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What do I tip the driver?

Updated on February 25, 2013

How much is enough, and do I need to do it at all?

Customers of limousine companies are often confused when it comes to tipping their drivers. First-timers or irregular users seem more than usually perplexed, in my experience. My aim in writing this lens is to resolve your questions, as well as to provide a little insight.

Having worked part-time as a chauffeur for a three years now, I figure I'm qualified to lay out some basics, and provide a few guidelines. So, with that, let's begin.

Image curated from lensmaster's collection.

Aside: If you're looking for wedding-day limousines here's my guide.

Nobody knows the rules about tipping. And even when you think you know the rules, they change when you go to a different country. In Japan and Australia, people are insulted if you give them a tip, and if you give a New York City cabbie a 5 percent tip, he gets insulted.

Laura Powell

Minumum Wage

Yeah, you have to be desperate

The limousine company I work for is tiny. The Boss treats his chauffeurs pretty well, by which I mean fairly and equitably. Granted, I live in a smallish coastal town in Florida, so the opportunities are limited. New York and Los Angeles must have gigunda limo markets, about which I can't speak. But in our neck of the woods, what follows is accurate:

1. Drivers are paid either a fixed rated for fixed cost jobs - usually airport transfers - OR an hourly rate for jobs where the client is charged by the hour.

The rate in both cases approximates the minimum wage.

2. Customers are only charged from the time of pick-up to drop-off. Time spent by the chauffeur traveling to and from is not counted. Nor is the time spent preparing, cleaning, gassing, vacuuming, adding ice, decorating, de-bugging, de-vomiting, re-arranging or removing trash.

All these things are done in our own time.

3. In many cases, drivers are allocated work on a rotating kind of roster, although my place isn't like that. In essence that means you might receive a whole bunch of small runs in a row, with the associated high proportion of prep/clean-up work to actual earning time.

Lots of effort, for very little reward.

4. The bigger the limousine, the higher the likely tip. More people generally = more generosity.

But it depends on how the boss priced the deal.

5. The sought-after runs therefore are those in the large vehicles on an hourly basis. Groups out for a meal and bar-hopping afterwards are the best because alcohol is involved. As the booze lowers resistance, their intention to hire the limo for four hours only, disappears. Naturally, they want the fun to continue.

Sure, what's another hour at $150 per! We're having a ball!

I encourage this behavior. My record is nineteen hours (19) straight. That was some night (and day.)

From the Chauffeur's Perspective

The view from beyond the privacy divider

Treating every customer the same way is my credo. In life, I believe it's what we do when no-one is looking that determines one's character, so I apply that to my work too.

Providing a safe, smooth and efficient ride is my aim. Along with that, I try to be as cheerful, attentive and accommodative as possible, whether it is 4:00 am and I'm taking you to the airport, or it's 4:00 am and you want to go to another party.

You're paying, I work to make your life as easy as possible. It is a service we're providing, the service being transport with a brain. If you want just the transport, call a cab.

Overwhelmingly our customers are a delight to work for. Treating them with just the right amount of deference makes a difference, a skill one can learn after some observation.

Sometimes one needs to be a mind reader. Ladies and gentlemen, I will do anything you reasonably ask, but you must tell me what you are thinking. We are none of us clairvoyant.

Show me the money.

We live for the tips

This is what I think are fair minimums in the tipping department.

For a trip of up to thirty minutes, what I would call a short airport transfer: $10.00.

-> Something is better than nothing. Even $5.00 will pay for lunch, if that's all you can afford.

For a trip of up to an hour, a long airport transfer: $20.00

-> Consider a little extra if your driver carries bags, pets or waits longer than a few minutes.

For sedans or towncars rented hourly: 15% of the total bill.

For anything larger rented hourly: 10% of the total bill.

-> And a last thought: For a lot of fixed-price jobs, every minute beyond the time The Boss allocated is time for which your driver is not paid. If you futz around or delay him for any reason, that's either another job he loses, or time out of his life. Essentially, it's an act of charity. Think of it this way: how often are you prepared to work without recompense?

See how easy that is? Now you know. Of course if you think the driver has done a particularly good job (say, at reading your mind without you saying anything) he or she will be happy to accept more. Or even if you're just feeling generous.

Your turn to tell the world what you think - What do you think about all this?

How much do you think a limousine driver should be tipped?

See results

Tipping Tales

Surprise!...good and bad

For the 19 hour tour of duty I mentioned before, I received my biggest tip: $342.00.

(The customer's mother had recently died leaving him $10,000,000.00.)

The best tippers are generally the self-made men. They have often built a second home in Florida, or retired here, and are having the time of their lives. Taking them and their wife and another couple out for dinner will often result in a $100.00 tip, and oftentimes a pleasant night in their company too.

Employed people for whom their company pays for the limousine never tip. Fair enough. They're nice people, but not so profitable for me.

Men tip better than women.

REALLY wealthy people never tip (not mentioning any names Jeffrey Katzenberg.) Maybe that's how they attained their riches.

