London T-Charge and ULEZ emissions charges

Full details of the £10 London T-Charge & latest on the stricter 2019 ULEZ ultra low emission zone. Who’s affected & how to avoid it

BuyaCar team
Jul 13, 2018
Low emissions zone sign

The London T-Charge - or toxicity charge - is Britain’s first low emission zone for cars, and came into force in October 2017. It's due to be replaced next year by the stricter - and more expensive - ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), which will eventually cover a much wider area.

Both schemes impose charges on older and more polluting cars, vans and lorries to discourage them from driving into the capital, which should help to improve air quality.

The £10 weekday T-Charge affects drivers of most cars that are 12 years old or more and applies in the very centre of London. It's in addition to the Congestion Charge - so a trip to London could cost £21.50 in fees alone.

  • Most older vehicles (those over 12 years old) will be affected by it. Vehicles classed as historic do not have to pay the fee.
  • The charge is applicable from Monday - Friday, 7am - 6pm
  • The charge covers the same area as the Congestion Zone
  • Payment can be made online or via telephone

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

Next year will also see the T-Charge replaced by the tougher Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in April 2019. This more stringent £12.50 levy will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will affect most diesel cars that were on the road before September 2015. Petrol cars produce fewer harmful emissions from diesels, and so anyone with a petrol car that was registered since January 2006 will remain unaffected.

Further into the future, London is planning a 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. it's not yet known which vehicles this will affect, and which area will be covered. A zero emission zone across London is not proposed until 2050.


The T-Charge zone only covers the very centre of the capital and the ULEZ will operate in the same area from 2019. But it will expand from October 2021, becoming ten times larger and covering most of the capital within the North Circular and South Circular roads.

Read on for full details of how the charges will work, where they will operate, how they will affect residents, and who is exempt. We’ll also explain how to avoid paying.


London T-Charge & ULEZ emissions charges

London emissions charge zone

London's T-Charge 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.

At first, the ULEZ area will cover the same area but it will then expand to become ten times the size by 2021. More than 100,000 vehicles driving within the North Circular and South Circular roads could be liable for charges.



Pollution charges

The London emissions zones are the first aimed at car drivers, but they aren’t expected to be the last, as cities around the country, including London, Southampton, Birmingham and Leeds, are under pressure to cut air pollution. More than a dozen cities could introduce charges.

In addition, diesel drivers in particular face higher fees to park, and have recently been hit by higher taxes.


London T-Charge

The T-Charge is mainly aimed at older vehicles which don’t meet the required emissions standards, in an effort to stop them driving into London.

Transport for London (TfL), which is responsible for running the charge, estimates that the scheme affects 7,000 car drivers and 2,000 van drivers each day.

The Mayor has been criticised by Conservative opponents for imposing the T-Charge when TfL’s own figures suggest that harmful emissions from road transport will only be cut by 0.5% in the first year as a result of the charge.


When does the T-Charge start?

It came into force on October 23 last year. As well as car drivers, the levy affects vans, lorries, coaches and buses.


How much is the T-Charge?

If your vehicle doesn’t meet the minimum emissions standard, then the fee is £10 a day, whether you’re in a car, van, lorry or bus. This is in addition to the Congestion Charge, which currently costs £11.50, making your total daily bill £21.50 for driving in central London during the week.


Where and when does the T-Charge operate?

You’ll only have to pay the T-Charge if you’re driving in the very centre of London. It’s the same zone affected by the Congestion Charge.

The Charge only operates between Monday and Friday from 7am to 6pm. Outside of these hours, you’ll be able to drive in the zone without being charged, even if your car doesn’t meet the emissions standards.


Which cars are affected by the T-Charge?

Most drivers of older vehicles, which were first registered more than a decade ago, have to pay the daily fee because they don’t meet recent Euro emissions standards, which stipulate limits for certain pollutants.

New cars must meet these standards to be allowed onto the roads. The current level, which all brand new cars must comply with is Euro 6.

The emissions standard that your car met may be listed on its V5C registration document. If it’s not Euro 4 or higher, then you’ll be liable for the T-Charge. Every car registered since 2006 has had to be Euro 4-compliant. Some earlier cars are too.

If the Euro standard is not on your V5C document and your car was registered before 2006, then you can use the T-Charge website to find out if you need to pay.


