Limousine Law

Limousine Law

Is the limo you intend to hire legal and safe?

The world in which we live is constantly improving safety standards in all forms of life, including transport. Limousine safety is not exempt. In fact, it is high up on the authorities’ agenda to make sure the law is obeyed.

Hiring a limousine in the United Kingdom should be an enjoyable and fun experience. You, as the consumer, should be sure that the limo operator, limousine and chauffeur you book are all fully licensed and insured (for your own safety and peace of mind), as that is an integral part of their professional responsibility. But, the more you know, the better prepared you are.

Please be assured that 1st Event Limousines is fully licenced by Ministry for Transport Operators Licence for our 16 passenger carrying limousines and Local Council Private Hire Licence for our 8 passenger carrying limousines.

The Law Regarding Limousines… why should you care?

A special anniversary, or a BIG birthday? Your wedding perhaps? Or are you planning your school prom? Whatever your reason for hiring a stretch limousine, it should be a ‘stress-free’ and fun occasion. But in the midst of organising your special event, you should be aware of some very important LAW and SAFETY issues concerning limousine hire, which some UK limousine operators have yet to achieve. Knowing the requirements will ensure you don’t have your occasion ruined through someone else’s fault and / or errors. Currently, it is estimated that as many as 40% of all stretch limousines available for hire throughout the UK are incorrectly licensed, or even possibly not licensed at all! The organisations running these limousines should (and usually do), know the law and the associated required standards – that’s their job. Nevertheless, it appears that the less scrupulous have elected to use what some would claim as “grey areas” to circumvent licensing. These “grey areas” have now been made much clearer and as far as 1st Event Limousines is concerned, there is no reason why a limousine operator should not be operating legally.

Limousine Law – in short


All eight (or less) passenger seat stretch limousines should be in possession of one or the other following VOSA certifications:

  • Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) certification, if the limousine was registered with the DVLA prior to April 28th 2009 or
  • Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) certification, if the limousine was registered with the DVLA on or after 28th April 2009
  • Both the above certifications are issued by VOSA, once the limousine concerned has passed their requirements and physical examination. Section 3 – Special Items – on the front cover of the DVLA registration document (V5C) should show whether or not either SVA or IVA certification has been granted. If it doesn’t, then contact the DVLA for clarification before you make your booking

Please note:

There is an exception to the above two statements. Some operators have in the past, obtained what are known as “O” licenses to run eight seat limousines. These licenses are issued by the Department for Transport and are really meant for those vehicles carrying nine of more passengers. Whilst these licenses may currently be allowed for running eight seat limousines, the Department for Transport has stated that it will not re-issue these licenses to operators who run up stretch limousines of up to eight passenger seats.

Licensing as it should be

A license to operate as a Private Hire and Reward vehicle must be obtained from the operator’s local council. Without this, the limousine cannot operate as a business vehicle, with the exception of the following paragraph.

Currently, there are some genuine circumstances where a limousine licensed by a local council will not have either VOSA’s SVA or IVA certification. However, as long as the limousine operator can show you their valid and current operator’s license, you have nothing with which to be concerned. Nevertheless, never be afraid to ask for proof of SVA or IVA status as well as sight of the Private Hire and Reward licence.

As mentioned earlier, you may be told that the limousine runs under an ‘O’ licence and this is currently possible, as a number of limo operators have been licensed historically under this scheme.These points are important, as if an accident did occur with passengers in the limousine, the operator’s insurance would be deemed to be invalid if the limousine is not operated within the law.

Contrary to popular belief, not all Lincoln Town Car stretch limousines have SVA or IVA approval.

Furthermore, if you are offered a European-manufactured donor vehicle based stretch limousine, be it either left or right-hand drive in the “up to eight passenger seat” category, it would never have passed either VOSA’s SVA or an IVA examination – it simply isn’t allowed, unless a very much more stringent VOSA certification has been obtained, which to date, has never happened in the UK. So, knowing that, would you now hire one?

If you are unsure about any aspect of the limousine you wish to hire, simply call your local Licensing Officer at your local council for clarification.

9 to 16 Passenger Seat Limousines

This class of stretch limousines generally carries 9 to 16 fare-paying passengers. These vehicles are typically the big H2 Hummers etc. Again, there is an exception – there are apparently two limousines in the UK who are able to legally carry 18 passengers. Again, ask for proof if you come across this.

VOSA Certification

To operate legally in this category, there are NO exceptions and all these limousines require VOSA’s COIF (Certificate OF Initial Fitness).

In simple terms, this class of stretch limousine comes into the Public Service Vehicle (PSV) category and as such, stretch limos, included but not necessarily limited to, are typically the H2 Hummers, Ford Expeditions etc. EVERY ONE MUST BE IN POSSESSION OF COIF CERTIFICATION after modification to a limo interior has been carried out. Without a COIF representing the current style of vehicle, they are not legal to be used as a means of hiring and reward.


These vehicles fall outside the remit of the local authorities but still require to be correctly licensed and it is the Department for Transport who assume this responsibility. There are two levels of licensing:

  • Restrictive ‘O’ licence – granted for an operator operating 1 or 2 limos of this category
  • ‘O’ licence – granted for an operator operating 3 or more limos of this category.

Conclusion – for the consumer

When you hire a limousine for your next special occasion, make sure it is correctly licensed. If you are in any doubt, don’t just take the word of the operator when he tells you the limo you want can seat all 14 of your friends with no problem! Ask for proof as described earlier.The responses will put your mind at rest – one way or the other. If an operator has nothing to hide, why would he / she refuse to answer your questions and / or refuse to provide you with evidence of their status?

Conclusion – for the operator

The procedures for certification and licensing for any limo, from one passenger seat upwards are very similar. It’s just that the level of certification changes and the body issuing the licences also changes.

VOSA examiners now have the power to impound Private Hire and Reward as well as Public Service Vehicles (PSV). This is an important step forward in improved road safety, giving VOSA the opportunity to immediately remove illegal vehicles from the road. In the worst case scenario, this could lead to a vehicle being crushed.

VOSA’s overall aim is to introduce more stringent sanctions to deal with limousine operators who continue to operate without the correct form of licensing.

VOSA will ensure that the impounding scheme is implemented in the most effective way for the industry and VOSA front-line staff. The legal provision for impounding has been included in the recent Local Transport Bill which secured Royal Assent in 2008.

Conclusion – general

As a consumer, don’t risk your night out or event being ruined and then, to add insult to injury, having to find your own way home because the limo you were in has been impounded.

The operator – do you really want to risk your livelihood or even worse, be involved in something that negates your insurance? It really isn’t worth it.