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London's clean air 'ULEZ' zone is expanding this month – how to check if you'll be charged £12.50 a trip

London's clean air 'ULEZ' zone is expanding this month – how to check if you'll be charged £12.50 a trip

From Monday 25 October, motorists driving in London who do not meet particular emission standards could be charged £12.50/day as the city's 'Ultra Low Emissions Zone' is set to expand. Here's what is happening. 

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), which came into effect in April 2019, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year except for Christmas Day. It currently covers the same area in central London as the 'Congestion Charge Zone' – roughly the entire Zone 1 area.

Motorists driving within this zone have to pay a charge if their vehicle fails to meet the required emissions standards, which typically impacts those with older cars. If you're a driver, see our 50+ quick tips to cut driving costs in our Motoring MoneySaving guide.

Where in London will the charge apply?

From Monday 25 October, drivers will have to be more vigilant as the ULEZ is expanding from central London to the areas in between the North Circular Road and South Circular Road – although the two roads themselves will not be included in the zone.

Whether the fees apply depends on where you drive within the zone – not where you live. If you move your car within the zone and it is picked up by cameras, you will be liable for the charge. You do not have to pay if your car is parked or stationary. The map below from Transport for London (TfL), which is easier to read on a desktop, details where the new ULEZ area will cover and how it compares to the current one.

Map of the central London ultra low emission zone and the extension to the north/south circular boundary

Which vehicles will be affected?

To check if you'll need to pay the ULEZ charge, head to the TfL website and input your registration number. Vehicles that are non-compliant, meaning the ULEZ fee will have to be paid, include:

  • Petrol cars and vans that do not meet Euro 4 standards (roughly speaking, vehicles manufactured and registered with the DVLA before 2006).
  • Diesel cars and vans that do not meet Euro 6 standards (roughly equivalent to vehicles registered before 2015. We have asked TfL for more details and will update).
  • Motorbikes that do not meet Euro 3 standards (roughly equivalent to bikes registered before 2007. We have asked TfL for more details and will update).

You're responsible for ensuring you pay the ULEZ charge

The current rules on paying the ULEZ charge will remain in place from Monday 25 October. They are:

  • £12.50 for most affected vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles and vans that weigh up to and including 3.5 tonnes. Almost all cars are lighter than 3.5 tonnes.
  • £100 for affected heavier vehicles, including lorries (over 3.5 tonnes) and buses/coaches (over five tonnes).
  • You can pay the charge up to 90 days before travelling if you know you're going to be driving within the zone then.
  • You'll have to pay by 11.59pm on the second day following the journey if you fail to pay in advance.
  • The charge only applies when you drive, including whenever you move your vehicle. It does not apply on days when your vehicle is stationary or parked.
  • Fail to pay on time and you risk getting a penalty charge notice. You will be charged £80 if you pay the penalty within 14 days, or £160 if you pay after 14 days.

Is there a residents' discount?

Currently, there is a residents' discount scheme in place for those who live within the existing ULEZ zone. But from Monday 25 October, residents living within the ULEZ zone, including the expanded area, must pay the FULL charge of £12.50/day to drive a vehicle that does not meet the low-emission standards.

How do I pay?

There are several ways to pay the charge:

  • Online. Head to the TfL website. You will need to register your vehicle if you've not already done so.
  • Auto-pay. You can set up an online account and get billed automatically every month for any ULEZ charges you incur.
  • TfL app. Use this app to set up auto-pay, view your outstanding balance, make payments or pay a penalty.
  • Over the phone. You can call 0343 222 2222 to make a payment.

You'll need to register your vehicle if you set up an automatic payment account. If you want to pay each individual charge on your card each time, you don't have to. Just input the registration plate details.

Other areas of the UK applying similar emissions charges

Other areas that have implemented similar schemes, include:

  • Bath: The city has a clean air zone in place for certain vehicles that don't meet its emissions standards. Private cars and motorbikes, however, are excluded.

  • Birmingham: Car users are charged £8/day if their vehicles don't meet low emissions standards. This scheme came into force in June 2021, although fees vary by vehicle type. You must either pay the charge six days in advance, on the day of travel, or within six days of travelling. This can be paid via the Gov.uk website.

  • Durham: Car users driving in the 'Durham Peninsula Charging Zone' between 10am and 2pm from Monday to Saturday (excluding bank holidays) are charged £2/day. You can either pay in advance or by 6pm on the day the zone is used – for details on how to pay, see Durham County Council's website. If you do not pay the charge you face a £50 penalty, although there are some exclusions – for example, for permanent residents. This scheme was introduced in October 2002.

The following cities have also confirmed plans to introduce similar schemes:

  • Oxford: The city will launch a 'Zero Emission Zone' between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week, from February 2022. Prices will vary depending on your vehicle's emissions. From February, ultra-low emission vehicles will be charged £2, low emission vehicles £4, and all other vehicles £10. However, from August 2025, these charges will double. You will be able to pay in advance, or you will have up to six days after travel to pay.

  • Portsmouth: A clean air zone will be introduced in November 2021 for certain vehicles that don't meet its emissions standards. Private cars, motorbikes and vans, however, are are excluded.

If you plan to sell your car, now might be a good time to do so

If you have a vehicle that does not meet emissions requirements, you could sell it – and now could be a good time to do so as prices for used cars are at an all-time high, according to data from car buying and selling site Auto Trader. Of course if you need a car to replace it, you face paying a high cost now for those same reasons.

Before selling, ensure you do your research first and check whether there are any associated fees or costs involved or whether third parties will take a slice of your sale, and if so, how much.

Of course, there are other methods of transport available too. For information on cycling, check out our MoneySaving tips for cyclists guide. Likewise, if you're thinking of switching to using trains, check out our Cheap train tickets guide for ways to save.

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