Last updated November 23, 2022
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a congestion charge that was introduced in Central London in 2019 with the aim of reducing the high volume of traffic in the capital and discouraging the use of high-emission vehicles.
Expanded in late 2021, ULEZ no longer just affects Central London - it now incorporates areas up to the South and North Circular roads. Anyone driving a vehicle that isn’t ULEZ exempt through this area will be required to pay the charge of £12.50, in addition to any applicable congestion charges.
In this guide, we will cover the emission standards that various vehicle types must meet in order to qualify for ULEZ charge exemption. We’ll also explore the options available to drivers of non-ULEZ compliant vehicles – and highlight some of the most popular ULEZ-friendly cars on the market today.
Cars that meet certain emission standards are ULEZ exempt, meaning that drivers of these vehicles can travel within the capital without paying the £12.50 emission charge. The required emission standards differ depending on the type of vehicle:
Petrol cars which meet Euro 4 standards (producing no more than 1.0g of CO2 per km) are ULEZ exempt. The vast majority of petrol cars produced after January 2006 meet these requirements, but you can check any vehicle’s ULEZ exemption status on the TFL website.
Diesel cars which meet Euro 6 standards (producing no more than 0.5g of CO2 per km) are ULEZ exempt. The majority of diesel cars that meet ULEZ standards are those first registered with the DVLA after September 2015.
Petrol vans meeting Euro 4 standards, diesel vans meeting Euro 6 standards and fully electric vans are all ULEZ exempt.
Hybrid cars that meet Euro 4 or Euro 6 standards, depending on whether they are a petrol or diesel hybrid respectively are all ULEZ exempt. All electric vehicles are also fully ULEZ exempt.
To find out if your vehicle is exempt from ULEZ charges, run the registration number through Transport for London’s Vehicle Checker tool.
You will have to pay the congestion charge, on top of any other charges, if you are travelling in Central London whilst the charge is in operation, unless you are exempt. Visit the TFL website for more details.
‘ULEZ exempt’ means that a vehicle meets the relevant low-emission standards and therefore, the owner is not liable to pay the £12.50 daily ULEZ charge when driving through Central London (and up to the South and North circular roads).
If your car is not exempt from ULEZ, your only options are to pay the £12.50 daily charge, switch to public transport or invest in an ULEZ exempt vehicle.
Popular ULEZ compatible cars on the market in 2022 include:
Please note: We have checked used cars for all the models highlighted above for ULEZ compatibility. However, if you are considering purchasing a car that you plan to drive through any Ultra Low Emission Zones, we would recommend running the registration number through Transport for London’s Vehicle Checker. This tool will give you a concrete answer as to whether ULEZ charges apply to a specific vehicle.
Vehicles which have a historic tax class are exempt from ULEZ. You are eligible to apply for historic vehicle tax exemption via the DVLA website, if your vehicle was built before January 1st 1982. The threshold will change to include vehicles built before January 1st 1983 on April 1st 2023.
Depending on the age and condition of your vehicle, you may be able meet ULEZ exemption requirements by changing the engine or upgrading the exhaust.
However, the cost of doing this may be high enough that it is more economical to sell your car and make the switch to a ULEZ compliant car. You can sell your car privately, through a dealership – or through a car buying service, such as webuyanycar.
To find out how much your old car might be worth, enter its registration number into our free car valuation tool.
Owners of cars that are over 40 years old can apply for ULEZ exemption. This is a rolling exemption, so you will be eligible to apply if and when your vehicle reaches 40 years old. This exemption doesn’t include commercial use vehicles (e.g. food vans and delivery trucks).
If you’re in the market for a ULEZ-compliant first car, whether for yourself or a loved one, you might want to avoid a Volkswagen Polo or an Audi A1. Instead, you could consider a Ford Focus, Kia Picanto, Seat Ibiza, Fiat Punto, Fiat 500, Vauxhall Corsa, Mini Cooper– or Nissan Micra.
Our findings are based on used ‘first cars’ available at a price point of £3,500 or less. Remember, if you are unsure whether a used car is ULEZ compliant, you can run its registration number through TFL’s Vehicle Checker for a definitive answer.