A minibus is used to describe a vehicle that typically carries between seven and 16 passengers and the driver. Anything that seats under seven passengers is considered a multi-person car and anything that seats over 16 would be considered a coach.

This guide is designed for businesses at any stage of the journey of sourcing or managing a minibus in their fleet.

We’ve broken the guide into five sections:

There are many companies who choose to have a minibus as part of their fleet and not just the ones you would expect, like private hire companies. Some businesses use them in order to be able to easily transport employees between sites or even across particularly large ones. Others, like schools and social clubs, choose to source their own vehicle as it is easier, more convenient, and often cheaper than asking another company to transport students or members.

There are many reasons that businesses choose to add a minibus to their fleet, and we know that no two businesses’ needs are the same which is why Wessex Fleet are here to help if you think that a minibus is the right choice for your next fleet addition. You can contact us on 01722 322 888 to discuss any of your fleet needs.

Types of Minibuses

This section will look at the type of minibuses available and describe some of the benefits for each of these. For more information on who can drive them take a look below

Small Minibuses

Small minibus is usually used to describe minibuses that are nine, 12 or 15 seaters (including the driver).

These can be useful for businesses that only need a small multi-person vehicle to transport students or members of staff between sites.

The size you decide to choose might depend on how much equipment or luggage the vehicle also needs to regularly transport, as minibuses often come with minimal or no boot storage space.

Minibus Lites

Minibus Lites are minibuses that weigh less than 3.5 tonnes and seat 16 passengers, and they are European approved bus conversions.

As standard Minibus Lites will include the following from the manufacturer:

  • 17 seats – a driver and 16 passengers
  • 14 fixed rear cabin seats, four of which are removable, and three front seats
  • Speed limiter to 62 mph
  • Lite 2GO wheelchair ramps
  • Room for one wheelchair user
  • Automatic side step
  • High visibility handrails
  • Full spare wheel
  • Reversing alarm with night isolation
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Legal yellow signs

Larger and Heavier Minibuses

Minibuses over 3.5 tonnes, or 4.25 if they are carrying specialist equipment for disabled passengers like a wheelchair, will require a D1 licence which drivers who received their licence after the 1st of January 1997 will need to apply for.

If a bus carries more than 16 passengers then it will no longer be classed as a minibus, no matter its length or weight. It will then fall under the coach / bus category.


Sourcing a Minibus

There are a number of methods by which you can source and fund a minibus for your business.

If you only need it for a short time then you’ll probably want to look at rental minibuses, as these can be on a fixed or unfixed term so you can keep them for a set but short period or return them with little notice depending on your vehicle needs.

If it’s for longer that you want to have the minibus then you could consider leasing or purchasing the vehicle, whether through a finance plan or outright purchase

We always advise taking into account the below factors when deciding on how to fund any vehicle you are looking to add to your fleet:

  • How long will you want the vehicle for?
  • Will you need to make any modifications to the vehicle?
  • Is it expected to receive heavy wear and tear?
  • What’s the expected depreciation on the vehicle, and how much would you expect it to sell for when you want to replace it?
  • What is the expected annual mileage for the vehicle?
  • Who will be driving it, and do they require any additional training?
  • What will be the cost of adding it to your insurance policy if there is one?

Once you know the answers to these questions, or at least have narrowed down the options, then you’ll be in a better position to know which vehicles meet your needs.

Wessex Fleet are able to help you source any vehicle your business needs no matter what funding method you decide is best for your business. You can call us on 01722 322 888 or contact us here

Managing Minibus Drivers

As a business you have a duty of care for all your employees and this extends to when they are driving, whether it is in a company vehicle or their own private vehicle on company journeys.

Depending on the type of minibus your business is looking to use your drivers might not legally be required to take any additional driving training or complete a test. However, we always recommend that all drivers are supported by the business to complete additional training in order to familiarise themselves with driving the vehicle.

A minibus can be fairly large and heavy compared to a regular car, will have a wider turning circle and slower braking speed as well as a different vantage point and blind spots on the road. All of this will take a little getting used to and adjustments in the driver’s style.

Alongside this, carrying a larger number of passengers can be a significant distraction when you are on the road, and this is something that you should prepare your drivers to handle.

Professional minibus training, additional advice and vehicle familiarisation for drivers is available through MiDAS or other training organisations.

If you need help arranging for any driver training or are unsure on how you can support your drivers with this then we are able to advise.

Who Can Drive a Minibus?

A minibus can be driven on a regular car licence provided there are no more than 16 passenger seats and the vehicle does not weigh over 3.5 tonnes. However, depending on when their licence was issued drivers might be required to get an additional permit.

Drivers who’s full driving licence was issued before the 1st of January 1997 are able to drive a minibus in the UK without any additional permits, though you must still only drive vehicles with the transmissions you are licenced to, so for example if your licence only permits you to drive Group B (automatic transmission vehicles) then you should not drive a vehicle with a manual gearbox. Your licence should show a D1 category as well for you. This is based on the above conditions being met.

Drivers who received their licence after the 1st of January 1997 are no longer automatically given the D1 category on their licence.

Drivers without the D1 category can drive vehicles with up to eight passenger seats without any additional permit.

But to drive a minibus with between nine and 16 passengers they will need to obtain a section 19 or 22 permit.

    In order to drive a minibus, drivers will need to have:

    • A valid permit
    • Be over 21 years old
    • Have held a full car licence for a minimum of two years
    • Meet the Group 2 medical standards if over 70 years old
    • Are not driving for hire or reward

    They will also be restrictions on the vehicle they can drive which are:

    • The maximin weight should not exceed 3.5 tonnes
    • Should not have more than 16 passenger seats
    • Not be towing a trailer

    You can obtain a section 19 permit from the Traffic Commissioners’ Office.

