A chauffeur in Japan standing next to a Nissan Fuga.

A chauffeur is a person employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle, especially a luxury vehicle such as a large sedan or limousine. A woman employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle is a chauffeuse.

Originally, such drivers were often personal employees of the vehicle owner, but now in many cases specialist chauffeur service companies or individual drivers provide both driver and vehicle for hire, although there are service companies that just provide the driver.


The term chauffeur comes from the French term for stoker because the earliest automobiles,[1] like their railroad and sea vessel counterparts, were steam-powered and required the driver to stoke the engine. Early petrol/gasoline-powered motor cars, before the advent of electric ignition, were ignited by 'hot tubes' in the cylinder head which had to be pre-heated before the engine would start. Hence the term chauffeur which, in this context, means something like "heater-upper". The chauffeur would prime the hot tubes at the start of a journey, after which the natural compression cycle of the engine would keep them at the correct temperature. The chauffeur also maintained the car, including routine maintenance and cleaning, and had to be a skilled mechanic to deal with breakdowns and tyre punctures en route, which were very common in the earliest years of the automobile.

Only the very wealthy could afford the first automobiles, and they generally employed chauffeurs rather than driving themselves. A 1906 article in The New York Times reported that "...the chauffeur problem to-day is one of the most serious that the automobilist has to deal with.", and complained that "...young men of no particular ability, who have been earning from $10 to $12 a week, are suddenly elevated to salaried positions paying from $25 to $50..." and recommended the re-training of existing coach drivers.[2]

Other Languages
العربية: سائق سيارة
Bân-lâm-gú: Chauffeur
беларуская: Вадзіцель
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Кіроўца
català: Xofer
dansk: Chauffør
Deutsch: Chauffeur
Ελληνικά: Σοφέρ
español: Chofer
Esperanto: Ŝoforo
euskara: Txofer
한국어: 쇼퍼
Bahasa Indonesia: Sopir
italiano: Chauffeur
қазақша: Жүргізуші
lietuvių: Vairuotojas
Nederlands: Chauffeur
नेपाली: सवारी चालक
norsk: Sjåfør
norsk nynorsk: Sjåfør
polski: Kierowca
português: Motorista
română: Șofer
русский: Водитель
sicilianu: Sciafferru
Simple English: Chauffeur
Soomaaliga: Darawal
svenska: Chaufför
українська: Водій
Vahcuengh: Bouxhaici
粵語: 私人司機