Local minicab company or the giant Uber?

London surely has some iconic ways of travel, from the red double-decker bus to the traditional black cab, also known as the Hackney Carriage. But what about a local minicab company and the giant Uber? Do you know the differences? Will you look at them in the same way after reading this?

Local Minicab company

A local minicab company is offering you a variety of private hire vehicles with driver, also known as minicab services. They are being regulated by the Transport for London and must abide by the local law.

The minicabs must be booked through a licensed minicab company. You can do so by visiting your nearest office, by phone or email, and of course, by using their online booking system or app. The options are endless and you can choose what best suits you. The minicab companies accept cash, cards, PayPal and other payment methods, so do not worry about the payment.

When booking a minicab, the operator must be providing you with a booking confirmation, that includes some important information. The make and registration number mark of the vehicle, the driver private hire license number and his name, as a minimum.

Vehicles and drivers are licensed separately, therefore make sure to check both.

For minicabs, to ply for hire or use taxi ranks, is illegal. This means you cannot jump in a minicab after you are stopping it on the street. They always have to be pre-booked.

Transport for London is not regulating the fares used by a local minicab company, therefore is best to get a fair estimate before your journey. Most of the minicab companies will give you a convenient quote when making the booking.

To get the private hire license, drivers will pass the enhanced Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) background check and regular medical checks.


Uber is quite similar to a local minicab company. Similar, but so different.

The alternative to the traditional minicab, Uber is a smartphone-enabled ‘ride-hailing’ service. An app controls everything, from the moment you start your search to the moment you leave your rating and review. There is no dispatcher, everything is done via the app.

Uber drivers do not need to pass any special tests and do not have any special licenses. Anyone with a personal vehicle can become an Uber partner-driver and offer low fee rides. Even so, in the United Kingdom, Uber is operating under the same law as the minicab companies.

One of Uber’s disadvantages is that in case of an emergency, they do not have a customer support number. The only person you can contact is the driver, therefore if you are not able to reach him, you do not have any other contact.

In September 2017, Transport for London revoked Uber’s right to operate within London. The reason was concerning issues which have potential public safety and security implications. The process of obtaining the medical certificates and the Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service(DBS) checks did not satisfy TfL.

Reporting serious criminal offenses was also an issue and the approach used by Uber was not as expected by TfL.

The software Uber is using to recognize and reject certain customers, the Greyball, was not making TfL happy either. Created to bar the riders that are disrupting Uber’s operations, it was unveiled that this included potential law enforcement officials and investigators. Uber’s continuous use of Greyball was one of the reasons Transport for London gave for not renewing its operating license at that time.

Differences between a local minicab company and Uber

Human Interaction

If you prefer human interaction when booking a cab, then Uber is not for you. If with the minicab companies you can visit their office, book by phone, via email, using the booking system or the app, with Uber your options are limited to the app. There is not a dispatcher you can call when in trouble.


You can pay for your Uber ride only by card, while with the minicab companies you have endless options. Either card or cash, everything works just fine. Most of them allow you to use your PayPal account or other secure payment types.

Know your driver

A good thing about Uber, what other minicab firms are missing, is the rating and review system. Every driver gets to be rated after each ride from 1 to 5 stars. If his overall rating falls below 4.6, depending on the country, he gets banned by the software. When a driver is assigned, you get to see his rating, and he gets to see yours. With the traditional companies, clients are reviewing the service and the company mostly, and not the driver. The rating on the overall service of the company may be better. Group identification is one element that can bring strangers together, therefore working towards the same goal.

Low Fares

Uber created a very competitive market and brought with it very low fares. One of the reasons why Uber has lower prices is because is relaying most of its business in the software is using, and not on the human workforce.


Uber is great and prompt to move in the city, but if you have an important meeting or to catch a flight, you better pre-book a minicab. In this way you secure your ride, have all the booking details and avoid any unwanted delays. With Uber, the waiting time may vary, up to 15 minutes and the driver can cancel the booking. Another driver may take the booking but he can cancel too. In this way, your waiting time will grow significantly, even though this rarely happens.

Variable rates

At peak times, or when the search is high, Uber rates can increase significantly, up to x5. In this case, you better pre-book your ride with a minicab company, so you know you pay what you have been quoted for, therefore the minicabs are more convenient.

Cleanliness and professionalism

Both minicabs companies and Uber have a different but strong review system. The drivers and the companies are doing their best to go the extra mile and to keep their cars clean and inviting.

Special requests

When traveling with a large group of people, it’s easier to call a minicab company and they will accommodate all of your travel needs in the shortest and best way possible. Either you travel with children or an elderly person, or you have several suitcases, the operators will find the best solution.


Regulations guarantee certain standards, but it can limit the free market.

Quantity restrictions can harm passengers through reduced availability, increased waiting times, and reduced options. They also may increase the risk to passenger safety as it can encourage the use of illegal, unlicensed drivers and vehicles.

Restrictions on the business model are likely to reduce innovation. It may increase the costs or lower the quality of service for passengers.

Minicab drivers are definitely more regulated than Uber drivers.

What is your opinion on the differences between Uber and a local minicab company? What are you going to choose next?