    If you have a larger vehicle then your drivers will be required to obtain a D1 Licence.

    We advise that you ensure all drivers are legally able to, and feel confident to, after receiving training, drive a minibus if they are likely to need to drive one as part of their role.

    Legalities of Operating a Minibus

    If your company operates a minibus then you will need to ensure all drivers are legally entitled to drive and have the correct driving licence and permit, if needed.

    If your business is charging a fee for passengers using the vehicle then you will need the driver to have a form of hire and reward driving licence category on their licence, no matter what the vehicle weighs.

    For a full breakdown of the legal requirements for minibus operators, you can visit the government’s website here

    Safety Equipment

    It is a requirement for every minibus to carry a British Standard fire extinguisher. This can be either a water extinguisher or a foam one but must have a minimum test rating of 8A or 21B.

    If there are passengers in wheelchairs then the minibus will need to carry two extinguishers.

    All fire extinguishers must legally be tested once a year as a minimum. All drivers will need to be trained on how to correctly use them as well as any teachers if the bus is used by schools or universities.

    Legally a minibus should also carry a first aid box in case of any incident that involves a passenger becoming injured. We recommend checking this regularly as well to ensure any supplies with expiry dates are replaced as needed, and to replace anything that is used as soon as possible.

    It will be the driver’s responsibility to ensure the safety equipment is easily accessible in the event of an emergency and that they know how to use them. We recommend that you ensure all drivers receive support and refresher training as needed.


    Minibus Maintenance

    Minibuses should regularly be maintained and serviced to ensure they are in the best possible condition for your drivers and passengers.

    We also recommend that before any journey the vehicle is inspected for any defects and a log kept of the vehicle condition at the start of every journey. Not only will this ensure that any needed maintenance is spotted and completed as soon as possible, but that there is an accurate and continuous record of the vehicle’s condition.

    Wessex Fleet offer expert fleet management and maintenance services, and we have worked with a number of fleets that contain or are solely made from minibuses. We can help your business with maintenance, servicing and setting up and managing regular vehicle check processes all through our easy to use app.

    Minibus Tax

    The DVLA does not have a tax bracket for minibuses so instead, they will fit into either the car or bus bracket depending on the number of seats it has.

    A minibus with seven or eight passenger seats is taxed as a car with road tax based on its CO2 emissions. A minibus with over eight passenger seats will be in the tax class of a bus.

    Minibus Speed Limits

    You should be aware that minibuses have a different speed limit to cars.

    For those not towing a trailer, they are limited to 50 mph on any single carriageway A road, provided that there is not a lower signposted speed limit. This increases to 60 mph on a dual carriageway, which remains 10 mph below the national speed limit. They can travel the speed limit, at 70 mph, on the motorway provided they are not towing a trailer in which case it remains at 60 mph.

    Another thing to be aware of if your business does plan to have a trailer on any minibuses is that it will not be able to use the outer lane of a three or four lane motorway.

    Minibus Speed Limiters

    The government states that all vehicles with more than eight passenger seats must be fitted with a speed limiter to ensure they do not go over the maximum limit they are allowed to.

    This means that most minibuses will need to have a speed limiter fitted if you are arranging a new one for your fleet. 


    It is a legal requirement for the driver of any vehicle and all of their passengers to wear a seatbelt, and if they are children to be in the appropriate car seat.

    Any child over 14 years old and adults will be responsible for ensuring their own seatbelt is on. However, as a driver you will usually be responsible for ensuring all children under 14 are wearing their seatbelt and those younger than eleven and under 1.5 metres tall are using the correct car seat.

    If your business does transport children or is likely to do so then you should make any driver aware of this responsibility.

    Let Wessex Fleet Help You

    Wessex Fleet are able to offer you the complete package, from choosing the right minibus through the ordering and delivery process, providing fleet management, maintenance and driver support whilst your business has the vehicle and even arranging collection of the vehicle. Get in touch with us today on 01722 322 888.

    Minibus FAQs

    What Classifies as a Minibus?

    A minibus is a vehicle that has between seven and 16 passenger seats as well as a driver seat.

    Vehicles with space for more than 16 passengers will fall into the category of a coach and need a different driving licence that you will need to take additional training and a test to obtain. 

    Can You Drive a Minibus on a Normal Licence?

    Drivers can drive a minibus with a standard UK driving licence provided there are fewer than 17 passengers and the vehicle weighs less than 3.5 tonnes. However, if they received their full driving licence after the 1st of January 1997 then they may need to get an additional permit.

    After the 1st of January 1997 drivers were not automatically given the D1 category on their licence, which allows you to drive a vehicle that carries eight to 16 passengers. In order to drive a minibus with the ability to carry over eight passengers they will need to get a section 19 or 22 permit from the Traffic Commissioners' Office. 

    Drivers without the D1 category can drive vehicles with up to eight passenger seats without any additional permit.

    What Type of Insurance Do I Need For My Minibus?

    If you are looking to use a minibus then this can usually be covered by your existing fleet insurance policy. 

    However, depending on what you are using the vehicle for you might be interested in taking out a minibus specific insurance policy that is specifically tailored to the unique passenger-carrying needs of minibuses. 

    If you would like to learn more about minibus leasing then head over to our dedicated minibus page or if you are interested in find out more about how Wessex Fleet can help with your fleet management needs then take a look here or find out how you can get a minibus and any other vehicles you need for your fleet here.


    Contact Wessex Fleet