1908 Studebaker limousine with an open driver's compartment
1953 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV (coachwork by Hooper)

A limousine (/ˈlɪməzn/ or /lɪməˈzn/), or limo (/ˈlɪm/) for short,[1] is a large, chauffeur-driven luxury vehicle with a partition between the driver compartment and the passenger compartment which can be operated mechanically by hand or by a button electronically.[2] A luxury sedan with a very long wheelbase and driven by a professional driver is called a stretch limousine.[3]

In some countries, such as the United States, Germany, Canada, and Australia, a limousine service may be any pre-booked hire car with driver, usually but not always a luxury car. In particular, airport shuttle services are often called "limousine services", though they often use minivans, light commercial vehicles or MPVs.[2]


The type of limousine hood or roof described in the text (1912 Vauxhall)

The word limousine is derived from the name of the French region Limousin. However, how the name of the region transferred to the car is uncertain.

One possibility involves a particular type of carriage hood or roof that physically resembled the raised hood of the cloak worn by the shepherds there.[4][5]

An alternate etymology speculates that some early chauffeurs wore a Limousin-style cloak in the open driver's compartment, for protection from the weather.[6] The name was then extended to this particular type of car with a permanent top projecting over the chauffeur.[4] This former type of automobile had an enclosed passenger compartment seating three to five persons, with only a roof projecting forward over the open driver's area in the front.[7]


Rich owners of expensive carriages and their passengers were accustomed to their own private compartments leaving their coachman or driver outside in all weathers. When automobiles arrived the same people required a similar arrangement for their chauffeurs. As such, the 1916 definition of limousine by the US Society of Automobile Engineers is "a closed car seating three to five inside, with driver's seat outside".[8]

In Great Britain, the limousine de-ville was a version of the limousine town car where the driver's compartment was outside and had no weather protection.[9]: 103  The limousine-landaulet variant (also sold in the United States) had a removable or folding roof section over the rear passenger seat.[9]: 100 

In the United States, sub-categories of limousines in 1916 were the berline defined as "a limousine having the driver's seat entirely enclosed", and the brougham, defined as "a limousine with no roof over the driver's seat."[8]

US limousine business declined in the 21st century due to the effects of the Great Recession, the subsequent rise of ride sharing apps, and an industry crisis precipitated by deadly stretch limousine crashes in 2015 and in Schoharie, New York, in 2018. Moreover, during this time people who would have once utilized limousines began opting to travel more discreetly in cars like black SUVs.[10]


The limousine body style usually has a partition separating the driver from the rear passenger compartment.[6][9]: 96  This partition includes a usually openable glass section so passengers may see the road. Communication with the driver is possible either by opening the window in the partition or by using an intercom system.

Limousines are often long-wheelbase vehicles, in order to provide extra legroom in the passenger compartment. There will usually be occasional seats (in the U.S. called jump seats) at the front of the compartment (either forward-facing, rear-facing or able to face either direction).

Many nations have official state cars designed to transport government officials. The top leaders have dedicated and specially equipped limousines. The United States Presidential State Car is the official car of the President of the United States.

Stretch limousines

Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine

Stretch limousines are longer than regular limousines, usually in order to accommodate more passengers. Stretch limousines may have seating along the sides of the cabin.

A "stretch limousine" was created in Fort Smith, Arkansas, around 1928 by a coach company named Armbruster. Armbruster's cars were primarily used to transport famous "big band" leaders, such as Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, and their bands and equipment. These early stretch limousines were often called "big band buses". Armbruster called their lengthened cars "extended-wheelbase multi-door auto-coaches". Their 12-passenger people movers were used by hotels, taxis, airlines, corporations, and tour companies.[11] Knock-down programs by automakers made coachbuilders stretch vehicles, but Armbruster also custom built limousines using unibody construction such as the 1969 AMC Ambassadors.[12]

As of 2023, stretch limousines comprise one percent of US limousine company offerings. That total was down from about ten percent in 2013.[13]

Novelty limousines

A variety of vehicles have been converted into novelty limousines.[14] They are used for weddings, parties, and other social occasions.[15] Another style of novelty limousine are those painted in bright colors, such as purple or pink.[16]

Vehicles converted into novelty stretch limousines include the East German Trabant, Volkswagen Beetle, Fiat Panda, and Citroën 2CV. There are instances of Corvettes, Ferraris, and Mini Coopers being stretched to accommodate up to 10 passengers.

