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How to Start a Taxi Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Taxi Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$3,250 - $7,400

Revenue potential

$47,000 - $275,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 – 3 months

Profit potential

$38,000 - $55,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

Think taxis are a thing of the past? Think again! Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have grabbed a large share of the market, but they have not made taxis obsolete. The US taxi industry is still worth $66 billion, so there’s money to be made. You can start your own taxi business as a solopreneur, and eventually grow into a full-fledged company with a fleet of cars and drivers. All you need is one car and a taxi license to get started. 

First, though, you’ll need to understand the ins and outs of starting and running a business. Luckily, this step-by-step guide will provide all the information and insights necessary to get you on the road to taxi cab entrepreneurship.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a taxi business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you. 

Pros

  • Low Startup Costs – One car and you’re off to the races
  • Flexibility – Pick your own hours, run the business from home
  • Large Market – Demand for taxis is still high, particularly in large cities

Cons

  • Tough Market – Compete with apps like Uber and Lyft
  • Long Hours – To make money, you need to be a workhorse

Taxi industry trends

Industry size and growth

taxi industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

taxi industry Trends and Challenges

Trends in the taxi industry include:

  • Customers are seeking apps to book taxis, so taxi services need to embrace this trend to be successful.
  • Eco-friendly hybrid or all-electric taxis are also in demand. This presents a huge opportunity for an eco-friendly taxi business to differentiate itself.

Challenges in the taxi industry include:

  • A continuous challenge in the taxi business is finding and keeping good drivers who provide excellent customer service.
  • Rising fuel prices are cutting into the profit margins of taxi businesses.

Demand hotspots

taxi industry demand hotspots

What kind of people work in taxi businesses?

taxi industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a taxi business?

Startup costs for a taxi business range from $3,200 to $7,400. Costs include a down payment on a vehicle and signage for the vehicle. You’ll also need to get a car for hire license from your city. In some cities, this can be a significant cost. For example, in New York City a taxi medallion costs about $80,000, while in Columbus, Ohio it only costs a few hundred dollars. 

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Down payment on a vehicle$1,500 - $3,000$2,250
Vehicle signage$200 - $300$250
Total$3,250 - $7,400$5,325

How much can you earn from a taxi business?

taxi business earnings forecast

Taxi fare rates vary by city but usually include a flat base charge, a charge per mile, and an hourly wait time rate. These calculations will assume that your average fare will be about $15. Your profit margin after fuel and insurance costs should be about 80%.

In your first year or two, you could work as a solopreneur and do 10 trips per day 6 days per week, bringing in $47,000 in annual revenue. This would mean nearly $38,000 in profit, assuming that 80% margin. As your brand gains recognition, you could have five taxis and hire drivers, and sales could climb to 50 trips per day 7 days per week. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial space and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to 20%. With annual revenue of almost $275,000, you’d make a tidy profit of more than $55,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a taxi business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • A clean driving record is required, and you may have to pass an exam
  • Competition from other taxis plus apps like Uber and Lyft

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a taxi business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research taxi businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a limousine taxi service, or an electric taxi service.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as bike taxis in urban areas.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.

What? Determine your services

You’ll need to determine what kind of taxi service you want to have. You could have a limousine taxi service, a black car taxi, a minibus taxi service, an eco-friendly taxi cab, a bike taxi, or even a water taxi. You also need to decide if you want to have a taxi booking app.

Who? Identify your target market

When determining the target market for your taxi business, it’s important to recognize that your audience will vary depending on the type of services you offer. For instance, tourists needing transportation from airports or hotels represent a different segment compared to those requiring event transportation or specialized services like taxis for the disabled.

It’s advisable to have a broad target market to cater to a wide range of needs. This approach allows you to maximize your customer base and adapt to various demands in the transportation industry.

Acquire vehicles for your taxi business

Starting a taxi business requires a reliable and efficient fleet of vehicles. Here’s how to make the best choices for your fleet:

1. Assess Your Needs:

  • Capacity: Determine the size of the vehicle needed based on the typical number of passengers. Consider sedans for up to 4 passengers or minivans for larger groups.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Choose vehicles with good mileage to minimize fuel costs, an important factor in your business’s profitability.
  • Comfort: Opt for models that offer a comfortable ride, as this can significantly impact customer satisfaction.

