If you’ve taken the decision to work as a PCO driver, you have two key decisions to make. The first is whether to hire your PCO vehicle or participate in a PHV rent to buy scheme to own the vehicle outright after you’ve made your final monthly payment. These decisions are our bread and butter, and we’re all too happy to offer advice to help any drivers make the choice.
The second crucial decision you will need to make as a PCO driver is which of London’s many PHV companies to apply for work with. There are around a dozen taxi companies in the capital and it can be hard to choose which of them would be right for you. Since our main priority is matching drivers with the right car — and the right payment plan — we thought it would only be right to offer advice on finding the right company to work for as well. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of working for some of the major PHV operators in London.
Who are the main taxi companies in London?
At this point, Uber is effectively synonymous with taxi driving, and has become one of the most popular PHV companies in the world. In London alone, there are 3.5 million Uber users, which arguably gives you the largest pool of potential customers. The company inspects all vehicles used by its drivers, requiring them to be no more than ten years old. All HireBrid cars are compliant with Uber’s vehicle regulations.
Pros of driving for Uber
- Flexible Hours
Probably the biggest advantage of driving for Uber over a smaller or more local firm is the fact that you get to set your own hours every day. However, you should be sure that you are going to put in enough hours to make hiring your vehicle worthwhile.
- Easy Approval
As you will be self-employed, you won’t have to impress anybody at an interview before you can start driving for Uber, as long as you have a full driving license and no criminal convictions.
- Ability to Leverage Local Knowledge
Minicab drivers often have little say in where they get to go on a daily basis. By contrast, Uber drivers are able to choose where to park up and turn on their app every day. This means you can focus on areas where your local knowledge gives you a natural advantage over other drivers.
Cons of driving for Uber
- Higher commission
Having access to so many passengers comes at a cost — namely a 25% commission taken from all of your earnings. This is more than most other PHV firms, so although you’ll be more likely to find customers, you will only be earning 75% of your total fare. You are also responsible for any expenses you incur on your car.
Founded in Mumbai in 2010, Indian ride-share app Ola took ten years to reach London’s streets, arriving in February 2020. However, it has already registered 25,000 drivers and is making use of tech to improve the safety of drivers and passengers, as well as giving users a one-time PIN to enter once their car arrives to ensure that drivers are picking up the right people.
Pros of driving for Ola
- A range of driver plans
Unlike other ride-share platforms, Ola offers its drivers a choice of two ways to work for the company, depending on what best suits their needs. These plans are based on a weekly fee of £165 for Ola Ultimate and £385 for Ola OneStop, in return for a 0% commission rate, and a weekly guarantee.
- A safety-first approach
As noted above, Ola is very focused on safety for its users. This includes an advanced AI system which can detect when a vehicle is being used unusually, such as stopping too frequently on a journey, or taking an irregular route. If this is detected, Ola’s safety response staff will get in touch with the passenger and the driver to make sure that everything is as it should be.
Cons of driving for Ola
- Potentially longer hours
The snag of Ola’s driver plans is that they require a minimum number of hours per week – 50 for Ultimate, and 60 for OneStop and at least half of that time must be worked during peak hours. This could make it more difficult to achieve a comfortable work-life balance in an already busy job, and put excess pressure on drivers. At the very least, it could make Ola a less appealing employer for those looking to drive for a PHV company on a part-time basis.
The company has gone through several name changes since it was introduced (most notably Taxify), but since becoming Bolt in 2018, its fortunes have taken a huge turn for the better. Hailing from Estonia, Bolt has around 30,000 registered drivers since launching in London in June 2019.
Pros of driving for Bolt
- Good fare structure
According to Bolt, drivers can earn an average of £1200 a week, and only charge 15% commission on each journey.
- Concern for safety
One of Bolt’s USPs is its focus on keeping its passengers and drivers safe, encouraging a strong security culture amongst its users.
Cons of driving for Bolt
- Less flexible fare policy
According to recent reports, drivers who turn down more than half of their potential fares get “penalised”, with the potential to be banned from working for the company long-term.
- The app has had teething problems
As a relatively new rideshare app, Bolt is still working through some technical gremlins, with issues related to payment (for both drivers and passengers) being raised frequently.
Branding itself as “the only local ride-hailing app”, French startup Kapten is also gaining a considerable amount of traction in London. A report from February 2020 stated that the app has 1.1 million users in the capital, but its incentives for passengers and drivers alike see it set to become even more popular in the near future.
Pros of driving for Kapten
- Many fees are covered
From cleanup costs to congestion charge, Kapten is willing to shell out on some extra costs for its drivers, which many other PHV companies don’t. They also charge 15% commission, including VAT.
The app offers bonus payments to its best-rated drivers, encouraging them to seek those all-important five-star reviews.
Cons of driving for Kapten
- Fixed price rides
With the customer at the forefront of what they do, Kapten’s fares are calculated and given to riders before they confirm their journey, which may leave drivers comparatively out of pocket, even with lower commission fees.