Motorists have been warned that a seemingly simple way to make a little Christmas cash could cost them dearly.
With Christmas party season in full swing, people looking for designated drivers and the cost of living crisis biting, one car insurance firm is warning that using lift sharing to earn a little extra money could land motorists with a fine of up to £2,500 and leave them uninsured.
It’s common to offer a lift to friends and family and there are hundreds of local groups on social media that help arrange car sharing in UK towns and cities, where people offer a ride home to strangers in exchange for payment.
While it’s okay to give lifts to other people and to ask them to contribute to fuel costs, James Armstrong, CEO of temporary car insurance company Veygo, warns that if you’re doing it for profit it can have serious consequences.
He explains: “Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, so-called ‘taxi touting’, where an unlicensed vehicle is used as a taxi in a public place to carry passengers in exchange for money, is illegal. If you’re caught by the police, it’s considered a Level 4 offence and you could be fined £2,500 if found guilty. This would apply to any driver who is essentially using their private vehicle as a taxi service, making a profit, and not having the required taxi licences.”
While taxi touting covers soliciting for fares in public, anyone pre-arranging lifts also has to be careful to stay on the right side of the law.
Armstrong added: “In the case of offering the occasional lift to help people you know to get home, you need to be aware of the Public Passenger Vehicle Act. For the lift to be legal, it must be organised in advance and the money you take from passengers should never be more than the running costs, such as fuel.
“If you’re found guilty of making a profit from lifts in an unlicensed car or van, you could also invalidate your insurance and be liable for the costs of repair and legal fees if you are involved in an accident. According to the Association of British Insurers, your insurance cover will not be affected if your passengers contribute towards your journey costs (including fuel, vehicle depreciation and associated vehicle running costs), as long as lifts are given in a vehicle seating eight passengers or less. It does, however, recommend that if you are part of a car or ride-sharing scheme you check the terms and conditions carefully and speak to your insurer to check you have the right level of cover.”
Armstrong also encouraged anyone thinking of using an unlicensed ride share to consider their own safety, commenting: “If you call or hail a licensed taxi, you can be confident that they have passed stringent checks and undergone criminal history checks. However, if you get put in touch with a friend of a friend over WhatsApp or reply to an offer for a lift in a Facebook group, you may be putting your safety at risk. So, always stop and think before you decide about a lift and if in doubt, organise a way of getting home with a licensed taxi driver or someone you know and trust.”