Driving in London just got more expensive – check if your car is affected

MOTORISTS driving into London could have to pay a fee to enter the Ultra Low Emission Zone if their car is too old for new pollution rules. 

The original Ultra Low Emission Zone, or ULEZ, originally covered a small area in the centre of the city.

But from October 25 will include all streets within the North Circular and South Circular roads. 

What is the ULEZ?

The ULEZ is an area of London that only modern, efficient cars are allowed to enter. 

Drivers of older vehicles will need to pay a £12.50 charge, or find an alternative way to enter the capital. 

London has problems with air pollution, and Transport for London (TfL) hopes that this charge will reduce pollution and improve air quality. 

Thousands of people in the city are breathing potentially deadly toxins. 

TfL also hopes to raise funds for public transport projects using proceeds from the lucrative new fee.

Who has to pay the ULEZ charge?

ULEZ charges are only applicable to people driving non-compliant, older cars, which are normally much more polluting than newer cars.

Newer cars will meet the ULEZ standards and will be allowed into the zone for free. 

And all fully electric cars are exempt from the charge, but drivers of some hybrid cars will have to pay the fee.

The rules are slightly different for petrol cars, diesel cars, and motorcycles. 

If you forget to pay the ULEZ charge, you could have to pay a fine of £160, which is reduced to £80 if paid within fourteen days.

What are the ULEZ standards?

Petrol cars must meet Euro 4 emission standards, which were introduced in 2006 for normal cars.

Generally speaking, that means that petrol cars first registered in 2005 or later will be eligible to travel in the ULEZ zone without the £12.50 charge.

Diesel cars must meet more stringent Euro 6 standards, which were introduced later.

That means that most diesel cars first registered in 2015 will be able to travel in the ULEZ without the £12.50 charge. 

Petrol or diesel cars first registered before these dates may not be compliant and could fall foul of the new strict rules. 

Motorcycles must meet Euro 3 emissions standards, which were made mandatory in 2007. Scooters, mopeds and motorbikes registered before then may fall foul of ULEZ rules.

And motorists driving cars, vans, motorbikes or mopeds registered after these dates should still check ULEZ compliance on the TfL website to be sure. 

The ‘Euro’ standard applicable to your vehicle may be written on the V5 document. 

Will I have to pay the ULEZ charge in my brand new car? 

Most motorists driving cars built recently – in the past five years – will be able to travel into the ULEZ area for free. 

There are a few exceptions to this, including specialist vehicles and some cars that have been individually imported from abroad.

Most normal passenger cars manufactured by mainstream brands in the past five years will be eligible to enter the ULEZ without the driver paying £12.50. 

Some vehicles that are fifteen years old are compliant. Drivers should check on the TfL website.

My car is old – do I have to pay the ULEZ charge?

If you drive an older car or motorbike – a diesel built before 2015, a petrol car built before 2006 or a motorcycle built before 2007 – you could need to pay the charge and should check before travelling into London. 

If your vehicle is more than 40 years old, you can apply for your vehicle to be added to the historic tax class. 

This status means that you will no longer need to pay vehicle tax. It will also mean that you do not need to pay the ULEZ charge when driving in London. 

All vehicles constructed before 1 January 1973 will be exempt from the ULEZ charge.

I have an electric car. Do I have to pay the ULEZ?

Electric cars are exempt from the ULEZ charge.

This includes every mainstream EV of any age, plus any vehicle that has been properly converted and registered as a battery car. 

Motorists are being encouraged to adopt electric cars instead of petrol or diesel models, especially if they frequently drive in urban areas. 

Are hybrid cars exempt from the ULEZ charge?

Petrol-electric hybrid cars follow the same rules as normal petrol cars, and must be Euro 4 compliant, while diesel-electric hybrid cars must be Euro 6 compliant. 

Most hybrids will be exempt from the charge. But some older models, such as the original Toyota Prius, will incur the fee.

What other exceptions to ULEZ are there?

Some local residents and keepers of vehicles in a ‘disabled’ tax class will be able to apply for discounts and temporary grace periods.

Blue badge holders still need to pay the charge if their vehicle falls outside the ULEZ emissions standards. 

London-licenced taxis up to 15 years old are exempt. Minicabs with wheelchair access have a grace period until 26 October 2025, provided they are being used to carry out a private hire booking. 

Some specialist farm vehicles, tanks, and diggers may also be exempt, as are certain showman’s vehicles. 

If you drive a minibus for a charity or school – excluding private schools – you can register for a limited grace period until 29 October 2023.

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