What is an Ultra-Low Emission Zone?

Last updated February 9th, 2024

A Congestion Charge scheme for London was introduced in February 2003 to reduce the overwhelming level of traffic drawn to the capital. Still in operation today, London’s Congestion Charge scheme imposes daily charges on all vehicles travelling within its designated zone.

In February 2008, a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) covering all roads within Greater London, Heathrow and parts of the M1 and M4 was launched. Unlike the Congestion Charge zone, this emissions-based scheme only imposes daily charges on larger high polluting vehicles (e.g. HGVs, large commercial vehicles and minibuses) travelling within the zone.

In April 2019, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was implemented in London. Much like London’s LEZ, the ULEZ imposes levies on high polluting drivers. However, the crucial difference between them is that the ULEZ charges also apply to cars and motorcycles that fail to meet the minimum emissions standards.

In this complete guide, we will explain how London’s ULEZ works and why it was implemented. We’ll also cover where it operates, the charges that apply, which vehicles are liable for the daily charges, how to pay – and the penalties for non-payment.

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What is an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)?

ULEZ refers to the area of London where a daily charge is imposed on high-polluting vehicles.

If you travel within the designated area you will have to pay the daily charge of £12.50, unless you are exempt or have a Certificate of Conformity (COC).

The highest polluting vehicles must pay a levy in order to use the roads. The ULEZ replaced the former T-Charge and is paid on top of the existing £15 daily congestion charge.

Transport for London (TFL) states that the ULEZ is particularly beneficial for older and younger people – in addition to those with respiratory problems and residents of highly polluted areas.

When it was launched in April 2019, the ULEZ initially covered the same area of Central London as the Congestion Charge. However, the ULEZ was expanded to incorporate the area between the North and South Circular roads in October 2021 – and once more in August 2023, to include all London boroughs and the City of London.

ULEZ charges affect an estimated 2.5 million vehicles driving in the capital every year.

Following the success of the ULEZ, other UK authorities introduced their own emissions-based chargeable zones, such as the Clean Air Zones (CAZs) found in various cities. Scotland also launched its own variation of the LEZ in its four largest cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

Why was London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) implemented?

The ULEZ was introduced to discourage drivers of high polluting vehicles from travelling within Central London. More specifically, the ULEZ aims to reduce nitrous oxides and particulate emissions within the city centre to improve the air quality.

The scheme was first announced in March 2015 by the then London mayor, Boris Johnson – and was proposed to launch in September 2020.

However, the ULEZ was subsequently launched earlier than this date on 8th April 2019 by the subsequent mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Where is the ULEZ?

The ULEZ operates across all 32 London boroughs and the City of London (spanning from Enfield to Croydon). It is important to note that the M25 is not included the zone.

Regardless of the length of your trip within the zone, you will have to pay the daily charge if your vehicle doesn’t meet the ULEZ emissions standards, unless your vehicle is ULEZ exempt.

London ULEZ  

Source: London ULEZ map

How much is the ULEZ charge?

All vehicle types (from cars to motorcycles, mopeds, vans, minibuses, lorries and larger vehicles) are liable to pay the same £12.50 daily charge if they fail to meet the minimum ULEZ emissions standards.

What are the London ULEZ rules?

Whilst non-compliant vehicles are permitted to travel within the ULEZ, they will be subject to the daily charge if they do so. This is separate to the Congestion Charge, so if you own a non-compliant vehicle, you could be liable to pay both charges (amounting to £27.50 per day).

To help you check whether you will have to pay the ULEZ charge, we’ve highlighted the minimum emissions requirements for different vehicle types below:

  • London ULEZ rules for cars

    To qualify for ULEZ exemption, petrol cars must meet or exceed the Euro 4 emissions standards. Virtually all petrol cars registered after January 2006 meet this requirement. Some petrol models from as early as 2001 are ULEZ compliant, so check the Euro standard rather than the year of your car.

    Diesel cars must meet Euro 6 standards. Virtually all diesel cars produced after September 2015 meet this requirement.

  • London ULEZ rules for vans

    Petrol-powered vans must meet Euro 4 standards.

