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Clean air 'ULEZ' expanded to whole of London – here's how to check if you'll be charged £12.50 a trip

Motorists driving in London whose vehicles don't meet particular emission standards will be charged £12.50 a day from 29 August as the city's 'Ultra Low Emission Zone' has been expanded to cover all London boroughs. Typically, this impacts those with older cars, but here's how to check if you'll be charged, plus what to do if you've been wrongly penalised. 

The Ultra Low Emission 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 originally covered the same area in central London as the 'Congestion Charge Zone' – roughly the entire Tube Zone 1 area, but was extended on 25 October 2021 to cover areas in between the North Circular Road and South Circular Road. 

It's been extended again to cover all London boroughs from Tuesday 29 August. This means the ULEZ now includes key destinations such as Heathrow Airport, Wembley and Twickenham Stadiums, Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Hampton Court Palace, and Richmond Park. 

The map below from Transport for London (TfL), which is easier to read on devices with larger screens, details where the new ULEZ area will cover – if you're reading this on your phone, try the interactive map on TfL's website.

Older vehicles are more likely to be affected

Nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London already meet the ULEZ emissions standards, according to TfL. It's older vehicles that are most likely to be impacted.

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 2005).
  • Diesel cars and vans that do not meet Euro 6 standards (roughly equivalent to vehicles registered before 2015).
  • Motorbikes that do not meet Euro 3 standards (roughly equivalent to bikes registered before 2007).

How to register your car as compliant

We've spotted several complaints from people in our reader inbox, as well as on social media and on our Forum, from drivers who say they have either incorrectly been charged a ULEZ fee, received a penalty charge notice (PCN) after driving through the ULEZ and not paying, or who have been told their car is not compliant (when it is) by TfL's online checker. 

We put this to TfL, and it told us there is a four-week lag in receiving data from the DVLA on new vehicle registrations. This means some cars – typically brand new ones or those with a number plate transferred over from a non-compliant car – are wrongly identified as being non-compliant both in its tool and by its cameras. 

To prevent this from happening in the first place, or to get TfL to update its tool, you'll need to contact TfL via its ULEZ contact form (which allows you to upload supporting documents) or by calling 0343 222 2222. You'll need to provide further information, such as a 'Certificate of Conformity', which you can obtain from your car manufacturer.

You're responsible for ensuring you pay the ULEZ charge

The rules on paying the ULEZ charge are as follows:

  • The charge is £12.50 a day 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.
  • You can pay the charge up to 90 days before travelling if you know you're going to be driving within the zone.
  • You have to pay by 11.59pm on the third 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. It also applies regardless of where you live – there's no resident's discount.
  • Fail to pay on time and you risk getting a penalty charge notice. You will be charged £90 if you pay the penalty within 14 days, or £180 if you pay after 14 days.

You can pay the ULEZ charge online or over the phone

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 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.

How to get a refund or challenge an incorrect penalty charge notice

If you've been wrongly charged, you can:

  • Apply for a ULEZ refund. Follow the steps above to confirm your vehicle's compliance, then apply for a refund via the TfL website.

  • Challenge a penalty charge notice issued because you didn't pay the ULEZ fee: You'll need to make what's called a 'representation', which you can either do online on TFL's website or in writing by sending a letter to 'Low Emission Zone, PO Box 553, Darlington, DL1 9TZ'.

    You'll need to state why you are challenging the charge, your PCN reference number – which you can find on your PCN letter – and include any supporting evidence, such as a Certificate of Conformity. Any challenge to your fine must be made within 28 days from the next working day after it was posted to you. You can't challenge a PCN if you fail to do so within this time frame.

  • Ask for compensation if you've lost out by selling your vehicle when you didn't need to (though it's not guaranteed you'll get any). TfL told it will consider complaints from people who sold their vehicles, after being incorrectly told by TfL's online checker they weren't compliant, on a case-by-case basis. Financial compensation isn't guaranteed but it may be worth submitting a formal complaint just in case. 

    To do this, you'll first need to submit a formal complaint online to TfL. If you're unhappy with the response to this complaint, you can escalate it by writing to Customer Correspondence Manager, TfL Road User Charging, 4th Floor, 5 Endeavour Square, London E20 1JN. If you still aren't happy with the response, you can escalate your complaint further by writing to the same address above but addressing your letter to the 'General Manager' who will conduct a final review.

    If you've followed these stages and still aren't happy, you can contact the Local Government Ombudsman by writing to The Local Government Ombudsman, PO Box 4771, Coventry CV4 0EH.
  • Other areas of the UK applying similar emission charges

    Other areas that have implemented similar low emission schemes, include:

    • Bath, Bradford, Gateshead, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Sheffield, and Tyneside: These areas have a clean air zone with a daily charge in place for mostly commercial vehicles that don't meet emissions standards. Private cars and motorbikes are excluded though and won't need to pay the charge.

    • Birmingham: Car users are charged £8 a 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 website.
    • Bristol: Car users are charged £9 a day if their vehicles don't meet low emissions standards. This scheme came into force in November 2022. 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 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 a day. You can either pay in advance or by 6pm on the day the zone is driven in – for details on how to pay, see Durham County Council's website. This scheme was introduced in October 2002.
    • Glasgow: All owners of non-compliant vehicles will be charged from £60 a day (reduced by 50% if it is paid within 14 days) to drive within the city's low emission zone. This came into force on 1 June 2023 for non-residents. For residents, there is a grace period, which means you won't be charged until 1 June 2024, though you need to apply for this exemption – it won't be granted automatically. 
    • Oxford: Car users with a vehicle that is not a zero emission vehicle are charged up to £10 a day (see Oxford council's website for a full breakdown on vehicle type and charges). This scheme was introduced in February 2022. 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 website.

    The following cities have either trialled similar low emission schemes previously or have plans to introduce similar schemes in future:

    • Aberdeen and Edinburgh: A low emission zone was introduced in May 2022, but this won't be enforced until 1 June 2024, after which all non-compliant vehicles will be charged £60 a day, reduced by 50% if it is paid within 14 days.
    • Coventry: In a 2021 trial, drivers were given £3,000 to scrap their cars, even if their car was worth less, and the money was loaded onto a travel card that you could use on public transport. We're checking with Coventry City Council if this scheme is still in place and we will update this story when we know more.
    • Dundee: A low emission zone has been introduced but this won't be enforced until 30 May 2024. After this date, all non-compliant vehicles will be charged £60 a day, reduced by 50% if it is paid within 14 days.
    • Greater Manchester: A clean air zone was expected to be introduced in May 2022 but is still currently under review and awaiting approval.

If you need to get rid of your car, you can either scrap it or sell it - but check its value first

If you have a vehicle that does not meet emissions requirements, you could either sell it or scrap it. However, make sure you check the value of your vehicle online first to see where you can get the best deal. You can do this for free on many car trade-in websites. 

If you choose to sell it, now could be a good time to do so due to high levels of demand for used cars. According to Marc Palmer, head of strategy and insights at car retailer Auto Trader, there's a healthy market for older cars at present, even non-ULEZ compliant ones. But you are better off trying to sell it online to someone outside of London rather than to a local London trader. 

Alternatively, you can scrap your car through TfL's scrappage scheme. You'll get up to £2,000 for a car and up to £1,000 for a motorcycle. 

This scheme had initially only been available to those receiving Child Benefit, or on certain low income or disability benefits. But from 21 August, these requirements were removed and anyone living in one of the 32 London boroughs or the City of London with an eligible vehicle can apply to scrap their car or motorcycle. The scheme will remain in place until all available funding - up to £160 million - has been paid out.


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