PCO car hire is a term that you’ll hear used extensively if you’re looking for a flexible way to earn an income with Uber or other on-demand driving apps. But what do you really need to know? What are the pros and cons? How can you get started?
With the web full of information from different sources, often one contradicting the other, it’s easy to get frustrated. Don’t worry, you’re in safe hands. At Splend, we’re PCO car hire experts. We’ll help you manage the business side of things so you can focus on earning.
Take a look at our guide designed to answer all your questions related to PCO car hire.
Table of contents
1. The basics of private hire driving
What is a PCO licence?
PCO stands for the Public Carriage Office, which is a department of Transport for London (TfL).
The PCO licence is an essential document that allows you to drive for Uber or other rideshare apps in London.
Important: its official name is Private Hire Driver Licence, but most people simply call it a PCO licence. Don’t let this confuse you.
What does PCO car mean?
PCO cars are Uber-ready four-door cars and minivans. In other words, they meet all TfL requirements for personal transport, and have a valid Private Hire Vehicle Licence.
The PHV licence is the same as the PCO licence, but for your car—it’s proof that TfL has approved the car for private hire use.
Do I need PCO for Uber?
Yes, all rideshare drivers in London must have a valid PCO licence, regardless of the ridesharing platform.
Who can apply for a PCO licence?
Anyone who has a valid UK driver’s licence with at least three years of driving experience and the right to work in the UK can apply for a PCO licence.
You’ll also need other documents to apply, but you can acquire these in a relatively short time. Jump to the full list of requirements.
What does a PCO licence look like?
Your PCO licence is a plastic card the size of a standard credit card and includes its serial number and expiry date, as well as your basic personal information and your photo.
How long is a PCO licence valid?
Your PCO licence is valid for three years. Here’s how you can renew it.
2. You need a car
What car can I use for PCO driving?
To get a PHV licence, your car must meet the following criteria:
- Euro 6 petrol or diesel engine, or a Euro 4 petrol-hybrid engine
- Four independently opening doors
- Good condition with no cosmetic damage
- No commercial branding
You don’t need to be the owner of the car you use for PCO driving. As long as it has a valid PHV licence and hire and reward insurance, you’re good to go.
What is PCO car hire?
Keeping your car within parameters and the paperwork up to date is a lot of admin work. It demands time and attention that you’d certainly rather focus on what you do best: driving.
PCO car hire is a solution that gives you the peace of mind that you and your car are always ready to work.
Your car is part of a PCO fleet, with an entire team dedicated to keeping things up to spec, so you can keep your eyes on the road and your mind set on success.
The pros & cons of PCO car hire
Most people think on-demand drivers use their own cars for Uber and other rideshare apps. While this is indeed possible, many drivers rent their private hire cars. Let’s see the pros and cons of PCO car hire.
- Minimum commitment – You can change your mind and hand back the car on more favourable terms
- All-inclusive – You have the PHV licence, insurance, and most of the routine maintenance, so you can focus on driving
- You don’t own the car – Although you can opt for Rent to buy and have the same benefits while putting your weekly payments toward ownership
- Limited range of car models and colours
- The age of the car can vary depending on the car provider
3. How to get a PCO licence
What are the requirements for a PCO licence?
You must meet these requirements to apply for a PCO licence:
- 21 years or older
- Have a full DVLA driving licence that’s at least three years old
- Have the right to live and work in the UK
You’ll also need to acquire these documents:
- DBS ‘enhanced’ criminal records check
- Proof from your GP that you’re medically fit
- Topographical skills certificate from an accredited assessment centre
- English language certificate
How do I apply for a PCO licence?
Once you have all the documents listed above, you can submit your PCO licence application to TfL. Register here, sign in, and follow the instructions.
Do I need an English test for PCO licence?
Yes, TfL requires proof of your English Language Qualification as of September 2020. Here’s a list of certificates they accept:
- UK GCSE/O level (or equivalent) certificate – grades A* to G
- UK AS-Level – A-level certificate
- UK NVQ*/BTEC/City & Guilds qualification – along with confirmation that the qualification is equivalent to GCSE or above (e.g. Blue Badge Guide qualification)
- UK BA Hons, BSc Hons degree or higher (Master’s, PhD)
- UK HNC/HND qualification
- SELT certificate, issued by Trinity College London or IELTS showing proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening – B1-level or higher
How much does it cost to get a PCO licence?
A PCO application costs around £700 in total, but bear in mind that this may vary by quite a lot depending on your particular situation. You’ll obviously have less to pay if you already have some of the necessary documents, however, if you need courses to prepare for your assessments or fail an exam, you may need to reach deeper into your pocket.
The table below should give you an idea of how much your PCO licence will cost you at the end of the day:
|Licence application fee (non-refundable)||£124|
|Grant of licence fee||£186|
|DBS check||£56.85 (online) / £58.85 (paper)|
|Topographical assessment||~£40 (assessment only) / ~£75 (with training)|
|English language assessment||~£180 – £200|
|Foreign licence conversion||£43|
|*Post Office ‘Check and Send’ transfers||£7.15 (unless paid via credit/debit card)|
Check our guide on how to become a certified Uber driver
How long does it take to get my PCO licence?
Start pulling the documents together as soon as possible, because it generally takes 12 to 16 weeks to fully process a PCO licence application.
4. Renewing your PCO licence
How long does it take to renew my PCO licence?
It does take a few weeks until TfL processes your renewal application. It’s best to think ahead and start the process at least one month before your PCO licence expires.
How do I renew my PCO licence?
This takes time, and TfL knows it. That’s why they send you an application pack four months before your PCO licence expires. Once you have your application pack, you can start collecting the necessary paperwork.
- Apply for a DBS check – save time and money and sign up to the DBS update service if you haven’t done so already
- Take a new photo of yourself – use TfL’s official photo guidelines
You should already have a TfL account, but if you don’t, head to tfl.gov.uk and register. Once signed in, you can apply for licence renewal as an “existing licence holder” using your driver’s licence as your ID.
Can I renew my PCO licence offline?
You can also sign up the old-fashioned way, by completing the application pack and sending it back to TfL. In this case, check the form and change incorrect details, provide your DVLA Share Code and an email address for updates, and sign the declaration before posting the completed pack.
What do I do with my expired PCO licence?
You should return your PCO licence to TfL within seven days of its expiry date.
We enable people to make money by driving. Our vision is a future where every on-demand driver can be successful.
We are Rent to buy specialists. Don’t take our word for it—drivers rate us excellent on Trustpilot. We can set you up with a brand-new or new-model car on a Rent to buy plan, plus we provide the training and support you need to become an Uber driver that’s more profitable, safer, and fulfilled.