Taxi Licensing – advice for customers 

Any hackney carriages (taxis) or private hire vehicles (minicabs) that wish to operate in Test Valley must be licensed by us. Separate licences will be required for vehicles, drivers, and operating companies. 

The purpose of licensing is to ensure the safety of the public, by checking that the drivers are fit and proper, and that the vehicles they drive are safe, suitable, and reliable. 

Potentially, any vehicle and driver that can be hired to carry up to eight passengers for reward will be required to be licensed, subject to a small number of exemptions. The majority of chauffeur driven hire cars, executive hire vehicles, stretch limousines, and small school transport vehicles are required to be licensed, in addition to vehicles used for more general taxi work. 

Legally, hackney carriages and private hire vehicles are treated as two separate entities, and the way in which they can operate is very different. We are required to set the standards and conditions that apply to each type of vehicle, which are generally used to give each a different appearance. Both types of vehicles must display plastic 'plates' issued by us on the back of the vehicle. White plates are issued to hackney carriages, and yellow plates to private hire vehicles. Drivers of both types of vehicles must also wear their licence 'badge' while working. In Test Valley all drivers' badges are printed on laminated white cards. The table below summarises some of the main differences between the two types of licensed vehicles. 



Hackney Carriage 

Private Hire Vehicle 


Motorised vehicle with capacity for up to eight passengers. Licences originally issued prior to 2012 can be for any type of vehicle e.g. a saloon car or MPV. Licences issued from 2012 onwards must be for wheelchair accessible vehicles. Only hackney carriages may use the word 'taxi' or 'cab' on the vehicle or in advertising. 

Motorised vehicle, with capacity for up to eight passengers. Saloon cars, MPVs, or minibuses may all be licensed as private hire vehicles. 

Purpose-built taxis (such as traditional London taxis) cannot be licensed for private hire. 



Displays a white rectangular plastic plate on the back of the vehicle. 

Displays a yellow rectangular plastic plate on the back of the vehicle.  
Some vehicles may be exempt from having to display the plate. 

Roof signs 

Must display a roof sign bearing the word 'Taxi'. 

No roof signs permitted. 

Other signs 

May display signage anywhere on the vehicle including third party commercial advertising. 

May only display the operator’s name, and contact details on either the sides or front and rear of the vehicle. No commercial advertising permitted. 


Hackney carriages must have meters fitted and may not charge more than the maximum fares set by the Council. 

There are no maximum fares. All fares are set by the operator and should be agreed at the time of booking. 

Taxi ranks 

Hackney carriages are entitled to use taxi ranks around the borough, where they can sit and wait for a fare. 

Private hire vehicles cannot use ranks. 


Hackney carriages can be hailed, or flagged down, anywhere in the borough. 

Private hire vehicles cannot be hailed or flagged down. 


Hackney carriages can undertake pre-booked work. 

Private hire vehicles can only undertake pre-booked work through a licensed operator. 

Contract work 

Hackney carriages can undertake contract work. 

Private hire vehicles can undertake contract work through a licensed operator. 


The information on the plates and badges is very important if you wish to make a complaint as it is the best way to identify a particular driver or car. Each plate on a vehicle has an individual number, as do the drivers' badges. The vehicle plates also state the maximum number of passengers permitted in the vehicle, and this number should never be exceeded as it may void the motor insurance for the journey. Please be aware that it is very dangerous to get into an unlicensed vehicle for a journey that you pay for. You could not guarantee the safety of the vehicle or driver and the driver will not be insured in the event of an accident. If a Private Hire Vehicle picks you up without a booking, they will also not be insured and are acting illegally. 


How can I make a complaint? 

If you have a complaint against a driver or an operator, we advise you first to contact that person. If that does not work, please contact us. Please note we will only investigate complaints if they are submitted in writing or via email 

For information on safe use of taxis please see our Be Taxi Safe page. 

Remember: If your complaint relates to a potential road traffic infringement, such as alleged "road rage", speeding or dangerous driving your complaint must be made to Hampshire Constabulary in the first instance via this link. If a driver is subsequently convicted of a motoring offence, then the Borough Council will use that information to decide whether a driver should remain licensed. 

Information on proprietors/operators with licensed wheelchair accessible vehicles appears in the List of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles. The inclusion of any details here is not an endorsement of any proprietor or operator by the Council.