ULEZ-exempt cars, vans & motorbikes: avoid the London ULEZ charge

Dodge the £12.50-per-day London emissions charge with these ULEZ-compliant cars, vans and motorbikes

BuyaCar team
Apr 30, 2020

Since April 8 2019, many drivers of diesel cars and vans of a certain age - plus those with older petrol and diesel models - have had to pay the 'ULEZ' charge. The ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) was introduced to deter the use of vehicles producing a high level of pollution within central London - all in an attempt to reduce air pollution and protect the health of people living in this highly congester area.

The cars it 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 itself is enforced on top of the current £11.50 Congestion Charge and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making driving in London a much more costly affair.

Most affected by this new charge are diesel drivers, as only the very latest models produced since 2015 are guaranteed to comply with Euro 6 (there are a handful of pre-2015 models that meet Euro 6 standards) and be exempt from the charge. Meanwhile, petrol cars registered after 2005 should be exempt, along with a handful built between 2001 and 2005. We advise you confirm your car's emissions rating prior to taking a trip into London regardless of what fuel you use. Check whether your car is ULEZ-exempt here.

Where do I need a ULEZ-exempt car?

The ULEZ zone covers central London, with the same boundaries as the congestion zone. From 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.

Which cars are ULEZ-exempt?

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-exempt. If your vehicle doesn't qualify and you drive into the zone regularly, upgrading to a ULEZ-exempt vehicle could prove worthwhile - some van drivers could afford to finance a new van for the 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 car registered since that date will be exempt, 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-exempt.
  • Electric vehicles are automatically exempt as they produce zero tailpipe emissions.

ULEZ-exempt 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-exempt, 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-exempt until October 2025.

ULEZ-exempt petrol cars

  • To be ULEZ-exempt, 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

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 exempt 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 five years old, so every petrol model on the site is ULEZ-compliant. Prices start at £4,150, with finance from £74 per month.

ULEZ-exempt diesel cars

Most 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 these emissions restrictions are clamped down.

However, because a handful of cars met the Euro 6 standard early, and several million have been sold since, prices are relatively affordable if you know what you're looking for. Euro 6 diesel cars currently start at £5,295 on BuyaCar. Finance payments are from £102 per month.

ULEZ-exempt 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 £6,300 on BuyaCar - or from £126 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-exempt hybrid cars

  • Hybrid cars are treated the same as standard petrol or diesel cars
  • Most hybrid cars have a petrol engine, so have to comply with Euro 4 regulations, in force since 2006
  • Diesel hybrids are only ULEZ-exempt if they meet Euro 6 standards, in force from September 2015

Unlike the Congestion Charge rules, 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 exempt. Prices start at £7,750 or from £136 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-exempt hybrid that helps you to avoid the £12.50 daily charge.

ULEZ-exempt 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 all 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 competitive used diesel van prices, mean that upgrading to a relatively new ULEZ-exempt diesel model can be affordable, too. Euro 6 diesel vans start at £6,000 from BuyaCar, with finance from £129 per month.

ULEZ-exempt motorbikes

  • Motorbikes, mopeds and quadricycles must meet Euro 3 standards to be ULEZ-exempt
  • Euro 3 became mandatory for these vehicles after 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 at least Euro 3 compliant.


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