ULEZ-compliant cars

Looking to dodge the £12.50 daily ULEZ charge? Find out which petrol and diesel cars are exempt, along with vans and motorbikes

Chris Rosamond
Sep 27, 2021

In October 2021 the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be extended outwards from Central London, up to but not including the North and South Circular Roads. This covers a huge proportion of London including many suburban areas.

It’s hoped the ULEZ 2021 expansion will bring cleaner air to 3.8 million residents who live within the new ULEZ boundaries. The downside is a huge potential increase in costs for countless drivers who live and work in the new zone, but don’t own ULEZ-exempt cars. Official figures suggest that 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries could be affected by the expanded zone every day, and will be forced to pay the £12.50 daily charge.

Since April 8 2019, drivers of many diesel cars (typically those sold before September 2015) and vans have been obliged to pay the ULEZ charge only if they venture into central London. In fact the initial ULEZ area covered exactly the same part of London as the Congestion Charge, so for many drivers it’s been relatively easy to steer clear of both. Drivers who don’t know the rules or ignore them, may be forced to pay congestion charge fines of £80 (£180 if not settled swiftly) as well ULEZ fines at the same rate.

While the Congestion Charge zone isn’t being extended, the ULEZ extension was part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s 2021 election-winning campaign. He’s ploughing ahead in spite of vocal protests from some motorists, pointing to the 50% reduction in toxic NOx pollutants recorded within the current ULEZ limits after the zone was introduced.

The scheme targets are diesel models that do not comply with the latest 'Euro 6' emissions standards - along with petrol models that do not meet older 'Euro 4' standards - with drivers having to pay a £12.50 daily charge for driving within the ULEZ. The charge is enforced on top of the current £11.50 Congestion Charge and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There are ways you can avoid paying the ULEZ charge, though, including driving a car that complies with the emission standard. It's easy to be prepared if you're going to need to regularly enter central London. If you’re not sure whether your car is exempt or not, you can perform a ULEZ check via Transport for London’s online ULEZ vehicle checker - Check whether your car is ULEZ-compliant here.

ULEZ-compliant car deals
Nissan Leaf

Nissan LeafBuyaCar prices from £17,358
Monthly finance from £272*

Ford Fiesta

Ford FiestaBuyaCar prices from £9,100
Monthly finance from £148*

Kia Sportage

Kia SportageBuyaCar prices from £12,999
Monthly finance from £226*

Where do I need a ULEZ-compliant car?

The ULEZ zone covers central London, with the same boundaries as the congestion zone. From October 2021 it will expand enormously, covering the area within the north and south circular roads. That covers everything from Ealing in west London to East Ham on the other side of the city and Edmonton in the north to Clapham in the south.

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 central London who will be interested in the emission levels of their cars.

Which cars are ULEZ-compliant?

The scheme is designed to improve London’s air quality, so only diesel vehicles that meet the latest emissions standards, known as Euro 6, will be ULEZ-compliant. If your vehicle doesn't qualify and you drive into the zone regularly, upgrading to a ULEZ-compliant vehicle could prove worthwhile - some van drivers could afford to finance a new van for less than the cost of the daily charge.

  • The Euro 6 standard was introduced in September 2015 for cars and September 2016 for vans. Almost every diesel car registered since that date will be compliant, as well as a handful of vehicles that complied with the standard early.
  • Virtually all petrol cars sold from 2005, plus some registered between 2001 and 2005, petrol vans sold after 2006 and motorbikes registered after July 2007 are ULEZ-compliant.
  • Electric vehicles are automatically compliant as they produce zero tailpipe emissions.

ULEZ-compliant cars will also avoid charges in clean air zones being set up from 2020 in cities that include Birmingham, Bath and Manchester. They will also escape a Glasgow ban on cars that fail to meet these minimum emission standards from 2022.

Some vehicles are ULEZ-compliant, despite not meeting emissions standards. These include cars built more than 40 years ago, with a historic tax class and some agricultural, military and circus vehicles. 

Additionally, anyone registered for a residents' Congestion Charge discount won't have to pay ULEZ charges until October 2021. Vehicles with a disabled or disabled passenger tax class are ULEZ-compliant until October 2025.

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
  • Cars that meet more recent Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards are also exempt from the charge

Around 12.7 million of the 18.3 million petrol cars on the road when the charge was introduced were already ULEZ compliant, according to Department for Transport figures.

This widespread availability means that it should be easy to find a cheap model that’s not subject to the London charge. Furthermore, with compliant cars dating back to 2006 and even 2001 in some cases, entry prices for petrol models that don't require you to pay the charge are far lower than for diesel models.

BuyaCar typically only sells cars that are up to seven years old, so every petrol model on the site is ULEZ-compliant. Prices start at £4,249, with finance from £95 per month.

ULEZ-compliant diesel cars

A large proportion of diesel cars on the road have to pay to drive into the ULEZ. Department for Transport statistics published at the introduction of the ULEZ charges show that there were 12.9 million diesel cars on the road with around 9.5 million of those being registered before Euro 6 became mandatory, meaning that drivers are likely to have to pay the ULEZ charge for those vehicles. 

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. Euro 6 diesel cars currently start at £5,700 on BuyaCar. Finance payments are from £121 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 £9,990 on BuyaCar - or from £189 per month, although the very cheapest versions may include the tiny Renault Twizy or versions of the Renault Zoe that require batteries to be leased.

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

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 £10,650 or from £201 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 will 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 diesel 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.

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.

 

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