New York Sightseeing Tours
and the Law
New York sightseeing tours must be conducted by a New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) licensed sightseeing guide - that's law!
Vehicles used for New York sightseeing tours and their drivers must also be specially licensed - that too is the law!
Sightseeing vehicles, with a capacity of 8 passengers or more, must be licensed by the DCA as a sightseeing bus. Drivers of these vehicles must have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) issued by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
New York Law & Order Courthouse in lower Manhattan
Vehicles used for New York sightseeing tours, having a capacity of 7 passengers or less, must be licensed as a "car-for-hire" by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). The drivers of "car-for-hire" vehicles must also be licensed by the TLC. Even if the vehicle and/or driver is from another state (ie, New Jersey or Connecticut) or another county outside of New York City (ie, Westchester or Nassau), still, both the vehicle and driver are required to be licensed by the TLC to legally provide transportation for New York City sightseeing tours.
New York State law defines "for-hire" as "the business of carrying or transporting passengers for compensation (direct or indirect)." The New York State Departments of Insurance and Motor Vehicles explain direct vs. indirect compensation as follows:
"A direct fee would include the charge a person would pay to ride a bus or be driven in a taxi or rent a vehicle. An indirect fee would include the charge a daycare operator charges to take care of your child. Included with this daycare is the transportation of the children to a park or event in a vehicle owned by that business. That vehicle if used in this capacity must be registered and insured as a for hire vehicle" (https://dmv.ny.gov/insurance/hire-insurance-requirements)
Even soliciting or advertising driving tours without the above required driver and vehicle licenses is illegal (§80-02).
Do not risk your New York driving tours and well-being to illegally operating drivers and/or vehicles. Illegal also means uninsured. Even a minor accident with minor injuries can result in thousands of dollars in medical expenses and lost wages for which you will not be covered in a vehicle and/or with a driver operating illegally, without the proper commercial license and insurance.
There are unscrupulous guides illegally conducting driving tours, who use private passenger class vehicles to conduct their New York sightseeing tours. They will incorrectly tell you that they, or their driver, are not required to to be TLC licensed or drive a TLC licensed vehicle. It is more likely they could not pass the required doctor's examination; periodic drug tests; and/or do not have a safe driving record. Perhaps, and most importantly, they do not have commercial for-hire vehicle insurance and you will not covered in the event of an accident while on their illegally conducted driving tour. Their lack of insurance will leave you responsible for your own medical bills, loss of work costs and perhaps even the expenses of others injured in the accident and/or property damage, as you failed to engage in reasonable due diligence to hire a legally licensed and properly insured professional driver and/or vehicle.
Every vehicle with a seating capacity of 7 passengers or less legally conducting New York sightseeing tours will have a rectangular or round blue medallion like the one above posted on the passenger's side of the windshield.
Every driver of a vehicle with a seating capacity of 7 passengers or less, legally conducting New York sightseeing tours, will have a license like this with their picture posted on the dashboard of the vehicle.
My New York Sightseeing tours and day trips are all conducted in full compliance with the law.
To begin with, I am licensed as a sightseeing guide by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. To become licensed, I sat for and passed the city's 150 question exam on New York history, geography, architecture, and more. Also, as required of licensed sightseeing guides, my finger prints are on file with the DCA, where I continue to pass the ongoing and periodic criminal and background checks. I am also a licensed sightseeing guide in Washington, DC, the only other location where I conduct tours requiring guides to be licensed.
The vehicle I use for my New York sightseeing tours and day trips is licensed by the TLC. My TLC licensed vehicle is safety inspected every four months, as required and reported. It is insured by a TLC approved for hire-vehicle commercial insurance policy, with mandated levels of coverage. All of my tours are dispatched by a TLC licensed base; monitored by GPS app for route, location, driving times (to ensure against "fatigued driving," etc.
All of the previous are electronically reported to and monitored by the TLC Compliance Unit for your safety.
Obviously, I am also a TLC licensed for hire-driver, as required by law. I passed all of my physical examinations by a TLC appointed doctor. I continue to pass the periodically required drug tests. I passed all of the initial class room work; safe driving classes; customer service classes, etc., required to be to be a TLC licensed driver. And, I continue to take the ongoing classes and tests required to maintain my license.
All of the above referenced laws and requirements are in place to protect you. Do not become a victim by hiring an illegally operating tour guide!
Every driver and vehicle having a seating capacity of 7 passengers or less, legally conducting New York driving tours, must have BOTH of the above licenses posted in or on their vehicle - there are no exceptions! Regardless of the driver's state or county of residence; regardless of where the vehicle is license and registered; every driver and vehicle having a seating capacity of 7 passengers or less legally conducting driving tours in New York City must have BOTH of the above licenses posted in or on their vehicle. If you find yourself touring in a vehicle without these licenses displayed, immediately call the police by dialing 911. Don't become a victim! Demand your money back. Dispute the charge with your credit card company. Leave reviews to warn other unsuspecting tourists. And, if the arrangements were made by a travel agent, report the matter to the agent, as they too are in the line of liability in the event of an accident. You can also forward the details of your tour and tour operator to me and I will report the matter to the authorities.