Vehicles subject to the T-Charge

Vehicle typeMin. emission standardT-Charge if below emission standardCongestion ChargeTotal daily fee
Cars & small vansEuro 4 (all cars registered since Jan 2006)£10£11.50£21.50
Vans & minibusesEuro 4 (Jan 2007)£10£11.50£21.50
Lorries Euro IV (Oct 2006)£10£11.50£21.50
Coaches and busesEuro IV (Oct 2006)£10£0£10
ResidentsDepends on vehicle (see above)£1£1.05£2.05

Nb TfL's Autopay service, which automatically deducts the Congestion Charge from your bank account, offers a £1 reduction on the fee).


Do classic cars or motorbikes have to pay the T-Charge?

No. If your vehicle is 40 years old or more, with an historic tax class, then you won’t have to pay the T-Charge to drive in central London. Motorbikes and mopeds are exempt from the T-Charge, no matter what their age.


How do you pay the T-Charge?

The emissions surcharge uses the same payment system as London’s Congestion Charge, so you can pay online in advance, on the day that you drive in the zone, or the following day.

The Auto Pay system, which already exists for the Congestion Charge, can also be used to pay the T-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


What are the penalties for not paying the T-Charge?

If you’re spotted driving in the T-Charge zone by TfL’s vast camera network, above, and don’t pay within the deadline, then TfL will use your car's registration number to find your address and send a £130 penalty, which will be halved to £65 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. there has been an error, or your car was stolen, then you will be able to appeal. 


What will residents living inside the T-Charge zone pay?

Anyone living inside the T-Charge zone with a vehicle that doesn’t meet the emissions standards only needs to pay a £1 surcharge - a 90% discount. If you’re affected and already registered for the Congestion Charge Residents’ Discount, then TfL says that you should have been registered automatically for the reduced fee. This discount should continue until after the T-Charge is replaced with the ULEZ.

Jump to ULEZ discounts for residents


Which cars are exempt from the T-Charge?

As well as classic cars that are 40 years old, taxis and minicabs licensed with Transport for London are fully exempt from the charge.

If you are a blue badge holder, then you won’t have to pay the charge either. You should automatically qualify for a full discount if you are already registered for a Congestion Charge discount.

Other vehicles exempt from the charge include those used by emergency services, recovery vehicles and Showman's vehicles.

Jump to cars that are exempt from the ULEZ charge


How to avoid the London T-Charge

If your car was registered less than ten years ago, then you don’t need to worry. The T-Charge won’t apply. There’s also no need for action if you don’t drive in central London.

If you do own a car that was registered before 2006, which doesn’t meet the Euro 4 emissions standards, and you regularly drive in London, then it’s probably going to be cost-effective to upgrade to a newer model.

It would make sense to buy a car that will also be free from the future ULEZ charges. That includes all electric carspetrol cars registered since 2006 and diesel cars registered since September 2015.


How long will the T-Charge last?

The T-Charge is being replaced by the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which has stricter standards and a more expensive daily fee. Scroll down for more information.


London ULEZ

London’s ULEZ will hit diesel car drivers hard. Not only does it affect relatively recent cars (most of those registered before September 2015), but it will also expand across a huge area of the capital in October 2021. Van drivers will be even worse-off: most registered before September 2016 will incur the £12.50 daily charge.

In contrast, drivers of most petrol cars and vans will be entirely unaffected. Any petrol car or van that's less than 12 years old shouldn't be liable for charges.

The area covered by the ULEZ will initially cover the same patch of central London as the Congestion Zone and T-Charge. It's expected that 40,000 drivers of vehicles which don't meet the emissions standards will drive in the zone each day and have to pay the charge in 2019.

From October 25, 2021, the ULEZ area will increase tenfold in size to take in most of the capital that's within the North Circular and South Circular roads. TfL estimates that 101,000 cars (77,000 of them diesel) and 36,000 vans, which are driven into London each day won't meet the minimum standards. Their drivers will need to pay a daily charge or change their vehicle.

As with the T-Charge, cameras will be used to enforce the zone, and drivers will be able to download a smartphone app 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 Emissions Zone, which is already in operation, affecting larger vehicles, such as lorries, buses and some campervans.


When does the ULEZ start?