United States

Lincoln Navigator stretch limousine

The last production limousine, by Cadillac, with forward-facing jump seats, was in 1987 (with their Fleetwood Series 75 model), the last Packard in 1954, and the last Lincoln in 1939, though Lincoln has offered limousines through their dealers as special order vehicles at times. Several Lincoln Premier cars were also built, one being owned by Elvis Presley. Vehicles of this type in private use may contain expensive audio players, televisions, video players, and bars, often with refrigerators. The President of the United States has ridden in a variety of brands of limousine stretching back to 1899.[17]

United Kingdom

Division in a 1993 Bentley Turbo R
The division in a London cab, black occasional seats folded up to bulkhead

Due to the partition behind the driver, the Hackney carriages are a type of limousine, although not typically identified as such in Britain. The occasional seats, also referred to as taxi-tip-seats, usually carry advertising on the underside; the advertisements are visible to the passengers when the tip-seats are not in use.

Current limousine production

Examples of limousines currently[when?] produced by vehicle manufacturers include:

See also


  1. ^ Garner, Bryan (July 28, 2009). Garner's Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199874620. Archived from the original on July 7, 2023. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Definition of limousine". merriam-webster.com. October 28, 2019. Archived from the original on September 20, 2019. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  3. ^ "Definition of Stretch Limo". merriam-webster.com. Archived from the original on July 2, 2020. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Dyke, Andrew Lee (1920). Dyke's Automobile and Gasoline Engine Encyclopedia (Twelfth ed.). p. 582. Archived from the original on July 7, 2023. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  5. ^ Ayto, John (2009). Word Origins. A&C Black Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4081-0160-5. Archived from the original on July 7, 2023. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  6. ^ a b The Random House College Dictionary. Random House. 1975. p. 777. ISBN 0-394-43600-8. 1. an automobile having a permanently enclosed compartment for from three to five persons, the roof of which projects forward over the driver's seat in front...[< F, special use of limousine long cloak, so called because worn by the shepherds of Limousin, a former province in central France]
  7. ^ "Definition of limousine" (Complete & Unabridged Digital ed.). Collins English Dictionary. 2012. Archived from the original on April 17, 2019. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  8. ^ a b "What's What in Automobile Bodies Officially Determined". The New York Times. August 20, 1916. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved June 27, 2015. Here it is, with other body types and distinctions, officially determined recently by the Nomenclature Division of the Society of Automobile Engineers
  9. ^ a b c Haajanen, Lennart W. (2003). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1276-3. Archived from the original on July 7, 2023. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  10. ^ Jiménez, Jesus (2023-04-28). "The Long Demise of the Stretch Limousine". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2023-04-30. Retrieved 2023-04-30.
  11. ^ Theobald, Mark; DeWinter IV, Bernie (2004). "Armbruster & Company, Tom Armbruster, Ed Robben, Armbruster/Stageway, Fort Smith, Airport Limousine, Earnhart & Johansen - CoachBuilt.com". coachbuilt.com. Archived from the original on 26 March 2023. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  12. ^ Strohl, Daniel (23 September 2018). "1969 AMC Ambassador Limousine". Hemmings. Archived from the original on 28 December 2022. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  13. ^ Jiménez, Jesus (2023-04-28). "The Long Demise of the Stretch Limousine". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2023-04-30. Retrieved 2023-04-30.
  14. ^ "Dave's Classic Limousines Pictures: Novelty Limousines". Archived from the original on July 12, 2015. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  15. ^ Pedersen, Stephanie (2004). KISS guide to planning a wedding. DK Publishers. pp. 195–196. ISBN 978-0-7894-9695-9.
  16. ^ Naylor, Sharon (2004). 1000 Best Wedding Bargains. Sourcebooks. p. 198. ISBN 978-1-4022-0298-8. Retrieved June 27, 2015. novelty limousines.
  17. ^ Huffman, John Pearley (January 19, 2009). "The Secret Seven: The Top Presidential Limousines of All Time". Popular Mechanics. Archived from the original on September 20, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2015.