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[NEWS] Ultra Low Emission Zone: Can I drive my car in the London ULEZ?

Ultra Low Emission Zone: Can I drive my car in the London ULEZ?

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The ULEZ is due for a further expansion. If you drive in the capital, you need to know if your car is affected

The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) means some older cars need to pay a fee to enter the capital. Here are all the details.

The London ULEZ was introduced in 2019, affecting hundreds of thousands of vehicles driving on the streets of the capital. Other cities, such as Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester and Oxford, are set to follow suit.

It was designed by London mayor Sadiq Khan to improve air quality, with older, more polluting vehicles charged to enter the city. It replaced a previous measure called the T-Charge, which started in 2017.

If you frequently drive in London or are just planning a single visit, this ULEZ guide will tell you everything you need to know and whether or not your car incurs the charge.

How does the ULEZ work?

Initially, the ULEZ covered the same area as the familiar Congestion Charge Zone.

On the 25 October 2021, the whole area was expanded to include the whole area inside the North Circular and South Circular roads.

Khan has asked Transport for London (TfL) to consult on an expansion currently covering the area occupied by the Low Emissions Zone - effectively tightening restrictions - by 29 August 2023.

This would mean most of the area inside the M25 would be covered, as far west as Longford, north as Waltham Cross, east as North Ockendon and south as Biggin Hill.

Can my vehicle enter London's ULEZ?

You will be charged if your petrol vehicle doesn't comply with Euro 4 standards or if your diesel vehicle doesn't comply with Euro 6 standards. You can check if your vehicle is compliant through the TfL website

The zone operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This includes cars, motorcycles, vans and other specialist vehicles and if you live inside the zone.

Vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes don't need to pay, as they’re instead covered by the LEZ charge.

How much do I have to pay for London's ULEZ?

A daily charge of £12.50 is expected to arrive within the expanded ULEZ. However, if your car is parked within the area and you don't drive it all day, you're exempt from the charge. Click here to view a map of the expansion.  

Road signs at every entry point along the boundary will tell you that you’re crossing into the ULEZ, sitting alongside or below existing Congestion Charge signs. Click to see the map of the current zone. 

This charge is in addition to the Congestion Charge, which costs £12.50 per day and is inn operation all day, every day. (including weekends and public bank holidays)

That means a London commuter with an affected car could be facing an average annual bill of around £5760 for weekday driving just in Congestion Charge and ULEZ fees.

If you fail to pay the ULEZ charge by the following evening, a penalty notice will be sent to the owner of the vehicle.

What is the ULEZ scrappage scheme?

As of 30 January 2023, Transport for London introduced a new scrappage scheme offering London drivers up to £5000 to scrap their vehicle if it doesn't meet ULEZ emissions, or retrofit their car so that it does meet restrictions. 

The scheme initially targeted motorists on certain low-income and disability benefits, however has since been updated to include all Londoners receiving child benefit. The grant is also eligible to applicants with wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Owners of standard vehicles can get up to £2000 and motorbike owners can get up to £1000 for scrapping only. 

Part of the scheme is a separate van and minibus scrappage initative which allows London-based sole traders, registered charities and small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees) to receive a grant payment of between £5000 and £9500. Registered charities will be able to scrap or retrofit up to three vans or minibuses. 

Owners of sole traders, registered charities and small businesses will be allowed a grace period if they have ordered ULEZ-compliant vehicles but are not expecting them to be delivered past 29 August, or have booked in to have their car retrofitted. TfL is also prioritising applications from care workers who are particularly affected by the expansion. 

Which cars are most affected by ULEZ restrictions?

The arrival of the ULEZ looks set to effectively banish many iconic models from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s from London's roads, unless their owners are prepared to pay for the privilege of driving them. For a lot of people, the costs will likely prove too prohibitive, which could force them to sell their cars. These are some of the ones we will miss the most:

Land Rover Defender

Every Land Rover Defender, up to and including the heritage editions that came at the end of the off-road icon's 67-year production run, is subject to the ULEZ charge. Unbeaten off road, available in a multitude of different configurations and a poster child of the British automotive industry, the Defender will be truly missed from London’s roads.

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Porsche Boxster

As demand for sports cars from the German marque continues to head into the stratosphere, the original Porsche Boxster remains one of the few affordable ways to get one in your garage. Maintenance can be expensive, however, so the additional costs associated with the ULEZ could force owners to park up their pride and joy instead of using it to commute.

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Mazda MX-5

Not only are the original (NA) and second-generation (NB) Mazda MX-5s some of the most rewarding two-seater sports cars of their time, they’re also some of the most affordable. Cared-for used examples can be found for just £2000, but commuters would be looking at spending more than the price of the car just to drive it through London for a year. You’ll have to wait another decade before the first examples of the first-generation MX-5 become eligible for official classic status and therefore exempt from the charge - if that rule still applies by then.

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Volkswagen Golf GTI

The hot hatch that inspired countless others (even if it wasn’t really the first), the Volkswagen Golf GTI is now in its eighth generation. There are plenty of early models in the hands of enthusiasts, but unfortunately Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3 cars are now subject to the ULEZ charge. Expect to see far fewer of them around, although according to the TfL ULEZ checker, early R32 models don’t yet incur a charge for driving into the zone.

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Even the earliest (some would say best) versions of BMW’s compact super-saloon now fall foul of the ULEZ regulations, although considering how much the E30 has jumped in value in recent years, with the E36 following quickly behind, the numbers seen on the roads were already quite minimal. On the plus side, M3s from the E46 onward (including the mighty CSL) are compliant, meaning older, quick BMWs won’t disappear from London’s roads just yet.

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Mercedes-Benz S-Class

The W220-generation Mercedes S-Class limousine skirts the boundary of ULEZ charging, with some petrol models still able to travel into London without paying a charge, including the AMG-fettled S55. However, a high percentage of these luxobarges were diesel-powered chauffeur cars. Anyone looking for a luxurious saloon to commute in will now need to think twice before buying one second-hand.

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