Getting TLC plates explained in 6 easy steps
In New York City, the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) licenses drivers and vehicles to carry fare-paying passengers.
Having a TLC driver’s license (now known as the universal license), grants drivers the authority to transport passengers using a TLC licensed vehicle. You can spot a TLC licensed vehicle by the presence of special TLC plates. The plates let passengers know that the vehicle they are about to travel in is legally licensed by the TLC and has passed mechanical inspection, providing valuable reassurance to the potential passenger.
So, how do you get your TLC plates? Assuming you have paid off any outstanding parking, traffic or TLC tickets, you can follow the steps below:
Step 1: Purchase or lease an approved vehicle
The first step is to buy or lease an approved vehicle. Since August 2018, the TLC has stopped issuing new licenses to regular for-hire vehicles (FHV). There are three exceptions to this:
- If your car or van is wheelchair accessible.
- If your car or van is fully electric (TLC calls these vehicles Battery Electric Vehicles or BEV. Gas/electric hybrid cars do not meet the rules for exemption).
- In limited circumstances for non-wheelchair accessible cars or vans if the applicant entered into a long-term lease before the new cap (full details can be read here).
TLC has given no expiry date for the current cap on new vehicle licenses. To read more about the vehicles exempt from this cap, click here.
This rule means you should think carefully about the vehicle you buy. Will you choose a wheelchair friendly vehicle, or will you go for BEV? If you’re looking for some guidance, have a look at our list of best electric cars for Uber. Whatever vehicle you choose, keep your bill of sale or lease agreement in a safe place. You’ll need it for insurance purposes.
The TLC splits the vehicles it licenses into three different classes: black car, livery, or limousine. You can find out more about TLC insurance with INSHUR here. App companies like Uber, Lyft and Gett typically fall into the ’black car’ base category. If you’re aiming to drive for one of these companies, make sure you purchase a vehicle that they will accept on their platform. For instance, you can see the vehicles Uber accepts here.
Step 2: Select a TLC base to affiliate with
You will need to affiliate your vehicle with a TLC-approved dispatch base. A dispatch base is the company you effectively drive for and who connects you to passengers seeking a ride. This can be a traditional for-hire business, or one of the newer app companies such as Uber, Lyft and Gett. These large organisations typically have their own TLC registered black car bases.
Contact the base of your choosing to get what is known as a base letter. The base letter is a certified document that states which base you intend to affiliate with (which means the one you’ll drive for).
From the time a dispatch base, such as Uber, submits a base letter for your vehicle, you have seven days to submit your vehicle license application online at: nyc.gov/lars. You need proof of insurance at the time of registration, so you will need to act quickly to get insurance cover.
Step 3: Purchase TLC minimum required insurance
If your vehicle seats 8 or fewer people, you will need to purchase commercial liability insurance with minimum limits of $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident in bodily injury liability, $200,000 in no-fault coverage and $10,000 in property damage liability.
To simplify the process, you can simply download the INSHUR app, scan your TLC license and in seconds you’ll get your quotes that conform to the minimum levels of insurance required by the TLC.
Be aware that the limits are minimum levels of insurance and it’s sometimes advisable to purchase higher coverage. Keep in mind that the TLC doesn’t require collision coverage, although it may make sense for you to purchase it – find out if it makes sense for you here. Ask yourself, can you afford to have your vehicle repaired if it’s involved in a collision?
Once your policy is issued, you will receive an FH1 (for-hire vehicle certificate), a certificate of insurance naming the TLC as a certificate holder and a declaration page showing your levels of coverage. These documents will be securely stored in your INSHUR app and will also be emailed to you. Keep in mind that it may take a few days to process your application at the TLC, so pick an appropriate date to start your policy in the INSHUR app.
Step 4: Prepare your TLC vehicle license application
Once you have your documents prepared, you are now ready to submit the application to the TLC. Note that you can no longer submit documents in person at the TLC. You must file all the required documents online at nyc.gov/lars.
Select ‘apply for a new license’ and select ‘vehicle’, then follow the instructions to upload the required documents. Once your application is processed you will be provided a plate letter via TLC UP. This letter allows you to register your car at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), where you will receive your plates and registration. The plate letter is only valid for 20 days from the date of issue.
Step 6: Get your TLC plates and schedule an inspection (if needed)
Within 20 days of receiving your plate letter, visit the DMV to register your vehicle. Take the plate letter and your INSHUR insurance documents to any DMV location to register and get your TLC plates. You will then need to notify the TLC of your plates by filing the Plate Notification Form on TLC UP. Attach the plates to your vehicle and make sure you upload a copy of your registration to the INSHUR app.
If you purchase a used vehicle with more than 500 miles on the odometer, you’ll also need to schedule a mechanical inspection. TLC will email you and post on TLC UP to let you know your inspection appointment date. You can read the inspection requirements here.
Inspections are carried out at BQE TLC 24-55 BQE Woodside, NY 11377. Make sure your vehicle has a Vision Zero sticker on the windshield and, if you have a BEV, place Green NYC stickers on both sides of the rear of the car. (Ask your affiliated base for these decals).
Lastly, the TLC requires you to maintain insurance on your vehicle to keep your TLC plate active. To get your insurance quote in minutes, click here to download the INSHUR app. If you’re on a desktop, simply search INSHUR in your phone’s app store.
And that’s it! Your newly TLC licensed vehicle is now ready to hit the road and you’re ready to start making money.
- Buy or lease a vehicle – it must be all-electric or wheelchair accessible.
- Select a TLC base to affiliate with.
- Purchase the minimum required TLC insurance.
- Assemble all your documents for submitting to the TLC.
- Submit to TLC online.
- Receive a ‘Plate Letter’ from the TLC.
- Take your Plate Letter and your other documents to the DMV to register your car and get your plates.
- Schedule a mechanical inspection if your vehicle has travelled more than 500 miles.
- Pass the inspection.
- Start making money!