2. New vs. Used Vehicles:

  • New Vehicles: Offer the latest features and are less likely to require repairs, but are more expensive.
  • Used Vehicles: More cost-effective but may have higher maintenance costs. Opt for certified pre-owned cars for better reliability.

3. Leasing vs. Purchasing:

  • Leasing: Provides the option to upgrade vehicles regularly and avoids the depreciation cost, but may come with mileage limitations.
  • Purchasing: Results in owning the asset outright, offering more control but requires a larger upfront investment.

4. Maintenance Plans:

  • Consider maintenance costs in your budget. Regular maintenance is crucial for safety and prolonging the life of your vehicles.
  • Establish relationships with trusted mechanics or consider service contracts with dealerships.

5. Regulatory Compliance:

  • Ensure that the vehicles meet all local regulatory requirements, such as emissions standards and safety features.

6. Technology Integration:

  • Install necessary technology such as GPS systems, fare meters, and card payment terminals.

How much should you charge for taxi fares?

Your fare rates will be dictated by the rates in your city. When you’re working by yourself, your costs will be limited to fuel and insurance. You should aim for a profit margin of 80%.

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Where? Choose a location for your vehicles

Selecting the right locations for both storing your taxi fleet and identifying hot spots for operation is crucial for the efficiency and profitability of your taxi business. Here’s how to approach these two aspects:

1. Storing Vehicles When Not Active

Centralized Garage or Parking Facility:

  • Proximity: Choose a location central to your service area to minimize the time and fuel costs for vehicles to reach their first customers.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Look for affordable parking options to keep overhead low.
  • Security: Ensure the area is secure to prevent theft and vandalism.
  • Accessibility: Easy access for drivers, especially during shift changes.
  • Maintenance Facilities: Nearby maintenance services are beneficial for quick repairs.

2. Identifying Hot Spots for Active Service

High-Demand Areas:

  • Airports and Train Stations: Constant flow of travelers needing transportation.
  • Business Districts: High demand during rush hours for commuting professionals.
  • Tourist Attractions: Tourists frequently require taxis to explore the city.
  • Entertainment and Nightlife Areas: Demand peaks during evenings and weekends.
  • Hospitals and Medical Centers: Regular need for transport by patients and visitors.
  • Shopping Centers and Malls: Popular destinations, especially during weekends and holidays.
  • Residential Areas: Targeting suburbs can capture daily commuters and those without personal vehicles.
  • Event Venues: Concerts, sports events, and conventions draw large crowds needing transportation.
taxi business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Taxi Company Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “taxi” or “taxi service”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “RapidRide Cabs” over “Airport Cabs”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Taxi Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Provide a brief overview of your taxi business, highlighting its focus on reliable and efficient transportation services within a specific geographic area.
  • Business Overview: Describe your taxi service, including the provision of on-demand transportation for individuals and groups in urban and suburban areas.
  • Product and Services: Detail the transportation services offered, such as standard taxi rides, airport transfers, and potentially app-based ride-hailing options.
  • Market Analysis: Evaluate the demand for taxi services in your area, taking into account factors like population density, public transportation availability, and peak travel times.
  • Competitive Analysis: Compare your service to other local transportation options, focusing on your competitive advantages like quicker response times, customer service, or technological integration.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategy for attracting customers, such as through local advertising, partnerships with businesses, or online platforms.
  • Management Team: Highlight the experience and skills of your management team, especially in areas like transportation, logistics, and customer service.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the operational process of your taxi service, including vehicle management, driver scheduling, and ride dispatching.
  • Financial Plan: Provide an overview of the financial aspects, including start-up costs, pricing strategy, and revenue projections.
  • Appendix: Include additional documents like vehicle maintenance records, driver training manuals, or market research data that support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to taxi businesses.

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your taxi business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a taxi business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.

Step 8: Apply for Taxi Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a taxi business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments. You’ll need to get a car for hire license or taxi medallion from your city.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your taxi business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.

