How To Drive A Minibus Legally

If you’re looking into how to learn to drive a minibus, then “that article is here”:

This has been the bane of my life these last few years. Actually finding how to drive a minibus is one of those great sisyphean tasks, just when you’re finally convinced you’ve worked out how legally you can drive one and when you’ve done the last proof-read through of your notes, you find that you’ve understood the rules wrong and have to go back to square one and start again. That said, I think I’ve finally cracked it. I should be clear that this isn’t legal advice, but hopefully a helpful way to understand the Department for Transport’s Guidelines On Incidental Driving Of Minibuses and other associated rules. Here then, is how you can drive a minibus in the UK legally.

What Can I Drive Already?

First though, two bits of preamble: A minibus is defined as a vehicle between 10 and 17 seats (including the driver) and under 3.5 tonnes unladen (or 4.25 tonnes if you’ve got disability access features installed like a lift). Any minibus sold in this country for the last five (at least) years fits in these categories. This is a legal definition, so if you buy a minibus it will be one of these. This is the only type of vehicle we’re dealing with in this article. If it’s bigger than that then it’s a regular bus. If it’s smaller than that it’s a car. You should learn to drive one of those before you drive a minibus.

The second bit of preamble is understanding your driving licence. If you’re unsure what you can drive, this is how you find out. If you get your driving licence photocard out of your wallet (or wherever you keep it), you’ll notice on the back there is a table and in each row there is a letter and a picture of a vehicle. As you might guess, these are different things you can drive. Each category is represented by a letter, Motorbikes are category A, cars B, lorries C, and buses D (fkp are farm animals, mopeds, and other random things). Occasionally you’ll see a number 1 after certain categories, this generally indicates you can drive only some types of vehicle in the category. So if you have D licence (for every kind of bus), you can drive D1 vehicles (minibuses only), if you hold a C licence (for every kind of lorries) you can drive C1 vehicles (the smaller type of lorries). You can see the exact rules, including all the obscurer codes over here.

The other thing you need to know about driving licence categories is the codes that can be applied to categories. All the categories on my licence below have a 01 code, which means I need to wear my glasses to drive and the 122 code means I need to pass my CBT test before I can drive a moped. The one I don’t have, but is important and you may well have is code 101 next to my D1 licence. Code 101 means you can’t drive for hire or reward. That’ll be explained below, but for now it’s worth finding out if you have any D or D1 category at all, and if so whether you have a 101 code next to it. The final thing to point out on licences, only some data appears on your photocard, your paper licence has all the data on it, including any extra provisional categories (mine has a full D provisional that’s not displayed here).

my driving licence

What Licence Lets Me Drive A Minibus?

With that out of the way here are three ways you can drive a minibus:

If you hold a full D or D1 category on your licence (which can only be achieved if you’ve actually taken a test to gain the D or D1 licence) you can drive anyone in a minibus for any purpose you want and you and the company or charity you work for can receive payment for it.

If you have a D1 (101) licence (which you will if you passed your regular car practical driving test before 1 January 1997) you can drive a minibus under certain conditions. The 101 means not for hire or reward, this means you can do everything a D1 licence holder does including driving the minibus for your own social purposes, but the business or charity or organisation you are driving for cannot make any money from it, even indirectly. This means you can’t drive on this licence if you ask young people to pay £5 for fuel costs for the trip or if they pay a total of £70 for the residential weekend and that includes minibus transport. You can take donations under this licence, but only if they are actual donations not those kind of donations that people ask for but really aren’t that optional.

To give a worked example, if you were to charge young people ten pounds each to get taken to the cinema and see a £8 film, you’d be gaining hire and reward and so couldn’t do it on this licence. If you charged young people £8 upfront and took them to the cinema, you’d still be doing it for hire and reward as you’re gaining the money so this still wouldn’t be allowed. Theoretically you could get away with taking young people to the cinema if you drove them for no money and then they all paid for themselves at the cinema and didn’t give you any money, but even then you’d be on the edge of legality and your insurance company might decide to quibble on it. I’d recommend not doing this, especially as there is a much simpler solution to this in a moment.

