What Is a Livery Cab?

by Marcia Frost
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Erik Snyder/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Livery cabs have always required more planning than walking out your door and hailing a taxi, but that may no longer be true everywhere. The debate about what livery cabs can and can’t do is especially volatile in large cities such as Manhattan, where cab travel is popular and many make a living from it. Laws regulating drivers of vehicles for hire are usually regulated by individual cities and are subject to change.


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A livery cab is a car owned by an individual or company used to take passengers to their destination for an agreed upon price. A taxi cab has a meter to record distance and gives you a final price based on how far you go and how long it takes to get there. If you want a livery cab, you will usually call in advance and make a reservation, while taxi cabs are often sitting and waiting on city streets.


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Taxi cabs are often bright colors like yellow and have clear writing identifying them as “taxi.” Often you will even find the pricing on the side of the car. A livery car is much more subdued. It is often black in color and instead of being a small sedan, it may be a large more formal car, such as a Lincoln Continental. Often livery cabs have no clear identification that they are cars for hire.


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In large cities, you will find both livery and taxi cabs. Smaller cities and suburban towns often only have cabs that you must call and arrange in advance, however they are not always livery cabs since they have meters. The difference in this case is the fact that you have a nicer car and the service is often referred to as a limousine service because the livery cab costs more money for a nicer car.


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The license within an individual area determines what livery cab drivers can do. This caused a huge debate in New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated his belief that livery drivers should be allowed to pick up passengers on the street. This remained illegal for many years. In areas where a shortage of cabs exist – such as the outer suburbs of New York City – this would provide more transportation opportunities for residents who need them, without the necessity of calling in advance.

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