 You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Cab Treasure, EverTransit, or TaxiMobility, to manage your bookings, dispatching, fares, and payments. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Developing a website and a mobile app is essential for a modern taxi business, serving as digital gateways for customers to access your services. A user-friendly website should provide clear information about your services, pricing, and contact details, along with an easy-to-use booking system. Complementing the website, a mobile app offers convenience for on-the-go customers, allowing them to book rides, track their taxi in real-time, and make secure payments. Both platforms should reflect your brand’s identity, be intuitive to navigate, and include features like fare calculators, customer reviews, and support options.

Marketing

Launching a successful taxi business requires a robust marketing strategy that ensures visibility and customer engagement. Here are effective tactics to consider:

  1. Optimize for Local SEO: Ensure your website ranks high in local search results by incorporating relevant keywords, location-based content, and maintaining an up-to-date Google My Business profile.
  2. Get Listed in Local Directories: Register your business on local directories and review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Yellow Pages to increase your online presence and credibility.
  3. Leverage Social Media Marketing: Regularly post engaging content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with your community and offer promotions.
  4. Engage in Community Events: Participate in local events and sponsor community activities to build brand awareness and goodwill.
  5. Develop Partnerships: Collaborate with local businesses, hotels, and event organizers for mutual referral programs.
  6. Offer Promotions and Loyalty Programs: Introduce discounts for first-time users and loyalty rewards for frequent customers to encourage repeat business.
  7. Utilize Email Marketing: Send out newsletters and promotional offers to keep your audience informed and engaged.
  8. Invest in Vehicle Branding: Wrap your taxis with your business logo and contact information to serve as mobile billboards.
  9. Encourage Customer Reviews: Prompt customers to leave reviews online to build trust and attract new clients.
  10. Advertise in Local Media: Use local newspapers, radio stations, and community bulletin boards for targeted advertising.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your taxi business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your taxi business could be: 

  • Eco-friendly taxi service – all-electric cars
  • Bike taxis so you can see the sights of the city
  • 24-hour limousines to travel in style anytime

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a taxi business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in taxis for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in taxis. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a taxi business include:

  • Taxi drivers – take fares, customer service
  • Dispatcher – take bookings, dispatch drivers
  • General Manager – staff management, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Taxi Business – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

A taxi business is probably one of the easiest kinds of businesses to start. You just need a vehicle, some signage, and a taxi license. You can make good money, even just working by yourself with one car, but you can also grow your company until you have a fleet of taxis. 

Taxis are an industry worth over $60 billion, so why not grab a share of that fare? You understand the business side of things now, so go ahead and get on the road to entrepreneurial success! 

Taxi Business FAQs

Can a taxi business still be profitable?

Yes! Believe it or not, the taxi industry is still worth over $60 billion in spite of competition from ride-sharing apps. If you market yourself well and provide great customer service, you can definitely make money with a taxi business.

What types of vehicles can I use for my taxi business?

For a taxi business, you can use various types of vehicles depending on your target market and local regulations. Common options include sedans, minivans, SUVs, or even specialized vehicles for specific purposes like wheelchair-accessible taxis.

What makes a good taxi company?

First and foremost, reliability is crucial. Ensuring that taxis are available promptly and operate on time is essential. Excellent customer service, including courteous and knowledgeable drivers, clean and well-maintained vehicles, transparent and fair pricing, and easy booking and payment options, also play a significant role.

How can I ensure the safety and comfort of passengers in my taxis?

To ensure the safety and comfort of passengers in your taxis, prioritize regular maintenance and inspections of your vehicles to ensure they are in good working condition. Implement safety features such as functioning seatbelts, GPS tracking systems, and security cameras. Train your drivers in defensive driving techniques, customer service, and safety protocols. Keep the interior of the taxis clean and comfortable, with adequate legroom and temperature control options.

How do you attract taxi customers?

Utilize online platforms and mobile apps to make booking convenient and accessible for passengers. Offer competitive pricing, promotions, or loyalty programs to incentivize repeat business. Partner with local businesses, hotels, or airports to establish referral networks. 

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How to Start a Taxi Business