Best Congestion Charge-exempt cars

Get around London’s central Congestion Charge by driving a car that’s exempt from the £15 daily fee

BuyaCar team
Sep 24, 2021

Are you often required to venture into central London? The Congestion Charge has been in place since 2003 and requires anyone driving within the specified zone to pay the £15 daily charge. This amounts to more than £5,000 per year if you are obliged to pay the charge every day, and not many of us can afford to turn a blind eye to such an expense.

If you do need to commute into central London on a regular basis, cars exempt from Congestion Charge will be enormously attractive. Especially since the charge is now effective from 7am until 10pm everyday – including weekends – with the exception of Christmas Day. So 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.

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. As per Transport for London’s rules, this includes plug-in hybrids with at least a 20-mile electric range, and fully-electric cars.

It’s worth mentioning that as of 25th October 2021 only electric cars or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are exempt from the congestion charge.

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 of them can be addressed by driving a low-emission car. Any plug-in hybrid car producing less than 75g/km of carbon dioxide from its exhaust and capable of at least 20 miles of electric-only running will be exempt from of the congestion charge.

If you're keen to avoid any doubt whatsoever, though, you'll be looking for an electric car. Their zero-emission status means they are guaranteed to be exempt from the charge.

1. Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe front

Used deals from £10,995
Monthly finance from £235*
Claimed electric range
186 miles
CO2 emissions 0g/km

The Renault Zoe was one of the first small electric cars. It follows in the footsteps of small city cars such as the Fiat 500, which appeal to drivers who spend a lot of their time navigating narrow city streets.

But while petrol versions of the Fiat 500, Skoda Citigo and Hyundai i10 are all exempt from the ULEZ charge, the Zoe adds Congestion Charge exemption to that mix as well. So if you're looking for a simple, low-cost way to journey into central London, the Renault Zoe might be the best way to do it.

Early versions of the Zoe were capable of covering up to 186 miles on a full charge, which ought to be enough for nipping around the city centre without having to worry about finding a charging spot for the rest of the day. The latest version (on sale since 2020) has upped that electric range to more than 230 miles.


2. Volvo V90 T8

Used deals Limited stock
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.


3. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Used deals from £13,999
Monthly finance from £293*

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.


4. Nissan Leaf

Used deals from £17,358
Monthly finance from £262*
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 £35,000 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 150hp 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.


5. BMW 330e

Used deals from £16,399
Monthly finance from £301*
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.


6. Mercedes E-Class

Used deals from £28,172
Monthly finance from £428*
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.


7. Jaguar I-Pace

Used deals from £44,950
Monthly finance from £631*
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.


8. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Used deals from £15,600
Monthly finance from £268*
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.


9. Volvo XC90 T8

Used deals from £38,799
Monthly finance from £580*
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.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

Buyacar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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