12 ways to avoid paying London's ULEZ charge

Go electric, buy a clean diesel or run away to join the circus? The comprehensive guide to avoiding London's ULEZ charge

Dominic Tobin
Apr 8, 2019

London's ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) came into force on April 8, forcing drivers of most diesel cars and vans to pay £12.50 per day to drive in the centre of the capital.

Some petrol car and motorbike owners will face charges to drive drive into the central London charging area too.

It's designed to deter owners of the most polluting cars from the city centre, in an effort to improve air quality. The zone currently operates in the same area as the Congestion Zone, but will expand across most of the capital in 2021, to cover the area within the North and South Circular roads.

Fortunately, there's at least one affordable or practical way for most drivers to avoid the charge. We've listed some of the most common - and some more unusual methods below.

You can also look at our complete ULEZ charge guide for more details, or search for ULEZ-exempt cars for sale. These include all recent petrol vehicles, plus diesel cars and vans that meet the latest emissions standards, known as Euro 6.

Buy a petrol car

Until the very latest diesel cars were launched, petrol cars produced far lower levels of toxic emissions, so the ULEZ restrictions for these vehicles are less strict.

In fact, any petrol car or van that’s less than 13 years old will almost certainly be ULEZ-exempt because they will meet a set of emissions regulations called Euro 4, which became mandatory for new cars from 2006.

Your vehicle registration document may show your car's emission rating. If not, you can check with the manufacturer or use the online checker from Transport for London, which is in charge of the ULEZ.

 

Buy a recent diesel car

If you only read the headlines, you could easily think that diesel drivers are doomed to pay extortionate extra charges, but that doesn’t apply to all cars - just the majority of them…

Diesel cars that meet the latest emissions standards, known as Euro 6 are seen as much cleaner than earlier models, so qualify as ULEZ-exempt.

Cars registered since September 2015 have had to meet these standards. Several models were Euro 6 compliant early. This means that they are relatively affordable. Euro 6 diesel cars start at £5,470 from BuyaCar.

 

Invest in a classic car

You won’t be doing anything to solve London’s air pollution problem, but buying a classic car that was built more than 40 years ago, is one way to drive in London without paying the ULEZ charge.

Pre-1979 cars with an historic tax class (which means there’s no annual car tax to pay) are automatically exempt from the ULEZ. The cut-off date rolls forward each year, so pre-1981 historic cars will be exempt in 2021.

 

Go electric

Electric cars are exempt from the ULEZ and you also won’t have to worry about plans for future zero-emission zones either.

BuyaCar prices start at £4,499, although you should budget at least £10,000 for a family car that includes the batteries (some Renault Zoe models require you to lease the batteries separately).

The only problem for London residents is that charging can be a problem if you don’t have off-street parking.

 

Choose a modern van

Van drivers can feel hard done by the ULEZ. Not only are most of the vehicles powered by diesel, there are also limited numbers of ULEZ-exempt options to choose from.

Euro 6 emissions regulations only became mandatory for new vans in September 2016, so most vehicles more than two and a half years old are liable for the charge.

Small Euro 6 diesel vans cost from £4,795 on BuyaCar, , while larger vehicles cost from £11,999. Alternatively, there are rising numbers of petrol vans and electric vans to choose from.

 

Run away and join the circus

London's Mayor has decided that clean air shouldn't come at the price of laughter, so circus staff are one of the few groups that gain an exemption from the Ultra Low Emission Zone.

Specifically, the exemption covers anyone driving a specially constructed or modified "showman's" vehicle that's used during a performance or to carry performance equipment.

It might sound like an extreme move, but has undoubted appeal if the alternative is commuting on the Tube each morning.

 

Drive a tank (or tractor)

No Range Rover driver will be cutting you up during the morning commute should you choose this nuclear (warfare) option.

Military vehicles are exempt from the ULEZ but - and this is quite some restriction - they must be UK and foreign military vehicles that are not registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). So, you’ll probably need to be a serving soldier to take advantage of this.

Tractors are also ULEZ-exempt, although the saving you make must be weighed against the painfully slow trundle into town that you’ll have to endure. The same applies to mobile cranes and excavators.

 

Move to central London

Anyone living in the Congestion Zone is entitled to a residents’ discount. If you’re registered for this, then you should automatically have a complete discount from the ULEZ until October 25, 2021, when the zone expands (if you;re unsure, it's best to check with Transport for London).

Confusingly, if your vehicle doesn’t meet Euro 4 regulations (most cars built before 2006), then you’ll need to pay the T-Charge - the predecessor to the ULEZ - at a discounted rate of £1 per day.

 

Avoid driving in central London

Unless you need to bring equipment or tools into central London, it’s easy to avoid driving into ULEZ zone, thanks to plentiful transport options. However, the cost of taking a family on public transport might make the charge and London parking fees look cheap.

 

Go by bike

A bike hire scheme and cycle superhighway network make London increasingly bike friendly. If you're travelling through the centre, then there's a good chance that you can use park cycle paths, completing much of your journey away from roads altogether.

 

Ensure your vehicle is registered with a disabled tax class, if applicable

Vehicles registered with either a “disabled” or “disabled passengers” tax class are automatically exempt from ULEZ charges until October 2025.

This is different to the Blue Badge scheme: vehicles in the disabled tax class must be registered in the name of a disabled person and used solely for their purposes. The disabled passenger class applies to vehicles that provide transport for the disabled.

 

Buy a motorbike

As well as zipping through traffic jams, a modern motorbike should enable you to avoid ULEZ fees. Any motorbike or moped that meets at least Euro 3 emissions standards is exempt from charges. These regulations were introduced at a different time to those for cars, and so this includes virtually every bike registered after July 2007.
 

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