    Diesel-powered vans must meet Euro 6 standards.

    Vans, lorries and HGVs that weigh more than 3.5 tonnes are exempt from ULEZ charges (but may be liable for LEZ charges if they fail to meet the LEZ emission requirements and travel within the designated zone).

  • London ULEZ rules for motorcycles and mopeds

    Motorcycles and mopeds must meet Euro 3 standards, or they will be liable for ULEZ charges. Most motorbikes and mopeds registered after July 2007 meet this requirement.

  • London ULEZ rules for HGVs

    There are no ULEZ emissions standards for HGVs. (However, if your HGV is not LEZ compliant, you will be liable for LEZ charges if you travel within the designated area.)

    If you drive a HGV over 12 tonnes in weight, you’ll require an HGV Safety Permit. This highlights that your vehicle is compliant with the Direct Vision Standard (DVS). HGV Safety Permits are free to apply for and you may receive a penalty if you are caught driving without one.

    Many vehicles that are 40 years old or more are exempt from ULEZ charges, providing they have classic car tax exemption.

What are the operating hours for the London ULEZ?

The ULEZ in London operates 24 hours a day, every day (excluding 25th December).

How can I check whether my car is ULEZ compliant?

You can check if your vehicle is ULEZ exempt with the TFL checker tool. Simply enter your reg number into the tool to find out whether you’ll have to pay the charge.

How do I pay the ULEZ charges?

  • Through the TfL website: You can pay both the Congestion and ULEZ charges for up to three previous days, today, tomorrow or a custom date range using the portal on the TfL website.

  • With your London road user charging account: You can register for a London road user charging account via the TfL website. This enables you to automatically pay ULEZ charges for up to five separate vehicles. If you use this method, you’ll have to pay an annual admin fee of £10 for each vehicle registered to your account.

  • Using the TfL ‘Pay to Drive in London’ smartphone app: This free-to-use app is available to download from Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

  • By phone: For the UK, the number to call is 0343 222 2222. Be aware that TfL call charges apply.

What are the penalties for failing to pay ULEZ charges?

TfL use ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras, an advanced speed camera that can also detect non-compliant vehicles.

If you don’t pay the charge by midnight on the third day following your journey, you’ll receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) for £180 (which will be halved to £90 if paid within 14 days).

What is the ULEZ scrappage scheme – and who is eligible?

  • TfL’s ULEZ scrappage scheme started on 29th August 2023 and offers £160 million in financial assistance towards scrapping and replacing non-compliant vehicles.
  • Grants are available to lower income and disabled drivers based in London. Registered charities, micro-businesses and sole traders based within the capital may also be eligible.
  • The ULEZ scrappage scheme offers £2,000 for scrapping a car or £1,000 for scrapping a motorcycle.
  • Disabled London residents who require a vehicle with wheelchair access can receive up to £10,000 to scrap their vehicle. Alternatively, there is also a £6,000 grant towards retrofitting wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) to ULEZ standards.
  • You must live within one of the 32 London boroughs or the City of London to apply for the ULEZ scrappage scheme.

Are there grants available to buy a ULEZ compliant car?

The ULEZ scrappage scheme provides grants for London residents and businesses to scrap their non-compliant vehicles.

Unfortunately, since the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant for electric cars was withdrawn in June 2022, there have been no grants available to help cover the cost of a greener car available to non-London residents.

ULEZ vs London LEZ – How do they differ?

London Low Emission Zone (LEZ)

Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

Operates 24 hours day, 365 days a year.

Operates 24 hours a day, 364 days a year (excluding 25th December).

Primarily targets heavy diesel vehicles such as lorries.
Cars, motorcycles and mopeds are automatically exempt from charges.

All vehicles, including cars and motorcycles may be liable for ULEZ charges if they do not meet the minimum standards.

Please note: The LEZ and ULEZ cover the same area.

Lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) and buses, minibuses and coaches (over 5 tonnes GVW) are exempt from ULEZ charges – but may need to pay the LEZ charge if they do not meet its minimum emissions standards.

London ULEZ travel tips and advice

Check whether you’ll need to pay a fee when travelling or arriving at your destination by using the TfL vehicle checker.

