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The simple guide to owning a For-Hire License (FHV)

Having A For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) license is the only legal way for for-hail drivers to pick up passengers within Greater New York City. But as many would-be ride-hail drivers have learned to their frustration, the cap on For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) licenses has remained in place since August 14, 2018.Formally known as the “pause,” the Taxi & Livery Commission (TLC) was expected to restrict the number of FHV licenses only through August 2019, to prevent traffic congestion caused by ride-hail drivers flooding Manhattan and other high-trafficked areas.

The Purpose of FHV License(s)

With ride hailing apps being private and not shared with the TLC, the FHV license helps identify a ride hail in the same way as a yellow cab medallion. In case of an accident or complaint, the TLC needs to identify the driver in a vehicle. Since there are 102,143 licensed For-Hire Vehicles (FHV) as of 10/24/2020 and many more drivers on the road, it’s certainly a way of holding drivers accountable.

Options To Own FHV License(s)

This may somewhat explain why the pause has now been extended indefinitely, with only four important exceptions: wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV), lease-to-own vehicles, native electric vehicles (EV), and acquisition.

In each case, the exception represents an altruistic strategy for making the Big Apple a better place, whether it’s better to access for differently-abled passengers, “bootstrapping,” cleaner air, or holding down congestion.

So if you want to earn a FHV while making the city a better place, this is your chance!

Here’s how it works:

1. Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV). If drivers have WAV-compliant vehicles, they may apply for a FHV. There is no particular make or model for a WAV; however, the vehicles must be “accessible to wheelchair passengers; i.e., comply with a number of specifications intended to load and secure the passenger safely in place. Tower TLC Rentals’ partner, Uber, offers easy instructions for getting an FHV for a WAV.

2. Lease-to-own vehicles. If drivers are contracted to buy their car while working as a ride-hail driver, the TLC will, under certain circumstances, acknowledge and reward their initiative. If the driver doesn’t meet this rather narrow criteria, another option is to lease-to-own a WAV. Which is basically Option #1. NOTE: It’s important to know the difference between renting and leasing a car.

3. Electric vehicles (EV). EV's may be the future, but not everyone has gotten the memo. That’s why the TLC bringing awareness to this issue. In cold weather, EVs’ batteries may drain alarmingly, according to Consumer Reports, so the TLC also wants you to definitely be aware of the importance of charging stations. In order to apply for a FHV, drivers must have native EV's, not hybrids. Native EV's run exclusively on an electrical charge; examples include Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model 3.

4. Buy a company that has FHVs. This has always been a tried-and-true method for getting what you want (especially in New York City); however, it may be the priciest route.

Additional Helpful Tips:

  • Upon buying a company with FHV(s), WAV or enter into a Lease-To-Own agreement, you will not own the plate; only the FHV(s). TLC plates is and will always be the property of NY State.

  • In the event of a dispute between you and the company you entering into a Lease-To-Own agreement with, the titled owner keeps their title and you keep your registration.

  • Before entering into any of these agreements, it’s advised to speak with a legal representative and CPA familiar with these transactions.

  • Network with other Uber/ Lyft drivers in a similar situation to you and learn from their mistakes.

  • Not ready to own a FHV? No problem — there are plenty of TLC rental options available until you decide!

Have more questions? Feel free to ask us at Tower TLC Rentals!

Author: Kyle Freedman is a partner at Tower Auto Mall focused on building a rental platform for delivery and ride-share drivers in NYC and its metropolitan area (non-TLC rentals)

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