Take the final exam after the required course.

How to Get A TLC License

Going from interested driver to first trip with Uber greatly varies in length from city to city.  There recently was a new law passed in New York City that requires For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) drivers to take an exam to get their Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) license.  

Following the fatal car crash of news anchor Bob Simmons, the TLC voted upon requiring FHV drivers to undergo the taxi exam (just like yellow cab drivers do).  Basically, you’re unable to do any ridesharing in NYC without becoming an FHV driver.  

The aforementioned article outlines the mandatory requirements that individuals must obtain to do so.  Here I’m expanding upon what each of these requirements exactly entails, and the amount of time/money typically involved in each.  

The first step to become a rideshare driver in NYC is apply for your TLC license via the TLC website, found here.  They also detail the steps required in the process here.  

Step #1  — fill out the application:

  • submit DMV license copy
  • provide SS#  
  • valid e-mail address
  • $252 application fee (for three years)

After that, you’ll need to provide the TLC with a few documents too.  For example, out of state drivers need to submit a driving abstract that shows a clean driving record.  This can be obtained through the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) by registering through their online portal.

Step #2 — submit necessary documents online:

  • driving abstract – obtained through DMV.  Typically takes up to a week, and costs ~$15 to get.
  • medical exam – this is your standard physician physical.  Cost varies depending upon personal insurance coverage, but typically no more than a $10 co-pay if you’re renewing your TLC license.  Otherwise the medical exam is free when you schedule the defensive driving course.

The easiest way to complete the defensive driving course is to schedule it through Uber.  For this you’ll have to spend two days attending the course, and will have 3 points taken off of your license at completion.  This will help prepare you to drive in the city too.  The course isn’t necessarily difficult per se; however, you’ll be exposed to some horrific videos of fatal car crashes.  Just be prepared for that.  

  • defensive driving course – can be done in person through Uber (I went to the Long Island City office location), or online through an affiliated agency for approximately $29.95.  If you go in-person, you’ll pay for parking nearby the office; however, the course and medical exam are free.  Parking costs can be roughly the same as the cost of the online course for the required two days ($30 – $40).  (The medical exam is nothing to sweat. They just check your eye sight and sensory capabilities.  Clothes stay on!)

Taking the defensive driving course is only the beginning.  At this point, you should have submitted an application with the necessary fees ($252), scheduled a drug test through an affiliated screening center ($26), and scheduled a time to get fingerprinting done.  If you’re lucky, you may be able to knock out the drug test and fingerprinting on the same day.

In addition to these requirements, new drivers are required to complete two other courses (a one-day wheelchair course and a three-day TLC rules/geography course).

Step #3 — complete other requirements (within 90 days of submitting application):

  • 6-hour defensive driving course (see above).  
  • Fingerprinting, which is done at the TLC office and costs $75.  When I submitted my application to the TLC, the fingerprinting office wasn’t operating.  I had to return to complete this portion of the application on another day, although I had already paid for it.  They also take a photo of you then, for the TLC license.  Hopefully you can complete this on the day you get your drug test, because waiting in line at the TLC office sucks.


Other education requirements

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) training  —  This is a 6-hour course, which lasts a day and requires interaction between instructor and student.  You’ll learn how to handle customers that are disabled and/or use a wheelchair.  

This information, although required for new licensees, is somewhat irrelevant for rideshare drivers because their cars typically aren’t equipped with wheelchair accessibility.  The large majority of trip requests won’t involve this training.  Never the less, it costs $75 to register.

24-hour Taxi course  — This course lasts three days, and runs closer to 27 hours in length depending on how efficient the instructor is teaching.  There’s a large emphasis on safety, learning the rules of TLC, and learning how to use a map. Each one of these topics has a full-day devoted to it, and each contribute to the final exam material (along with ~a dozen WAV questions).

This course, along with purchasing a map, and registering for the exam all together cost $274.  After sitting through the three-day course, you’ll schedule the exam for a couple weeks later.  Passing requirements are low (%70 or above), which makes it pretty simple to complete; however, don’t forget to budget in time for finding parking.  On the day I went to take my exam, I parked in a meter spot and was ticketed just 10 min. after the meter expired.  They’ll get you anyway they can ($30). 

In all, it costs a pretty penny to pay for all these courses, training, fees, etc.  Although you only have 90 days to put everything together, you might be working full-time already.  The good news is that once you’ve completed everything, it’s just a couple of weeks before the license gets mailed to you.  The TLC is on top of their game.  With a new license in hand, you’ll be ready to go do Uber, Lyft, whatever your heart desires in NYC; however, be prepared to plunk down a security deposit for a TLC-plated rental car (one-week deposit of $399).

Again, try to avoid tickets over the course of the ninety days period while in the city.  I was ticketed for minor things like not finding parking, and rolling through a stop sign ($180).  It’s wise to space out the scheduling of the training, so you don’t get hit with everything at once financially.  If you’ve got some money saved up, scheduling the courses within the same week is possible too.

The training, fingerprints, and other stuff cost: $479

Application fee: $252  

Tickets, parking, etc.: $250 – $300


Grand Total:  $980 – $1031

If/when you decide to embark on the journey of getting your TLC license, don’t wait to use it once it finally comes (which takes a few weeks after you’ve submitted everything).  That was my mistake, as I waited 3/4 year to finally get on the road in the 5 boroughs.  It’s much smarter to start right way, and recoup some of the losses associated with getting it.  This was just my situation, and you’re experience may be different.  For example, you might get lucky and not receive any citations.  I was unfamiliar with the neighborhood initially, which may have led to one or more of those citations.  Finally, it’s note-worthy to mention that you can’t use your own car to do ridesharing in NYC like in other places.  When you bring your new license to a TLC-rental business, they’ll get you on-boarded with Uber after you’ve finalized the contract and everything.  Just show with your license(s), and the security deposit.

I hope this rough outline helps shed a little clarity on how to navigate the process.  Godspeed!