Is my car ULEZ compliant?

With the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) now covering all of Greater London, how can you be certain that your car is ULEZ-exempt?

By David Ross

The expansion of London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone and similar schemes across the UK means that low-emission cars are hot property at the moment, with ULEZ-compliant cars being among the most sought-after models on BuyaCar. 

But confusion still reigns among car buyers as to which models are ULEZ-compliant, and which models aren’t.

Compliance is determined by a car’s ‘Euro’ emissions status, which has been declared on the car’s V5C registration document since 2001. The vast majority of pre-2001 cars are therefore non-compliant, due to the unavailability of emissions data.

Of course, those cars account for a minority, with the average age of a car on the UK’s roads being 8.7 years according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. 

Where the boundaries become blurred is in the different parameters set for petrol and diesel vehicles. To be ULEZ compliant, a diesel model needs to conform with Euro 6 emissions standards and a petrol car with Euro 4.

As a loose rule, that means all petrol cars built after 2006 (when Euro 4 was mandated) should be ULEZ compliant, all diesel cars built after September 2015 (when Euro 6 was mandated) should be ULEZ compliant and all vans built after September 2016 (Euro 6 came in a year later for LCVs) should be ULEZ compliant. 

However, those dates are not hard and fast, as many manufacturers were building ULEZ compliant cars much sooner, leading many owners to ask the question: “Is my car ULEZ compliant?

Some petrol cars as early as 2001 meet Euro 4 criteria and some diesels from 2011 onward, so how can you check if you own a ULEZ compliant car already, or need to source a replacement?

 

ULEZ-compliant car deals

Nissan Leaf

BuyaCar prices from £6,695
Monthly finance from £176.50*

Ford Fiesta

BuyaCar prices from £6,111
Monthly finance from £157.31*

Kia Sportage

BuyaCar prices Limited stock

Where do I need a ULEZ-compliant car?

The London Ultra-Low Emission Zone first operated in the centre of the capital, in the same zone that was 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 and Castle in the south.

It expanded to become many times its original size on 25 October 2021, with hundreds of thousands of vehicles driving within the North Circular and South Circular roads potentially being liable for charges.

The latest 2023 extension has seen the Ultra-Low Emission Zone expand to encompass all London Boroughs, including many residential areas, Heathrow Airport and a number of major sporting venues such as Wembley Stadium, Twickenham and the All-England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon.

How do I check if my car is ULEZ-compliant?

If your car was registered after March 2001, you can check its Euro status on the V5C registration document. However, there is a quicker way.

Transport for London holds a database of ULEZ compliant cars from the DVLA, and has set up a ULEZ checker here if you want to find out if your car complies or not. 

What do I do if my car is not ULEZ-compliant?

If your car doesn’t meet ULEZ standards, then you have two choices. You can either pay the £12.50 daily charge to enter the ULEZ zone or you can upgrade to a ULEZ-compliant car, with thousands of suitable models available via BuyaCar today. 

If you regularly go into the ULEZ zone the daily charges will quickly add up, which means a non-compliant car could swiftly become unviable. If you don’t live inside London then it may not affect you much, but remember that the likes of Heathrow, Chessington World of Adventures, Wembley, Wimbledon and Twickenham are all now within the ULEZ boundaries. 

It’s also worth noting that other Low Emission Zones (sometimes known as Clean Air Zones or CAZ) are beginning to come into force around the UK, so it’s not just drivers heading to London who should be interested in the emission levels of their cars.

For London residents, the Mayor of London has set up a scrappage scheme offering grants of £2,000 to owners of non-compliant cars within the zone.

How do I apply for the scrappage scheme?

The scrappage scheme was amended in August 2023 to offer greater incentives to people living within the ULEZ zone and who own an older vehicle, but they must have owned it for a minimum of 12 months prior to 21 August 2023. 

For cars, motorcycles and wheelchair-accessible cars or vans, there are eight grant payment options:

  • Scrap a car: £2,000
  • Scrap a car: £1,600 plus one adult-rate Annual Bus & Tram Pass
  • Scrap a car: £1,200 plus two adult-rate Annual Bus & Tram Passes
  • Scrap a motorcycle: £1,000
  • Scrap a motorcyle: £600 plus one adult-rate Annual Bus & Tram Pass
  • Scap a motorcycle: £200 plus two adult-rate Annual Bus & Tram Passes
  • Scrap a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (car or van): £10,000
  • Retrofit a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (van only): £6,000

Incentives for scrapping vans are up to £7,000 depending on the type of usage, but grants available to private owners are the same as cars. 

You can find out more about the grant scheme and how to apply by following this link.

