Thinking Of Hiring A Minibus? What's The Legal Situation?
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Hiring a minibus for an outing is a great idea in theory, but there are some legal issues you should be aware of. Here is our complete guide to the legal side of minibus hire.

Are you allowed to drive a minibus?

This depends on how you intend to use the vehicle. If you intend to charge for its use you will need to apply for a permit or licence before you can legally drive the minibus (see below for more information). If you don't intend to charge for the use of the vehicle, not even for the running costs, then you can probably drive a minibus legally.

There are a few boxes that must be ticked:

  • you just be 21 or older
  • the vehicle must have 16 or less passenger seats
  • you must have had your driving licence for two or more years
  • if you are aged over 70 you must meet certain medical conditions known as 'Group 2' standards
  • the minibus should weigh less that 3.5 tonnes - unless it comes with appartus to help disabled passengers on and off the vehicle, in which case it may weigh up to 4.25 tonnes
  • it is forbidden to tow a trailer behind a minibus.

So, as long as you aren't charging for the use of the minibus, or receiving payment, most people would qualify to drive a minibus without a permit or licence.

Running costs

If you plan to charge your passengers, or any organisation, for the running costs (hire costs, fuel etc) of the minibus then you will need to get yourself a permit.

To qualify for a minibus permit there are some extra conditions to the ones above:

  • the costs charged must be equal to, or less then, the actual running costs of the vehicle – you are not allowed to make any profit
  • the organisation for which the bus is being used must be run by volunteers and must be of benefit to the community
  • only members of that organisation may use the vehicle, the general public must not be allowed access to it.

The penalty for driving a minibus without a permit, when a permit is required, is a hefty fine and points on your licence. There have been prosecutions as well, a minibus hire firm in Wolverhampton was recently hit with a fine for failing to apply for a permit for one of its drivers.

Making a profit from a minibus

If you intend to profit from driving the minibus you need to invest in a Passenger Carrying Vehicle licence or PCV. To get your PCV you need to be certified as medically fit and pass a theory and practical test.

So, in summary, if you are hiring a minibus for private use, or you are not intending to charge even running costs, you can drive one without a permit. If you want a charity organisation to cover the running costs, you can apply for a permit for free. If you want to profit, you need a licence, but this is relatively expensive and involved, so is not really worth doing for a one off minibus rental.

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