Experiences involving transportation in San Francisco
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These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
Do I need a special license or permit to drive my guests to and from my experience if I don’t charge them for the ride?
You don’t need a special license or permit to drive your guests as long as you are not charging them for the ride.
In order to drive guests without getting an extra license or permit, you:
cannot charge them for the transportation you provide (either directly or by adding the cost of transportation to your Experience Fee), and
should clearly mention in your Listing that transportation will be provided “at no charge.”
If you want to charge your guests for the ride, you need to get special licenses.
Example: Joe takes his guests on a meditative walk through Golden Gate Park and wants to give them a free ride to/from the experience. Joe’s listing makes it clear he will pick up Guests who need a ride to get to his experience at no charge to the Guest. Joe does not need special licenses (aside from his regular driver’s license) to do this.
If I want to charge for the ride, do I need a special license or permit to drive guests to and from my experience?
Yes. What kind of license(s) you need depends on where you’re driving them and how muchyou’re charging for your experience.
If you’re driving guests only within San Francisco
If you’re only giving pre-arranged rides within San Francisco, you’ll need to get a Motor Vehicle For-Hire license from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The steps to get a Motor Vehicle For-Hire License are similar to the ones required to get a taxi driver license. You’ll need to visit the SFMTA office in person at 1 South Van Ness Ave., 7th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103 and:
Pay an application fee around $255 (similar to the Taxi license application fee);
Get fingerprinted and have a background check done;
Complete a Driver's’ Training Course;
Pass a written SFMTA examination;
Pass a drug and alcohol test; and
Show proof that you have at least $500,000 in car insurance covering public liability and property damage.
More information on SFMTA’s requirements is available here.
Example: Ben wants to drive his guests along the San Francisco Scenic Drive from the Ferry Building to Ocean Beach. Ben will charge $30 for the ride (and his experience costs less than $300). Since Ben plans to charge guests to drive them in San Francisco, he needs a SFMTA Motor Vehicle For-Hire license before he starts driving guests.
To do so, he’ll need to purchase $500,000 in car insurance and then head over to the SFMTA office to apply in person, pay the application fee, get fingerprinted, take a drug and alcohol test, and enroll in a training course. Joe will get his license once he passes his background check and the drug and alcohol test, completes the training course, and passes the SFMTA written exam.
If you’re driving guests outside San Francisco city limits
If you’re charging your guests to drive them outside San Francisco, you need a “charter-party carrier” license from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). A CPUC charter-party carrier license is quite costly; the application fee alone is $1,000, annual license renewal is $100, and there's a CPUC regulatory fee of 0.33% on what you charge to drive your passengers every year. In addition, among other requirements, you’ll need to:
Show proof that you have at least $750,000 in car insurance covering public liability and property damage;
Pass a drug and alcohol test by one of the CPUC’s approved providers; and
If your vehicle seats more than 9 passengers, pass a vehicle inspection by the California Highway Patrol.
More information on how to get a charter-party carrier license is available here. Once you file your application and meet the requirements, it usually takes about 3 weeks for the CPUC to register your license.
Picking guests up at the airport: Note that a charter-party carrier license does not guarantee that you will be allowed to pick up guests at the airport. Many airports have restrictions as to charter party carriers including additional vehicle inspections, background checks and special placards. Be sure to check with the airport before charging guests for airport pickup even if you have a charter-party carrier license.
Example: Anita is a surfer who wants to give her San Francisco guests a ride to her experience catching waves in Linda Mar. Anita drives a SUV that seats 6 and will charge each guest $20 for the ride (and her experience costs less than $300 per guest). *Since Anita is charging guests to drive them outside of San Francisco, she’ll need a CPUC Charter Carrier license. Since Anita will be driving a car that seats less than 16 passengers, she can choose to get a “P” Permit, which costs less than some of the the other license types.
To do so, she’ll need to buy car insurance covering $750,000 in public liability and property damage, file her application to the CPUC along with the $1,000 application fee, and pass a background check as well as a drug and alcohol check.
What if I charge my Guests for transportation and my experience costs over $300 per guest?
If you charge your guests for a ride (or for water transportation like a boat) and your experience costs over $300 per guest, you’ll also need to register as a “Seller of Travel”.
Note: You can avoid having to register as a Seller of Travel if you don’t charge your guests for transportation.
If you need to register as a Seller of Travel, you need to do so 10 days before your experience starts. To do this, you’ll need to:
file an application with the Attorney General’s office (which you’ll have to renew every year);
pay an application (and annual renewal) fee of $100;
pass a background check; and
buy a surety bond (to protect guest payments) from a company admitted by the state and send a copy of the bond with your application.
Once you get a Seller of Travel registration number, you need to include it in your listing.
If you plan to give your guests a ride or your experience involves sea travel (like a boat ride), you need to comply with the Seller of Travel requirements that may apply to you. If you charge over $300 per guest, include transportation or sea travel as part of your experience, and don’t register, you could get fined by the Attorney General’s office.
Example: Dave wants to give his San Francisco guests a ride to his experience wine tasting in Healdsburg. Dave drives a van that seats 9 and will charge each guest $40 for the ride and his experience costs $320 per person. In addition to a CPUC Charter Carrier License, Dave will need to register as a Seller of Travel since his experience costs over $300 per person and he is charging for transportation.
To do so, he’ll need to purchase a surety bond and then file his application to the California Attorney General’s office along with the $100 fee, and pass a background check.
How else can I help my guests get to and from my experience?
How you handle your experience and your guest’s transportation needs is entirely up to you. You may choose to:
give them a ride for free;
charge them if you have the necessary licenses;
ask your Guests to get their own transportation to and from your experience; or
get them a Lyft, Uber, taxi, or other state licensed vehicle with a licensed driver. You can even pay for these licensed transportation options yourself and include the cost as part of your Experience Price. However, if you do include the cost as part of your Experience Price, make sure you comply with Seller of Travel registration requirement that kicks-in for experiences that cost over $300 per person.
Example 1: Jen wants to give her San Francisco guests a ride to her experience visiting breweries in Santa Rosa. Jen charters a bus with a professional driver and charges her guests $60 for the ride. Jen’s experience costs $280 per guest. Since Jen isn’t driving guests herself, she can charge for the cost of the chartered bus. Because Jen’s experience costs less than $300 per guest, she does not need to register as a Seller of Travel.
Example 2: Jill wants to give her guests a ride to her dinner party in the Mission and arranges and pays for a Lyft for each of her guests. Jill chargers her guests $10 for the ride. Jill’s experience costs $330 per guest. Since Jill isn’t driving her guests, she can charge for the cost of their ride. However, because Jen’s experience costs more than $300 per guest, she will need to register as a Seller of Travel and include her registration number in her Listing.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).
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