The easiest way to cajole someone into a tip is to make them laugh, or carry their bags.

Some customers pre-tip. One regular palms me a C-note before he heads out for dinner and drinks, saying "If ever I give you a one dollar note, tell me!" He says that every time. Every. Time. But boy, do I look after him.

I still haven't perfected the art of being palmed cash without looking. Drat.

I still haven't perfected the art of not smiling when given a tip.

The most awkward question is: How much should I tip you? The only way around the question is to tell them what you think is fair. Problem is that this approach risks the customer feeling bad when the my number is much higher than what they had in mind.

A more-or-less constant battle exists between limousine company owners and chauffeurs. Owners want the business, and are therefore inlined to say that the gratuity is included in any quoted price. Believe me, this is not the case.

Image curated from lensmaster's collection.

Composers should write tunes that chauffeurs and errand boys can whistle.

Sir Thomas Beecham

The Overview

As you please

No need to overthink this. Just as with restaurant servers or hair stylists, tipping forms part of the chauffeur's income. We rely on tips, and extra good service deserves extra good tipping.

I hope to see you again, have a pleasant journey.

Other useful limousine sites

Stuff you might use

Here is LimoCentric, the industry magazine blog.

Limos.com, probably the best online booking service.

Say hello if you want to! - I won't close the door on your foot.

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    • profile image

      GreyHee 4 years ago

      A great read. Thanks for the insightful lens. I like the way you have sprinkled famous quotes in your lens. Great job. I have bookmarked your lens.

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Right, well, as others below have stated, pre-paid tips are another way for limo companies to rip-off their drivers.

      Please understand that paying your driver in person is the only way to ensure he or she receives the gratuity.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Ema, file a complaint with the Department of Revenue. The tip/gratuity must be paid to the driver. Big trouble if the company does not do this.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It really depends. I used Echo Limousine in Chicago (www.echolimousine.com) and Carmel limo Service New York and Los Angeles and every time the ride was prepaid, 20%.

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks Diane. I really appreciate your nice words...it means a lot.

      I'm sure you're one of those sweet customers we like whether you tip or not ;-)

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 5 years ago

      @BillyPilgrim LM: You know, Mr P, I'm quite amazed at the amount of traffic this lens has unearthed. I hope they think like you! Thanks for the props.

    • profile image

      blacklimo11 5 years ago

      I like black limo service in Toronto in Canada. Good quality Toronto limo Airport car service.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      To all limo clients in the US, do not prepay the 15-20% gratuity, it is a cash cow for all limo company owners and their affiliates around the country. Most limo companies shortchange their drivers,prepaid gratuity becomes lost in billing dept.. Tipping ultimately is not compulsory; but please tip the driver personally after a good service. From personal experience as a driver in Atl.

    • BillyPilgrim LM profile image

      BillyPilgrim LM 5 years ago

      Useful info!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm really bad at knowing how much to tip people that give me a service. Half the time I end up just giving more than is necessary to make sure it's enough. Does it matter what kind of Huntley limousine rental I get, or is it just about the quality of driving and service they provide? Thanks for the other advice you provided about how to tip them.

    • profile image

      ForCarLovers 5 years ago

      As a London minicab driver who has to contend with heavy traffic on the roads I welcome tips but I find customers do not always tip especially on short journeys.

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    • TimTam LM profile image
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      TimTam LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for the compliment, Diane. Very happy to hear that I helped you, and I can tell that you are one of the Golden Tippers. Nice people shine :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for all the above. I've had my questions answered and feel like an experienced limo customer now. You have a great way of getting the information across with clarity and humor. Good for you! May you get lots and lots of tips.

      P.S. I'm a woman but I tip like a man.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I use a houston limo service called GHL when I am in Houston. They have really friendly drivers so I usually tip 20%. I think anyone in a service industry should get a tip and if they do a good job 20% seems right to me.

    • profile image

      limoz 5 years ago

      A luxury car service should deserve 20% Gratuity, which is standard in New Jersey and New York. If you really like the chauffeur for going above and beyond, then extra is optional.

      www.limo1stclassnj.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I've been a chauffeur for over 3 years and I love it...Great read. I love getting tipped $20 plus! The best tip I've gotten before was $250 :)

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Naperville, Illinois, right? Your limo service is undoubtedly the best, especially as you are a fan of Squidoo ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I drive for and Airport Shuttle, we have a couple of mini vans and shuttle buses that accommodates 14 passengers and their luggage comfortably.

      Some folks tip pretty well,others not at all.

      What do you Think is reasonable for my line of work?

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 5 years ago

      @MamaBelle: Well, it's fun, at least for a few hours,Mama. If you do hire a limo, always look for midweek deals, check out the actual limo you'll have on the night, and if possible meet the driver. A good driver can make or break your event. And that's all I've got!

    • TimTam LM profile image
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      TimTam LM 5 years ago

      @ShamanicShift: Ah, yes, the value of the lens is huge :-)

      Thanks for the blessing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice reading

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    • MamaBelle profile image

      Francis Luxford 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      A very interesting read. Unfortunately I've yet to hire a limo myself.

