Best Congestion Charge-exempt cars

Dodge the fees to drive in central London with a Congestion Charge-exempt car

BuyaCar team
Mar 17, 2020

If you drive into central London on weekdays, then you'll be obliged to pay the Congestion Charge. Costing £11.50 a day (or £10.50 if you set up an Auto Pay account), or around £2,500 in a working year, not many of us can afford to turn a blind eye.

Therefore, Congestion Charge-exempt cars will be enormously attractive if you’re commuting into the capital Monday to Friday between 7am and 6pm when the charge is in effect. If you're intending to drive around London for free - avoiding other emissions-related charges such as the ULEZ - then you'll be even more interested in an electric or hybrid-powered car.

So we've put together this list of cars that will ensure you can travel through London without having to worry about additional charges for the privilege. They're all hybrid or electric too, so you'll save some money on fuel and road tax, too.

Best Congestion Charge-exempt cars

Congestion Charge exemption

There are a handful of boxes you can tick to ensure you will be congestion charge-exempt. Most are directly related to the amount of emissions your car emits. Any car producing less than 75g/km of carbon dioxide from its exhaust will be exempt. To be absolutely sure, you'll be looking for an electric car, but there are also plenty of plug-in hybrids that also meet this requirement.

For a broad idea, any car that meets either Euro 5 or Euro 6 emissions standards will be exempt, and by law any car produced since 2011 should be at least Euro 5 compliant. Once you've found a car that meets these requirements, you'll need to register with Transport for London and pay an annual £10 fee, otherwise you’ll be fined for driving in central London.

If you're looking to make even more savings, bear in mind that electric cars also qualify for a government electric car grant, worth up to £3,500 off the purchase price.

1. Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe front

Used Renault Zoe deals from £6,500
Monthly finance from £127
Claimed electric range
186 miles
CO2 emissions 0g/km

Compact, comfortable and nimble, the Renault Zoe was made for London’s congested and broken roads.

It benefits from an 80kW motor intended to boost the car’s overtaking performance over the previous, less powerful one. More importantly for city drivers, the facelifted Zoe still boasts an impressive 186-mile real-world driving range, which despite being behind that of the Nissan Leaf e+ (a considerably more expensive car) is pretty good by mainstream electric car standards.

But just remember that some versions require you to lease the battery separately. Depending on your mileage and how long you plan to keep the car, it might be better to pay more and buy a Zoe with the battery included.

RENAULT ZOE BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Volvo V90 T8

Used Volvo V90 T8 deals from £34,990
Monthly finance from £447
Claimed electric range
24 miles
CO2 emissions 49g/km

The Volvo V90 T8 hybrid doesn’t have much in the way of competition. While hybrid hatchbacks and saloons are becoming more common, the upmarket hybrid estate sector is still quite niche.

With prices for the hybrid starting around the £60,000 mark, the Volvo isn't quite "affordable", but low company car tax and not having to stump up the cost of Congestion Charge helps offset this.

In line with other hybrid Volvos, its all-electric range sits just under the 30-mile mark. Also in line with other Volvos is a comfy driving experience, stylish looks and decent performance. Let’s not forget, of course, this is a Volvo, so comes packed with technology to keep you safe - helping explain the five star Euro NCAP rating.

VOLVO V90 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Used Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV deals from £12,750
Monthly finance from £216

Claimed electric range 28 miles
CO2 emissions 42g/km

There aren’t many affordable sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that can claim Congestion Charge-free status, which is why the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) has been such a hit for Mitsubishi.

With low CO2 emissions that put it into the lowest company car tax bracket, it’s ideal for business users, but you’ll have to put up with the loss of two of the seven seats that are available with the rest of the Outlander range: the car’s extra batteries only leave enough space for five.

As with other PHEVs, fuel economy is best on shorter journeys where the electric motor is used for the majority of the time. Relying on petrol power for long-distance journeys means the Outlander can be thirsty

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Nissan Leaf

Used Nissan Leaf deals from £17,990
Monthly finance from £263
Claimed electric range
186 miles (236 miles for e+ models)
CO2 emissions 0g/km

This second-generation Nissan Leaf is a big improvement on its predecessor and just about makes the case for electric cars. Like the smaller Renault Zoe, being 100% electric and costing less than £40,000 means the Leaf qualifies for every type of financial assistance going: zero road tax, the lowest rate of company car tax and, of course, free entry to the Congestion Charge zone.

