While ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft have taken up much of the market for personal transportation services, there are still plenty of professional chauffeurs who offer personalized service to their clients and passengers. States and municipalities have different licensing requirements for chauffeurs and livery cars, which may include trade licensing for drivers as well as special license plates for vehicles.
What Is a Chauffeur?
Chauffeurs are professional drivers. They transport people in a range of vehicles, including standard cars, vans and limousines. Passengers of chauffeurs prearrange their trips either directly with the chauffeur or the chauffeur’s employer or booking service.
Unlike taxi drivers, who typically seek out passengers who are hailing them on the street, or ride-share drivers, who respond immediately to requests through a phone app, chauffeurs are often aware in advance of when they are expected to pick up a passenger. In addition, the driver's compensation is pre-established and does not depend on a metered fare.
A chauffeur is also expected to offer a greater level of customer service. This is particularly true for chauffeurs who work for limousine companies, as these vehicles are often hired for special occasions such as weddings, proms and celebrations. Drivers typically open and hold doors for their customers and handle their baggage.
Licensing for Drivers
All drivers must have a state-issued driver's license. In addition, many states and some municipalities also require chauffeurs to have a livery license, meaning that the driver must qualify for a separate professional license.
Licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction but may require the applicant to undergo a criminal background check and a review of his driving record as well as to complete a short training course. In addition, the aspiring chauffeur may also be required to pass an exam about traffic laws, laws specific to the livery business and general knowledge of the street system in the area where he will be driving.
Vehicle Licensing Requirements
Some jurisdictions may require cars used by a limousine service to display a special livery license plate. Qualifying for one of these licenses depends on state and local law but may require you to pay a significant fee and undergo a special inspection. While it may be tempting to avoid getting one of these special licenses, there can be stiff penalties for failing to do so.
Another thing to consider is that airports and other public venues may refuse to allow an unlicensed vehicle into special lanes or sections for limousines and shuttle buses. This could negatively impact your ability to give quality customer service to your passengers.
Livery Car Companies
If you plan to start a limousine service, you will need to meet your state and municipal business licensing requirements. These requirements are in addition to vehicle and chauffeur licensing. As with other types of licenses, the requirements for obtaining a business license vary by state. You may be required to supply evidence of adequate insurance coverage as part of the licensing process.
The Ride-Share Alternative
Some ride-share companies offer their customers the option of receiving rides in upgraded vehicles. If you are interested in the private transportation industry and have access to high-end vehicles, you may be able to qualify for these programs with ride-share companies. Depending on where you are located, you may not even need to obtain a special license for yourself as the driver or even for the car itself.
If you do opt to participate in a ride-share program’s upgraded vehicle option, be aware that the standards for your vehicle may be very high. For example, it may need to be either a very new model car or an authentic vintage vehicle. It must be in pristine condition, and the ride-share service may be very specific about the make of the vehicle as well as its manufacturer.
Lainie Petersen lives in Chicago and is a full-time freelance writer. She has a long career in business and media, primarily in marketing, online content and regulatory compliance. She holds a master's degree in library and information science from Dominican University.