Hackney Carriage or Private Hire?  What is the difference?

Photo of a black cabGenerally, the customer goes to find a Hackney Carriage, but a Private Hire car comes to find the customer, but be assured both types of vehicle are regularly tested by the Council for comfort and mechanical safety.Here are some points to remember:

Hackney CarriagesPhoto of Hackney Carriage roof sign

  • Hackney Carriages can be found at various locations in the City of Bath and in some of the surrounding towns.
  • They normally ply their trade from specific locations called “taxi ranks” and are available to be hired immediately. You can also hail a Hackney Carriage as it drives along, just stick out your arm and attempt to attract the drivers attention, if the vehicle is available it should stop and pick you up. Never step out in front of a moving vehicle.
  • The vehicles themselves can be normal cars or minibuses as well as the more traditional London or Black Cab which are famous throughout the world and easily recognisable as taxis.
  • All Hackney Carriages are equipped with a taximeter which will clearly show how much you should pay.
  • Hackney Carriage fares are set by the Council and it is illegal for the driver to charge more.
  • A map showing Hackney Carriage ranks is available from Licensing Services.
  • Hackney Carriages, are all required to display a sign on the roof of the vehicle with the word TAXI clearly displayed.  All licenced Hackney Carriages also display exterior vehicle identification “plates” on the front and rear of the vehicle.  These “plates” are white in colour and show the vehicle licence number, the expiry date of the licence and the vehicle registration number.

Private Hire CarsPhoto of Private Hire roof sign 

  • Private Hire cars (sometimes called mini-cabs) are especially useful if you require a door to door service.
  • Private Hire cars must be pre-booked either by telephone or by calling at the office of a private hire operator, they cannot stop in the street and pick you up and they cannot be hailed in the street.
  • It is illegal for a Private Hire to take a journey which has not been pre-booked, or to accept a fare by being hailed.
  • All Private Hire cars are saloon, estates or mini-buses with a maximum of eight seats.
  • The majority of Private Hire cars use taximeters to calculate the fare, however not all of them do.
  • The fares are set by the Private Hire Operator and are not controlled by the Council. You can ask for a quote in advance.
  • Private Hire companies can be found in the local phonebook, or through your hotel or guest house.
  • Private Hire cars also display a distinctive roof sign. The roof sign is a bright yellow half moon with the Private Hire licence number and says “ADVANCE BOOKING ONLY”.
  • Private Hire vehicles are clearly marked with identification plates on the front and rear exterior of the vehicle. These “plates” are yellow in colour and show the vehicle licence number, the expiry date of the licence and the vehicle registration number.

Hackney Carriage and Private Hire DriversPhoto of a taxi meter 

  • Anyone who drives one of these vehicles must apply to the Council for a licence to drive Hackney Carriages or Private Hire vehicles.
  • The Council carries out a series of stringent tests before a driver is granted a licence.
  • This means that you can rest assured that any person driving a licenced vehicle in the area is safe and that they should behave in a courteous and professional manner.
  • REMEMBER you are paying for a service, the driver should be courteous and helpful, particularly if you have luggage or shopping.
  • DON’T accept rude or unhelpful service.
  • All drivers are required to wear an identification badge on their upper body when hired or available for hire, they are also required to display an identification badge inside the vehicle.


If you have a complaint regarding any licenced vehicle or driver you should contact the Council Licensing Enforcement Officer on 01225 477689.

If you wish to complain always try to obtain the following information which should be readily available once you know what to look for:

  • Drivers name or badge number (badge worn by driver and displayed inside car).
  • Vehicle Licence number (displayed on roof signs and identification plates front,  rear and interior of vehicle).

If you suspect that you are being overcharged, but do not want to confront the driver, politely ask for a receipt at the end of the journey and report the matter to the Council on 01225 477689.

The driver MUST give you a receipt if you request one.

Can I be refused?

The normal rule is that a driver cannot refuse a fare, however sometimes there are exceptional circumstances when he/she can. 

Reasons for refusing a fare include:

  • The passenger is drunk, violent or is likely to cause a risk to the driver.
  • There are too many passengers for the vehicle.
  • The passenger has takeaway food.
  • The passenger has luggage which will not fit in the vehicle or may cause a safety hazard.
  • Your journey ends outside of the district of the Council.
  • It is illegal for a Hackney Carriage driver to refuse a fare because it is too short.
  • In any case the driver must clearly and politely explain why.

Travel for the Disabled Person

Hackney Carriages with access for disabled persons can be found on the taxi ranks in Bath. 

However, if you require a door to door service a list of owner/operator's telephone numbers is available.

Lost Property

All Bath and North East Somerset drivers are advised to register all items they find in their cars with the local Police.

If your journey was pre-booked with a Private Hire Operator, then they will have their own lost property scheme and you should contact the relevant company to report your loss giving details of the relevant booking.

If you have left any possessions in a Hackney Carriage that you have travelled in please register the loss with the Police by using the facility on their webpage at https://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/advice/property-and-money/lost-and-found-property/#/

If you have lost property in a licensed Hackney Carriage that you hired from a taxi rank then you can also contact the licensing team via email at licensing@bathnes.gov.uk providing as much detail as possible.   It may not be possible to recognise the vehicle that your property was left in without identifying factors such as the licence number of the taxi or driver.

You are also advised to register the lost property at  https://www.immobilise.com/  

Further Information

For further information relating to taxis please see the main taxi page


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