London’s ultra low emission zone will come into force on April 8, 2019. By introducing the zone in 2019, rather than 2020 as originally planned, harmful nitrogen oxide emissions are predicted to be 25 per cent lower in 2018 as drivers upgrade their cars in preparation for the change. In 2019, those emissions are predicted to be a further 40% lower than if the scheme was introduced a year later.

However, the figures also predict that drivers will have to pay £1,300 more to buy an average diesel car that meets the requirements in 2019, than they would in 2020, when cars that meet the emissions standard would be a year older.


How much is the ULEZ Charge?

Riders of motorbikes and drivers of cars, vans and minibuses that don’t meet the minimum emissions requirements will have to pay £12.50 for every day that they drive in the zone.

It’s more stringent for lorries and buses; drivers of these vehicles will be charged £100 each day.


Where and when will the ULEZ operate?

The ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When expanded in 2021, TfL predicts that there will be 24,000 petrol cars, 77,000 diesel cars and 36,000 vans which don't meet the minimum requirements, driving in the zone each day. The data for motorbike riders has not yet been calculated.

Nitrogen oxide emissions are predicted to fall by around 40 per cent in 2021 if the larger zone is implemented. Most of the savings are predicted to come from greener buses.


Which vehicles are affected by the ULEZ?

If you have a petrol-powered car that meets the Euro 4 emissions requirements (including every car registered since 2006) and aren’t affected by the T-Charge, then you won’t be affected by the ULEZ.

However diesel cars must meet much tougher standards because they produce higher levels of harmful substances from their exhausts: primarily tiny flakes of soot called particulates and nitrogen oxides, which have both been linked to respiratory problems and early deaths.

Only diesel vehicles meeting the latest Euro 6 regulations will be able to drive within the zone without paying. This includes every car registered since September 2015. Some earlier cars will also qualify (you’ll need to check your V5C registration document to find out if your car meets the standard).

Motorbikes must meet Euro 3 requirements which came into force in July 2007. Petrol vans will have to meet Euro 4 standards, which were introduced in 2007, a year after cars, but diesel models must comply with Euro 6, which applies to every model registered since September 2016.

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


Vehicles subject to the ULEZ charge

Vehicle typeMin. emission standardULEZ Charge if below emission standard
MotorbikesEuro 3 (all models registered since Jul 2007)£12.50
Cars & small vansPetrol Euro 4 (Jan 2006)
Diesel Euro 6 (Sep 2015)
Vans & minibusesPetrol Euro 4 (Jan 2007)
Diesel Euro 6 (Sep 2016)
Lorries Euro VI (Jan 2014)£100
Coaches and busesEuro VI (Jan 2014)£100
ResidentsDepends on vehicle (see above)£1 (for three years)


What will residents living inside the ULEZ pay?

Anyone living inside the central zone next year will be exempt from the charge for the first three years, giving them extra time to change their car for a more modern one. During this period, residents will still have to pay their discounted T-Charge of £1 per day, even though it won’t apply to any other drivers.

It’s not likely that there will be any discounts and exemptions for residents of the wider ULEZ zone from 2021.


Which cars are exempt from the ULEZ?

Just as with the T-Charge, any vehicles that are at least 40 years old and have a historic tax class will be exempt.

If you have a car that is tax exempt because of a disabled driver or passenger, then that vehicle will not be liable for any ULEZ charges for three years. Showman’s vehicles will also not have to pay the charge.

These are in addition to the cars that meet the minimum emissions standards above.


How to avoid the ULEZ charge

If your petrol car is more than 13 years old in 2019, then you’ll probably be affected by the ULEZ, but it shouldn’t be expensive to find a car less than that age, which does meet the required Euro 4 standard.

Upgrading a diesel car could be more expensive, as the youngest models that meet the minimum Euro 6 standard will only be three-and-a-half years old by spring 2019.

Of course, there is always the option of trading your diesel car in for a petrol model, but if you have a large vehicle then you may prefer the power and economy of a diesel engine.

Buying a car that’s less than four years old does mean that you should be eligible for cheaper PCP finance, which offers you low monthly payments because you only pay for part of the car’s cost. At the end, you can pay a lump sum to buy the car or refinance it. You can also hand it back with no more to pay or trade it in for a different model.

Alternatively, you may want to consider an electric car if you rarely take long-distance journeys.


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