ULEZ-compliant petrol cars

  • To be ULEZ-compliant, petrol cars must meet Euro 4 emissions standards
  • This includes virtually every petrol car registered since January 2006 and some since 2001
  • Cars that meet more recent Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards are also exempt from the charge

You can check if a car is compliant with ULEZ by entering the registration number here.

ULEZ-compliant diesel cars

A large proportion of diesel cars on the road have to pay to drive into the ULEZ. Overall sales of diesel cars have seen a rapid decline in recent years as emissions restrictions have been tightened up and many drivers have turned away from diesel and chosen petrol cars that emit less of certain harmful pollutants, or even made the jump to electric models. However, because a handful of diesel cars met the Euro 6 standard early, and many millions have been sold since, prices are relatively affordable if you know what you’re looking for.

You can check if a car is compliant with ULEZ by entering the registration number here.

  Euro 6 diesel cars currently start at £4,824 on BuyaCar. Finance payments are from £110.48 per month.

ULEZ-compliant electric cars

  • All electric cars are exempt from ULEZ charges

Going electric is an easy way to instantly comply with ULEZ charges. You also won’t need to worry about proposals for zero-emission zones, much further into the future.  Electric car prices start at £6,289 on BuyaCar.

ULEZ-compliant hybrid cars

  • Hybrid cars are treated the same as standard petrol or diesel cars
  • Most hybrids have a petrol engine, so ULEZ-compliant ones have to meet Euro 4 standards, in force since 2006
  • Diesel hybrids are only ULEZ-compliant if they meet Euro 6 standards, in force from September 2015
  • All plug-in hybrid cars sold new and first registered in the UK should be ULEZ compliant

ULEZ regulations don’t offer any special treatment to hybrid vehicles. This isn’t a problem for most owners because the vast majority of hybrid cars on the road are petrol-powered and meet Euro 4, 5 or 6 regulations, which makes them compliant. Prices start at £4,824 or from £110.48 per month.

There are a handful of diesel hybrid cars, sold in 2015 or before, which only meet Euro 5 regulations, so avoid these if you’re looking for a ULEZ-compliant hybrid that helps you to avoid the £12.50 daily charge.

ULEZ-compliant vans

  • Diesel-powered vans only avoid ULEZ charges if they are Euro 6-compliant
  • Almost every new van has had to be Euro 6-compliant since September 2016. Most built before then are not
  • Petrol vans only need to meet Euro 4 standards, which have applied to virtually every vehicle since 2007

Van drivers are among the hardest hit by the ULEZ charges. Not only do many drivers have little choice but to drive into the capital for work purposes, they also have to have the most modern vehicles to meet the ULEZ standards because most vans are diesel-powered.

Euro 6 standards only became mandatory for new vans from September 2016, so any diesel van built before this date may be liable for the charge.

There’s increasing interest in petrol vans and electric vans, but relatively low used diesel van prices mean that upgrading to a reasonably new ULEZ-compliant model can be affordable, too. There are a handful of surprisingly cheap ULEZ-exempt vans available now on BuyaCar that could see you saving on both fronts.

You can check if a van is compliant with ULEZ by entering the registration number here.

ULEZ-compliant motorbikes

  • Motorbikes, mopeds and quadricycles must meet Euro 3 standards to be ULEZ-compliant
  • Euro 3 became mandatory for these vehicles from July 2007

Despite having half the number of wheels as a car, non-compliant motorbikes and mopeds incur the same £12.50 ULEZ charge, so it’s worthwhile finding one that was built after this date and is at least Euro 3 compliant.

You can check if a motorbike is compliant with ULEZ by entering the registration number here.

Disabled tax class and Wheelchair
Accessible Vehicles (WAVs)

Disabled and WAV vehicles are only ULEZ compliant if the vehicle on which they are based is also compliant. However, grants are available to retrofit emissions equipment to certain types of WAV and the scrappage incentives are much greater. 

Disabled people whose vehicles are registered with the DVLA as having ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicle’ tax classification benefit from a grace period which exempts them from paying the ULEZ charge until 24 October, 2027.

Historic vehicles

One anomaly where ULEZ is concerned is historic vehicles. When a car reaches 40 years old, the owner can apply for ‘Historic’ status with the DVLA, which exempts the car from an MOT, road tax and ULEZ charges. As a result, popular older models such as MGBs, Minis, Land Rovers and classic Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Rolls-Royce models have seen a substantial increase in popularity among London residents wanting to beat ULEZ in an unconventional manner. 

However, it is incumbent on the owner to inform TfL of the car’s historic status to make it ULEZ compliant.