Remember, you can be liable to pay both the Congestion and ULEZ charges for the same journey. Paying one fee does not make you exempt from the other.

It may be worth checking public transport websites and apps for a cheaper option.

What are my options for selling a non-compliant car?

If your motor doesn’t meet ULEZ standards, selling your car privately in the London area might prove to be a challenge, unless you happen to find a buyer with their heart set on that particular model.

Selling your car to webuyanycar is simple and hassle free. Just follow these three simple steps:

  • Get your free valuation. Enter your registration and mileage into our free car valuation tool.
  • Book an appointment at any of our 500+ UK branches.
  • Sell your car. Drive to your chosen branch and our buyer will confirm your valuation. If you’re happy to sell your car to us, we’ll set up the payment for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

London is the only city that has a ULEZ.

However, there are other emissions-based chargeable zones in the UK, such as the Clean Air Zone (CAZs) in various cities such as Bath, Bradford, Bristol, Newcastle and Sheffield.

The T-charge was introduced in October 2017 with a view to improving London’s air quality – and imposed a £10 charge for non-compliant vehicles. The ‘T’ in T-charge stood for ‘toxicity’.

Under the T-charge scheme, vans and cars (petrol and diesel) had to meet Euro 4 emissions standards to avoid charges.

The T-Charge was replaced by the ULEZ on the 8th of April 2019.

Fully electric cars and vehicles with road tax exemption (including classic car tax exemption) are automatically exempt from ULEZ charges.

Vehicle owners who have ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicle’ tax class are also exempt until 24th October 2027 on the condition that their vehicle doesn’t change tax class.

The TfL’s full list of exempt cars can be found on their website.

Vehicles registered outside the UK are still subject to Congestion and ULEZ charges.

The TfL does not have access to the vehicle emissions and compliance data held by overseas DVLA equivalents.

However, they have set up an enquiry service, allowing motorists using a foreign-registered vehicle within the ULEZ to register their vehicle. Once you have registered, no ULEZ penalties will be issued.

According to the TfL, if your non-compliant car is registered with EPC (Euro Parking Collection), you may receive a Penalty Charge Notice.

‘Euro 6’ simply refers to the 6th iteration of the European Union’s emissions standards for cars. These standards were first introduced in 1991 and specifically, the Euro 6 regulations came into effect in September 2014.

If you are unsure whether your vehicle meets Euro 6 standards, you should check the car’s registration documents for a Euro 6 emissions label.

Alternatively, try visiting the manufacturer’s website. You should also be able to view any vehicle emissions test results here.

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) started on April 8th, 2019, with the aim of reducing air pollution in London and its boroughs.

Petrol and LPG cars must meet Euro 4 emissions standards.

Diesel cars must meet Euro 6 emissions standards.

Hybrid cars utilising a combustion engine must meet the relevant petrol or diesel standards (this includes mild hybrid cars).

Fully electric cars are automatically exempt from ULEZ charges.

The easiest way to check if your car is compliant is to use TfL’s checker tool – simply enter your reg and your country of registration.

Yes, you can drive a petrol car within the ULEZ. However, you may have to pay a fee if your petrol vehicle does not meet the Euro 4 emissions standard. Many cars registered before 2006 do not meet this standard.

If your car is compliant, no charge will be applied.

Yes, the ULEZ charge applies to any diesel cars that do not meet the minimum emissions standards.

Diesel cars will be exempt from ULEZ charges if they meet Euro 6 standards. Most diesel cars manufactured after 2015 meet this requirement.

Petrol cars are exempt from ULEZ charges if they are compliant with Euro 4 standards. Most petrol cars manufactured after 2006 (and certain models from as early as 2001) meet this requirement.

Threads in various online automotive communities have asked whether the August 2023 ULEZ expansion has affected used car prices in London.

The consensus is that used diesel car prices have been affected, although the impact on the prices of used petrol models has been less significant. This may be due to demand from 90s car enthusiasts outside of London.

If you do not regularly travel within the ULEZ or any other emissions-based zones, you could buy a relatively modern diesel that narrowly missed the Euro 6 requirements at a bargain price!