What is the London ULEZ charge?

Here are the full details of the London Ultra Low Emission Zone London (or ULEZ) – find out if you’re affected and how to avoid it

BuyaCar team
Nov 2, 2021

The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced on 8 April 2019 to help improve air quality in the city. It originally covered the same area as the Congestion Charge but, from 25 October 2021, expanded to cover the area up to the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205). The result is that drivers of many diesel cars and vans and older petrol cars will have to pay a daily charge of £12.50 to drive within the zone.

The ULEZ is enforced by cameras, and the charge applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In order to avoid the charge, diesel vehicles must meet the latest Euro 6 emissions standards, with petrol vehicles needing to meet at least Euro 4.

Euro 6 is mandatory for new cars sold since September 2015, but most of the 9.5 million diesel cars on the road before that date will be liable for the charge, along with most pre-September 2016 diesel vans.

ULEZ quick facts

  • Zone coverage area increased from October 2021
  • Imposes a daily £12.50 charge on non-compliant cars
  • Operates 24/7
  • Charges apply to most non-Euro 6 diesel cars
  • Most petrol cars are unaffected
  • Payment can be made online or via telephone.

During the first six months of the ULEZ coming into force, it was found that some 13,500 fewer cars had entered the zone, which is estimated to have amounted to a drop of around 29% in NOx emissions (the harmful ones) in London city centre.

Newer diesel models will be among the ULEZ-exempt cars, while petrol cars and vans, which have historically been cleaner, are unlikely to be affected unless they were registered before 2006.

The ULEZ toll is an addition to the Congestion Charge, meaning that a trip to London could cost £27.50 if you have to pay both.

Read on for full details of how the charge works, where it operates, how it affects residents, and who is exempt. We’ll also explain how to avoid paying.

London's ULEZ map

The London ULEZ currently operates in the centre of the capital, in the same zone that’s used for the congestion charge. This runs from Victoria and Hyde Park in the west to Tower Bridge in the east, and from Euston Road in the north to Elephant & Castle in the south.

It expanded to become ten times the size on 25 October 2021, when hundreds of thousands of vehicles driving within the North Circular and South Circular roads could be liable for charges.

Other cities, including Birmingham, are planning to follow London and establish low emission or clean air zones. Many of these will include pollution charges for older vehicles or ban them entirely from driving in city centres.

Further into the future, London is planning a smaller zero emission zone from 2025, which will be restricted to electric vehicles, as well as hybrids that can drive on battery power alone for a significant distance. A zero emission zone across all of London is not proposed until 2050.

How much is the ULEZ charge?

Vehicle typeMin. emission standardULEZ Charge if below emission standard
MotorbikesEuro 3* (all bikes registered since Jul 2007)£12.50
Cars & small vansPetrol Euro 4 (since Jan 2006)
Diesel Euro 6 (since Sept 2015)
£12.50
VansPetrol Euro 4 (since Jan 2007)
Diesel Euro 6 (since Sept 2016)
£12.50
Lorries & coachesEuro VI (since Jan 2014)£100

 

Central London residents who were already registered for the Congestion Zone discount were also eligible for ULEZ discounts. However, they will have to start paying the ULEZ charge in full from the 25th October 2021 when the extension takes place.

Any car that meets or exceeds the emissions standard is exempt from the charge, so drivers won't need to pay to enter the zone. Some types of car, such as classic vehicles that qualify for the historic vehicle tax class, are also exempt. You can see more information below.

TfL ULEZ vehicle check

The emissions rating of your car can normally be found on its V5 registration document. There's also an online vehicle checker, run by Transport for London (TfL), which is responsible for the zone.

You just need to enter your vehicle's number plate to see if your car is exempt. Click here to go to the site.

When does the ULEZ operate?

The ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is run by Transport for London (TfL), the capital's transport authority.

Can you drive diesel cars in London?

All of Britain's diesel cars are allowed to be driven in London, but around 9.5 million of them don't meet the latest Euro 6 emissions standards. These cars will incur the £12.50 daily ULEZ charge if they are driven in the zone.

London is looking to introduce a zero-emission zone in 2025. It's likely that diesel cars will not be able to drive in this area if it goes ahead.

Is my car affected by the ULEZ charge?

Petrol cars

If your petrol car was registered prior to 2006, then you’re probably going to be affected by the ULEZ, but it shouldn’t be expensive to find a younger car that does meet the required Euro 4 standard for petrol cars.

Diesel cars

Diesel cars must meet much tougher standards than petrol models because they have historically produced higher levels of toxic exhaust gases, which have been linked to respiratory problems and early deaths.

Only models that meet the latest Euro 6 emissions limits are exempt. New cars have had to comply since September 2015, so most vehicles over six years old will be liable for the charge. That said, several cars met the standards as early as 2012. You can check your car's Euro emissions standard on its V5C registration document.

Many drivers with affected cars are switching to petrol engines or upgrading to a newer diesel model. Electric cars are completely exempt from the ULEZ charge.

Hybrid cars

Most hybrid cars don't receive special treatment. Diesel versions must meet Euro 6 emissions standards and petrol ones must be Euro 4-compliant.

Electric cars

Volkswagen ID.3 front three quarters view

Electric cars are not subject to ULEZ charges.

Vans

Most vans are powered by diesel and many are affected by the ULEZ charge because diesel vans must be Euro 6-compliant to avoid paying. New vans only needed to meet Euro 6 emissions standards from September 2016, so most vans that are more than five years old are not compliant.

A scrappage scheme is available for small businesses that own non-compliant diesel cars and vans. To be elligible, firms must either be based in London or send their vans there at least twice a week. The van scrappage scheme offers between £3,500 and £6,000 for small businesses to upgrade to a ULEZ-exempt van.

Motorbikes

Motorbikes must meet Euro 3 requirements which came into force in July 2007.

Buses, lorries and coaches

Buses, coaches and lorries registered after January 2014 are exempt.

ULEZ exempt cars

In addition to vehicles that meet modern emission standards, any vehicle that is at least 40 years old and has a historic tax class is exempt. Showman’s vehicles also don't have to pay the charge.

How do you pay the ULEZ charge?

The emissions surcharge uses the same payment system as London’s Congestion Charge, so you can pay online, up to 90 days in advance, or you'll have until midnight on the day that you drive into the zone.

The Auto Pay system, which already exists for the Congestion Charge, can also be used to pay the ULEZ Charge. Once you set up an account, cameras in the zone will read your numberplate and automatically debit your account on the days that you drive into London.

You can also pay by phone by calling TfL on 0343 222 2222.

Is there a penalty for not paying ULEZ?

If you’re spotted driving in the zone by TfL’s vast camera network and don’t pay within the deadline, then TfL will use your car's registration number to find your address and send a £160 penalty, which will be halved to £80 if you pay within 14 days.

It doesn't matter who was driving at the time, the registered owner of the car is liable for the fine. If there has been an error, or your car was stolen, then you will be able to appeal.

Cameras are used to enforce the zone, and drivers are able to download the TfL “Pay to Drive in London" app (iOS and Android) to pay the charge, in addition to the options of paying via a website or over the phone.

The Ultra Low Emission zone is different to the Low Emission Zone, which has been in operation for several years. This affects larger vehicles, such as lorries, buses and some campervans.

 

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