Last updated July 28, 2022
The London Congestion Charge refers to a daily fee charged for driving a non-compliant vehicle within the Congestion Charge Zone, between the hours of 7am and 6pm, every day of the year (with the exception of Christmas Day and New Year). Weekends and bank holidays see a reduction in the hours. You pay for each day and can drive around the zone as much as you want within that day.
The charge zone covers the centre of London, including areas like Westminster, Holborn, Farringdon and Marylebone. If you’re driving in London, we’d recommend checking the exact location of the zone and whether you’ve driven in it on the TFL website.
The congestion charge was introduced in 2003 in a bid to improve city centre air quality.
The fee is £15 per day.
Payment can be made up to 90 days in advance of entering the area, or up to midnight on the third day after travel. However, the fee will increase to £17.50 if not paid in advance.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the driver or a passenger - anyone can pay the congestion charge, as this is a charge applied to the vehicle and not the person. The charge is attached to the registration, so ensure that it has been paid by someone to avoid any extra costs.
The TFL website provides more information, although the general rule is that only zero-emission cars like electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are exempt.
If your vehicle is petrol, diesel, or even hybrid powered, then yes, you do have to pay. All vehicles that aren’t ZEVs are responsible for paying the charge.
You can pay the charge either by setting up automatic payments with a £10 annual registration fee, pay online for each day you’re driving, or pay by phone on 0343 222 2222
If you don’t pay the congestion charge within the recommended limit, you’ll receive a penalty charge notice of £160, which can be reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days.
The congestion charge covers central London, whereas the ULEZ covers central and the area up to, but not including, the North and South Circular Roads (A406 and A205).
Depending on where you are driving and your vehicle, you may need to pay the congestion charge as well as the ULEZ charge.
For now, it appears that the congestion charge will remain at £15.
The congestion zone could change - as it did in February 2022. However, ample notice would be provided.
The congestion zone is only in London, but other cities like Birmingham and Bristol have adopted their own low-emission zones.
You can check the congestion charge zone on the TFL website and this will inform you if you need to pay. The congestion zones themselves work by using cameras to capture the registration plates of those driving there. A fee will be issued to you if you have not pre-paid, and you will be notified of this – so, even if you drove in the zone accidentally, you will find out.
You can avoid the charge by not driving in the zone at all. If not driving isn’t an option, consider selling your car and investing in an electric, zero-emissions vehicle to avoid the charges. You can put the value of your car toward a compliant vehicle.