver wheel or a canister which fills the damaged type in order to affect a temporary repair to allow it to be driven to a garage for repair.

Is smoking allowed in a private hire car?

Smoking is never permitted in a licensed vehicle.  Even when the vehicle is not being used as a private hire car and no passengers are present, smoking is not permitted.  No smoking signs must be displayed on at least one near-side (passenger-side) and one off-side (driver-side) window to be clearly visible to passengers before entering your vehicle.

Are PDAs & Sat Navs allowed in private hire cars?

Yes, but the position of them must be approved by the Council and should not obstruct driver or passenger movement, comfort or vision.

I have lost/had stolen my vehicle licence plate, what do I need to do?

If a licence plate and/or mounting bracket is lost, stolen or damaged you should advise the licensing team as soon as is reasonably practicable by e-mail to licensing@watford.gov.uk Stolen plates should be reported to the police.  Upon receipt of an e-mail a member of the licensing team will make contact with you to arrange to provide you with a replacement.  There is a charge for replacement mounting brackets and plates, details of which can be found on our Vehicle Licensing page.

I have been involved in an accident in my vehicle, what do I need to do?

You must report any accident within 72 hours via our online form

I have moved house/changed address, what do I need to do?

You should tell us about your change of address as soon as is reasonably practicable via our online form. Please note that there is a charge for processing a request to change your address.

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