If you don’t have any sort of D1 licence (which is you if passed your regular car practical driving test on or after 1 January 1997 and haven’t upgraded it since) then you can drive a minibus under very limited conditions. These are those conditions; if it is for non-commercial, social purposes, if you are over 21, if you have passed your car test for more than 2 years, if you are driving as a volunteer, and if it is not for hire and reward, then you can drive a minibus. Hire and reward is defined as above, and being a volunteer means you need to be a volunteer, you can’t just pretend that you’re doing your job in your own free time and so it’s technically volunteering. Neither the police nor your insurance company will buy that. (This can get confusing, say you’re employed as a youth worker at a church and occasionally drive the minibus to help out the old people on a Saturday, something you do as a volunteer and church member, not as the paid youth worker. If it’s outside of your job description and your definitely not being paid to do it, then you might be okay, but you must have something written down saying you’re doing it as a volunteer and you must get written confirmation from your insurance company that they’re fine with it.)


Now these rules are obviously quite restrictive, after all, it means no-one can drive the minibus for any money unless they passed their test before 1997 and seeing as the average church youth worker hadn’t passed their GCSEs before 1997 you’re probably low on volunteers who can drive it. There is good news though (other than having a good excuse to get older people involved in your youth work). There is a special sort of permit that allows charities and community groups to drive a minibus for the benefit of its members and service groups and take money for doing this. In effect this permit cancels the reward or hire clause on people’s licences.

The permit is called a Minibus Permit (a section 19 permit) and it entitles you to make a charge for the people who use and benefit from your service. You can only get a permit if you are organisation involved with education, religion, social welfare, recreation or other activities of benefit to the community and you are not operating to make a profit. Obviously this applies to all charities and most community groups. You get more details here on these licences or by ringing up the VOSA on 0300 123 9000 or by e-mailing These permits last for five years at least and I think only cost a nominal fee of £10 or something (we’ve got one, but I can’t remember how much they charged us). They are very simple to get, ours came within a week of sending the very simple form off.

The permit is for an organisation, so it allows people to drive the minibus who couldn’t normally drive it only if they’re driving it for the organisations benefit. This means if your minibus is occasionally lent out to other charities they will either need to be using it for the benefit of your organisation and it’s beneficiaries or they’ll need their own permit. Charities can also apply for multiple permits if they have more than one bus. The permit itself is a little tax-disc shaped bit of paper that you should keep behind your tax-disc on the bus so it is there for inspection.


The last thing to worry about is insurance. It’s all very well being able to drive a minibus under your licence, but if you’re not insured you can’t drive it anyway. As with any driving in the UK if you’re driving without insurance you’ll get between 3 and 8 points on your licence, potentially be outright disqualified, and fined up to £5,000. Most charity minibus insurance companies go through the same broker and so all offer similar deals. Most will insure for broader use than you’ll be licensed for, so generally, if you can drive it on your licence, your insurance will cover this. The best thing to do is read over your policy and if you have any concerns ring them up and get them to confirm the specific situation. If your insurance company have said verbally (or better yet through writing) that a situation is okay, then they are legally obliged to cover you for it. So if you ask them if a 19 year old with a full D1 is insured on the bus and they say yes on the phone, then they legally have to cover you if that 19 year old crashes the bus.

Driving With Trailers

If you want to drive a minibus with a trailer you need at least a D1+E licence. The +E on a licence indicates you can drive in that category with a trailer. If you passed your test before 1997 you probably have a D1+E (101) on your licence in which case you can tow a trailer for the same purposes as you can drive a minibus, but I am honestly not sure if a minibus permit extends to cover these, there is nothing in the guidelines making it clear.


I have no idea, they come under slightly different rules for reward and hire when it comes to driving things, so I wouldn’t want to speculate. Talk to your Local Authority I guess.

Grand Summary
If you have a minibus that is used for charitable or community permits, get yourself a section 19 minibus permit. Ensure all your drivers are driving for the correct reason with the correct licence. If that means going through every single person’s licence who drives on your minibus then that’s what you need to do. If you have any paid staff (even part-time) who passed their test after 1996 driving the minibus then they need to stop driving the minibus until they take a pass a D1 driving test. If that means you have no drivers, then so be it. You can learn how to get a D1 licence on this accompanying article