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How will the ULEZ ultra-low emission zone affect car owners?

From 8 April, some drivers will need to pay £24 a day to drive in London

ULEZ sign in a busy London street

The ULEZ (ultra-low emission zone) comes into force in London as of 8 April, and will operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year. New rules also mean many hybrid drivers will no longer be exempt from paying the congestion charge.

  • ULEZ starts on 8 April
  • Drivers of older cars will need to pay up to £24 to drive in central London
  • Many hybrid car owners will lose their congestion charge exemption from 8 April
  • All remaining hybrid owners have to pay the congestion charge from 2021
  • The ULEZ expands to the North and South circular from 25 October 2021
  • Electric car owners will have to pay the congestion charge from the end of 2025

Need a new car so you won’t have to pay the ULEZ? We’ll help you choose a great low emission car  see our expert pick of the best cars for 2019.

ULEZ: what you need to know

Below we explain everything you need to know about the new rules for driving in London. Either keep reading or use the links to jump to:

ULEZ standards: what cars are affected?

You need to know about Euro emission standards, as both the outgoing T-Charge and new ULEZ penalise certain cars based on what emission criteria they meet.

The Euro emission standards limit the maximum amount of pollutants, such as NOx, particulate matter and carbon monoxide, a car can produce. If a vehicle exceeds these limits in official testing, it cannot be sold in the UK or Europe.

Petrol cars If you drive a petrol car that is not at least Euro 4 certified, you will have to pay the ULEZ. The Euro 4 standard was introduced in 2005 and is also used for the outgoing T-Charge.

Diesel cars You will have to pay the ULEZ if you drive a diesel car that is not Euro 6 certified. This is the current standard and it was introduced in 2014. This rule is stricter than the outgoing T-Charge.

Some manufacturers are able to get ahead of emission limits, releasing cars that meet the next standard before they are made mandatory. So even if your car was registered in 2013, it might still meet Euro 6 – you just have to check it.

Not sure what emission standard your car meets? You may find it on your V5c certificate, or you can use this handy online tool.

ULEZ map

The ULEZ will initially cover the same area as the congestion zone – see the ULEZ map below.

ULEZ map

It will be expanded to the North and South circular from 25 October 2021 – the congestion charge zone will remain unaffected. See the expanded ULEZ map, below.

ULEZ expanded map from 2021

Find the best car for your budget – use our expert, independent new and used car reviews.

What is the ULEZ charge?

The ULEZ replaces the current T-charge (toxicity charge), and will operate 24 hours a day, all year round, including bank holidays and weekends.

  • Affected owners will pay £12.50 a day.

The £11.50 congestion charge will also continue to operate, between Monday to Friday, 07:00 to 18:00 as before.

This means some drivers will have to pay a total of £24 per day to drive into London.

Who doesn’t need to pay the ULEZ charge and what is the sunset period?

You don’t need to pay the ULEZ charge if you own either a petrol car that meets Euro 4 or a diesel car that meets Euro 6. The ‘sunset period’ refers to the grace period that certain people will get,  which will grant them a full or part discount on a temporary basis.

You will get a full discount from the ULEZ until 24 October 2021 if:

  • You live in the congestion zone and have registered for the congestion charge zone discount…
  • … and have a car that meets the previous T Charge rules but not ULEZ rules (essentially a diesel car that meets Euro 4 or Euro 5).

You will, confusingly, continue to pay the T-Charge rate, instead of the ULEZ charge, and get a 90% discount until 24 October 2021 if:

  • You live in the congestion zone and have registered for the congestion charge zone discount…
  • …. but your car doesn’t meet previous T-Charge rules (so if your car meets Euro 3 or before). 

You will get a full discount from the ULEZ until 26 October 2025 if your vehicle has a ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicles’ tax class. But:

  • If the vehicle’s tax class changes from ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicles’, you’ll have to pay the ULEZ.

You can find out more about the eligibility criteria for the disabled exemption on the government’s website.

(Getting a headache? Please see our useful guide to the best painkillers.)

Is my car congestion charge exempt?

Congestion charge zone sign

After the 8 April 2019, the only cars that will be exempt from paying the congestion charge will be modern plug-in hybrids and zero emissions cars.

This is because only cars that meet Euro 6, emit 75g/km or less of CO2 and have a minimum zero emission capable range of 20 miles will now be exempt from the congestion charge.

This is called the Cleaner Vehicle Discount, or CVD.  It replaces the previous discount, the ULED.

Some older plug-in models may not qualify for the discount as they are not capable of driving 20 miles of electric-only range.

For instance, the previous generation Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, pictured below, manages 14 miles on battery power alone and therefore does not qualify.

Toyota Prius
Previous generation plug-in Toyota Prius Plug-Hybrid will not be exempt from the congestion charge as it isn’t capable of driving 20 miles of electric-only range

But the latest version of the Toyota Prius Plug-in has an official electric-only capability of 30 miles, and does qualify for the CVD.

All existing ULED customers should be contacted about these changes and told if their registered vehicle is eligible for the CVD.

ULEZ to be extended in 2021, hybrids no longer exempt

Two big changes occur on 25 October 2021:

  1. The ULEZ is going to expand all the way to the North and South Circular. The congestion charge zone will remain unaffected
  2. Only zero emission car owners will now remain exempt from paying the congestion charge; all hybrid owners will have to pay. Perhaps it’s time to consider an electric car?

We reveal the best electric cars.

Electric car owners will have to pay the congestion charge in 2025

As of Christmas 2025, drivers of zero emission vehicles lose their congestion charge exemption.

There are currently no more plans to expand the ULEZ.

Glossary of terms

There are so many abbreviations, we though a quick glossary wouldn’t go amiss.

Zones

ULEZ: Ultra low emission zone

T-Charge: Toxicity charge

CCZ: Though not used here, if you see ‘CCZ’ it stands for congestion charge zone.

Discounts

ULED: Ultra low emission discount

CVD: Cleaner vehicle discount

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