    • profile image

      Twilight_Limo 6 years ago

      We hire limo services for various reasons like that of wedding, parties or fetching someone very important from the airport. San Antonio limousines or any other limo services make it a point to provide top quality experience to their customers and it is but proper to leave a decent tip. We all want to feel that we are being taken care of, even with limo rides because it is not often that we do avail of such services.

    • profile image

      ShamanicShift 6 years ago

      What an important topic to cover -- I have worked for lower-than-minimum to minimum jobs and found tipping behavior was...uh...entertaining, but not so lucrative in my situations. I got asked often whether tips were necessary -- but I didn't make lenses back then, heh, heh -- blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image

      ShamanicShift 6 years ago

      What an important topic to cover -- I have worked for lower-than-minimum to minimum jobs and found tipping behavior was...uh...entertaining, but not so lucrative in my situations. I got asked often whether tips were necessary -- but I didn't make lenses back then, heh, heh -- blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image

      signaturetransportation 6 years ago

      Tipping the Service industry has always been a tradition. If you feel like your driver opens the door and transports your best interests. Your interests should be with showing gratitude, and returning the favor. What amount widely depends on the type of service you hire.

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 6 years ago

      @squid-pinkchic18: Thanks Miss PC! I liked your tipping lens too!

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Ah, yes this is a common problem.

      The limo driver should make clear at the beginning of the ride how the bill is to be paid. In my experience, limo companies require a card on file, and will charge it unless advised otherwise.

      So when customers offer cash, unless both sides are CLEAR, it is natural for a driver to assume it's a tip. We're worth it.

      All you need say is "I am paying cash for the limo, and here's your tip".

      Communication. That's the ticket.

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Ah, yes Liz, anyone who works in service is a WAY better tipper than those who don't.

      You got it in one.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Just wanted to say thanks for going through the tipping thing. I usually tip about 20% when out to dinner but I have never been in a limo before so this is good info to have.

      Ill remember your input when I do. Have you found that people in the service industry tip better then people that aren't? I would think that would be the case since they know what its like to deal with the public every day.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thank you for the tips on giving tips :) I really appreciate the information. It is something that i have thought about before when I have needed to go to an event where I'd need a limo. I will have to remember this stuff for next time! Thanks again! www.limophl.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      hello tim tam,

      this was very useful for me because i had recently rented a limo from 123 limos... and the ride was only about 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back :|:| and my friend had had a misunderstanding with the limo driver and she had given him OVER 300 dollars at the end of the ride because she thought she was paying for the limo. BUT the limo driver accepted it as TIP...... ifind that to be ridiculous thing for the limo driver to do.. and now the limo company is trying to tell me that there is nothing that I can do... just wanted to know if there is something that I can do?

    • squid-pinkchic18 profile image

      squid-pinkchic18 7 years ago

      Awesome lens here! I've never tipped a driver except a taxi driver, and even then I didn't know how much I should do. Very helpful! I featured this on my lens titled "Holiday Tipping Etiquette".

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 7 years ago

      @anonymous: RIght on, Dave. Sounds good to me :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      A customary 15-20% of the total bill is suggested for your chauffeur.

      If you feel your driver has done an extraordinary job in making your occasion perfect, you may want to give more.

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 8 years ago

      Hey Geezer, that's a great question. I'll answer this here, but will add it to the blog as well.

      - bottle opener (crown seal and corkscrew)

      - white cotton dishcloth for polishing glasses

      - paper towel for spills

      - Band Aids (amazing how often I use these)

      - gum and breath mints

      - Swiss Army knife or Leatherman or both.

      - window cleaner and all purpose cleaner (I use the green products I sell)

      - needle and thread (never used, but someone said it was a good idea)

      - spare pens and paper

      - as many different power cords as you can find for phones and computers

      - hand sanitizer

      - air freshener (my green stuff again)

      - over the counter pain pills

      That's what is in my bag! Good luck, and thanks for stopping by. If I can help, just email.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Just starting back as a limo driver. What if anything should every "good driver" carry with them...you know, items to make the job easier, or something a customre always needs.

    • TimTam LM profile image
      Author

      TimTam LM 8 years ago

      Dead right, Rod. It's not something I'd do again, that's for sure. Thanks for the warning and information.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      You need to get familiar with the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration. Specifically hours of operation laws. If you worked 19 hours as you say you did then you were in violation of the laws. Had you been in an accident, while operating outside the laws, and God forbid someone was hurt or worse, you would be in jail. I have worked in transportation my entire adult life with many years at a limo company. Your company should have someone familiar with safety and compliance. If they don't then you need to move on. You are just asking for trouble. For future reference the legal hours of operation for anyone transporting passengers in 15 hours on duty (not behind the wheel) and 10 hours of actual drive time. Best of luck.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      Nice lens!

      It is very informative. I liked this lens and bookmarked this. It can help people in selecting a good driver.

      5 stars.

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      http://limosuinesearch.com/