Low emission zone and ULEZ-exempt cars

Find a car that beats the latest low emission zone charges, and which is ULEZ-exempt in London too

BuyaCar team
Sep 30, 2018
Low emissions zone sign

Low emission zones are looming. From April next year, London will be enforcing its ultra-low emission zone, forcing drivers of millions of older cars to pay £12.50 per day to drive in the centre of the capital.

At the end of the year, Birmingham is expected to launch its own version under a different name - a clean air zone -  with similar charges for cars, and more than a dozen other cities could follow suit.

Some zones will only target lorries and buses, but several - like London and Birmingham - are expected to impose charges on private cars too. You can see all of the proposals on our clean air zone map.

Fortunately, it is possible to avoid the charges - without too much cost - by choosing a car that’s exempt.

If you own, or are looking for, a petrol car, then the chances are that you won’t be affected. That’s because petrol exhaust fumes tend to be less toxic than those of diesels.

Under current plans, only petrol cars that are more than 12 years old will have to pay the charges. Newer cars - including petrol-hybrids - will be able to drive into low emission zones free of charge. Electric cars are exempt too.

The news is less good for most diesel car owners. Any car that doesn’t meet the latest emissions standards, known as Euro 6, will be liable to the fees. Every car sold new since September 2015 has had to comply with Euro 6. Some cars met the regulations several years earlier.

However, millions of diesels sold before this date don’t comply with the latest standards and these vehicles will start racking up charges in some low emission zones from next year.

Scroll down for more information on the cars that are exempt, or click below to search for prices on Euro 6 cars.

 

Low emission-zone and ULEZ-exempt cars

Petrol cars less than 12 years old

Low emission zone-exempt petrol cars
Vehicles meeting Euro 4 standard (all cars since January 2006)

Low emissions zones are aimed at cutting harmful nitrogen oxides and tiny soot fragments, known as particulates, which are produced from vehicle exhausts, and have been linked to breathing problems and early deaths.

Diesel cars typically produce far more of these compounds than petrol cars, which is why drivers of most petrol cars will not have to pay to enter the zones.

Only vehicles more than twelve years old are at risk of the charges, and only then if they don’t meet Euro 4 emissions standards (which came before both Euro 5 and the current Euro 6 regulations). It’s one reason behind the rise in demand for petrol cars.

 

Diesel cars registered in the last three years

Low emission zone-exempt diesel cars
Vehicles meeting Euro 6 standard (all cars registered since September 2015)

There are 12.9 million diesel cars on British roads, according to government figures, and around 9.5m of them hit the road before September 2015. Most of these will face charges in low emission zones that are targeting private cars.

That’s because the latest Euro 6 emissions standard became mandatory for all new cars in September 2015. Before then, manufacturers were able to sell new cars that only met the earlier Euro 5 limits.

Only Euro 6 diesel cars will be exempt from charges in low emission zones that are targeting private cars (such as London and Birmingham).

Any car that was registered since September 2015 (you’ll find the date on your car’s logbook) will avoid charges for now, but some older diesel cars do comply with the standard and will be exempt too. You’ll find more details below.

 

Older diesel cars that comply with Euro 6 emissions standards

Choosing a diesel car that was registered before September 2015 is the easiest way of guaranteeing that it complies with the Euro 6 standard, and that it will be exempt from low emission zone charges.

But you may be able to spend less and get a better car by finding one that complied with the standard early, enabling you to buy an older and cheaper vehicle.

The Mazda CX-5 was Euro 6 compliant as early as 2012, Some versions of the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and Vauxhall Astra became compliant between 2013 and 2014. We’ve put together a full list of Euro 6-compliant diesel cars that were available early.

If you do opt for one of these, it’s essential to double-check the car’s emission standard with the seller. In some cases only some diesel engines in the range met the Euro 6 standard early, and older Euro 5 cars were sometimes sold alongside Euro 6 models for several months.

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