Once there, it can do a claimed 186 miles between charges, although real-world experience suggests it's more like 150 miles. So, as with the Zoe, it’s perfect for the driver on a typical London commute from the Home Counties with only home charging available to them at night. There is also the more expensive Leaf e+ which packs a claimed range of 236 miles.

The standard car’s 148bhp motor offers a decent turn of speed, but it’s in the city that the Leaf comes into its own. Not only is it quiet and comfortable riding, but it also has an e-Pedal that almost dispenses with the need for a traditional brake pedal by automatically braking the car smoothly as you lift off the accelerator.

NISSAN LEAF BUYERS' GUIDE

5. BMW 330e

Used BMW 330e deals from £13,099
Monthly finance from £191
Claimed electric range
25 miles
CO2 emissions 44g/km

The BMW 330e is that rare thing: a sporty saloon that will save you money. It has all the hallmarks of a standard 3 Series; a beautifully made and designed interior, strong performance with engaging handling and one of the best entertainment systems on the market.

But it also has an electric motor and batteries that help reduce its CO2 emissions to 44g/km, while giving a potential electric-only range of 25 miles on a full charge, although expect that to be nearer 10 miles in real-world driving.

BMW 330e BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Mercedes E-Class

Used Mercedes E350e deals from £24,999
Monthly finance from £346

Claimed electric range 30 miles
CO2 emissions 46g/km

The plug-in hybrid version of the Mercedes E-Class was recently updated and is probably the most comfortable Congestion-Charge exempt car you can buy, thanks to its ability to remain steady over the most potholed streets.

The price new, which starts at more than £45,000 isn’t cheap, but it is helped by sitting in the second lowest company car tax band (1-50g/km of CO2). In fact, the car is proving popular in its limited market, which means that used prices are high, although you can get a higher specification nearly-new car for the price of a basic brand new one.

MERCEDES E-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Jaguar I Pace

Used Jaguar I-Pace deals from £49,500
Monthly finance from £689
Claimed electric range
292 miles
CO2 emissions 0g/km

With a claimed range of 292 miles, 0g/km of CO2 emissions and a 0-60mph time of 4.5 seconds the Jaguar I-Pace blurs the lines between mind-blowing performance car and environmentally-friendly family car.

As the I-Pace is all electric, you won’t pay Congestion Charge until 2025, when all cars will have to pay. You will also make savings on company car tax, but thanks to the starting price of close to £65,000, drivers will have to pay the higher road tax rate.

JAGUAR I-PACE BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Used Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid deals from £12,499
Monthly finance from £180
Claimed electric range
32 miles
CO2 emissions 26g/km

The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid comfortably meets the requirements for a Congestion Charge-exempt car. The real world range will still be down on the claimed 32 miles, but a lot of motorists will still be able to do the bulk of their commute using electric mode only.

All Ioniq Hybrids come well equipped for the price which in present company seems positively affordable. Add to that the frugal 1.6-litre petrol engine and relatively low insurance group, and the Ioniq should cost peanuts to run before you make savings on the Congestion Charge.

Thanks to a well built interior and smooth automatic transmission, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is a relaxing way to cover miles as well, especially if you make use of the adaptive cruise control.

HYUNDAI IONIQ HYBRID BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Volvo XC90 T8

Used Volvo XC90 T8 deals from £31,480
Monthly finance from £445
Claimed electric range
28 miles
CO2 emissions 49g/km

The Volvo XC90 is the only plug-in hybrid SUV with seven seats. If you don’t need seven seats, then perhaps that’s rather academic, but a major part of the appeal of a large SUV is its versatility, and the XC90 has it in spades.

With CO2 emissions of 49g/km, the T8 can enter the Congestion Charge zone for free. While there, and assuming it’s fully charged, it can drive a claimed 28 miles using only electricity. In reality that figure is nearer the 20-mile mark.

Downsides? It costs more than £60,000 so isn’t going to be the next car of the people. The price tag also means owners have to pay higher car tax when it is new, an additional £310 to be exact.

VOLVO XC90 BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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