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
Jun 8, 2022

Are you regularly 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 daily charge of £15. 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 one of many electric cars that are now available.

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 October 2021 - when the ULEZ expanded - only electric cars or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are exempt from the congestion charge.

Best Congestion Charge-exempt cars

Congestion Charge exemption

Previously, plug-in hybrid cars were exempt from the Congestion Charge. They were required to emit fewer than 75g/km of CO2 (the threshold was higher in the scheme's earlier days). In an effort to cut down on emissions, restrictions were tightened and now only zero-emission cars are exempt, including electric and hydrogen-powered cars.

1. Renault Zoe

Our pick Renault Zoe ZE50
Used deals from £20,500

The Renault Zoe was one of the first small electric cars, introduced around the same time as the first version of the Nissan Leaf. It follows in the footsteps of small city cars such as the Fiat 500 (which is now available in electric form), which appeal to drivers who spend a lot of their time navigating narrow city streets.

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 struggled to reach 100 miles from a full charge, and many examples were bought without the batteries. This means an additional lease charge needs to be paid on top, so be aware of any cheap-looking Zoes. The latest generation, introduced in 2020, is more expensive but includes the 52kWh battery pack which is capable of over 250 miles from a single charge under the right conditions.


2. Nissan Leaf

Our pick Nissan Leaf e+
Used deals Limited stock

This second-generation Nissan Leaf is a big improvement on its predecessor. Like the Zoe, it's exempt from any ULEZ or Congestion Zone charges, and it's eligible for the government's plug-in car grant which is currently capped at £1,500.

The cheapest version can do a claimed 186 miles between charges, although real-world experience suggests it's more like 150 miles. There is a more expensive 'Leaf e+' which packs a claimed range of 236 miles, making it one of the many electric cars capable of more than 200 miles on a full charge.

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 a good regenerative braking system that Nissan calls its '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.


3. Jaguar I-Pace

Our pick Jaguar I-Pace EV400
Used deals from £41,999

With a claimed range of 292 miles, 0g/km of CO2 emissions and a 0-62mph 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 an electric SUV, you won’t pay Congestion Charge until 2025, when all cars will have to pay. You will also make savings on company car tax, though the cost to purchase can be particularly eyewatering with top-spec versions of brand new cars reaching £80,000 or more, though there are some great deals to be had when buying used with BuyaCar prices starting from £41,999.


4. Volkswagen ID.3

Our pick Volkswagen ID.3 Pro Performance
Used deals from £36,500

There have been several versions of Volkswagen's first electric-only model, which builds on the success of its now discontinued e-Golf. Battery sizes range from 45kWh to 77kWh, with ranges of more than 200 miles (or 300 miles in the case of the most expensive 77kWh version). 

The ID.3 is fun to drive thanks to its rear-wheel-drive setup, especially in its most powerful 204hp form. Regardless, most models should be able to average 3-4 miles per kWh in real-world conditions making it an economical electric car, but for the best range keep your eyes peeled for a model with the optional heat pump specified.

Every version is well equipped with the likes of adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, a heated steering wheel and front and rear parking sensors, so there's little need to pay extra for more expensive trim levels.


5. Peugeot e-208

Our pick Peugeot e-208
Used deals Limited stock

Buying a Peugeot e-208 is a relatively simple process, becuase there's only one power setup to look for. Every version comes with a 136hp electric motor and 50kWh battery which is capable of a touch over 200 miles when fully charged.

The choice comes from the several trim levels on offer, though every version comes with LED headlights, air-conditioning and cruise control.

If you like the Peugeot's proposition but are not sold on its design, you should consider the more conservatively designed Vauxhall Corsa-e which is virtually identical underneath, which is available on BuyaCar from £23,990.


6. Tesla Model 3

Our pick Tesla Model 3 RWD 60kWh
Used deals from £46,850

Company car drivers particularly will be attracted to the Model 3, which provides a genuine electric alternative to other popular saloons like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.

While it is relatively expensive to buy new, PCP finance deals can be especially attractive because it holds its value well. Every model comes with lots of standard equipment, such as a 360-degree camera system and a range of sensors that means every car is capable of self-driving (though this comes at an additional cost, available at any time through the car's app). 

Rear-wheel-drive models badged 'Standard Range Plus' come with a 50kWh battery pack, but an update late in 2021 swapped this out for a 60kWh 'LFP' battery pack capable of more than 300 miles under the right conditions. Go for one of these and there's little need to pay extra for the 'Dual Motor' four-wheel-drive models (badged 'Long Range' and 'Performance'). 

*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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