A driver’s guide to ULEZ: basic checks to ensure your car is compliant

Unsure if your car is ULEZ compliant? Check out this blog to find out how you can check whether your vehicle is exempt from the £12.50 a day charge when travelling around the capital.

A driver’s guide to ULEZ: basic checks to ensure your car is compliant

Introduced in 2019, London's Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was established to tackle vehicle-induced pollution in the city centre and improve the capital's air quality for all residents.

While initially limited to the busiest area of the metropolis, as of August 2023 its imaginary borders were expanded to cover all London boroughs, affecting all Londoners and drivers using their cars for regular commutes.

To circulate free of charge within the ULEZ boundaries, your vehicle needs to meet specific emission requirements. If it doesn't, you'll be charged a daily fee of £12.50, which in the long run can have a costly impact on your pockets.

Bear in mind that, if you enter the zone without paying, you'll receive a fine of £180 – which drops to £90 if the penalty is covered within 14 days.

So, to avoid pricey surprises at the wheel and to keep the capital's roads as clean as can be, what should you know about London's ULEZ rules? Samuel Brackenbury, Consumer Direct Operations Manager at vehicle finance company First Response Finance, has put together a useful guide to help you check whether your car is ULEZ compliant.

Euro emission standard

One of the first things to be aware of is your car's Euro emission standard.

Ranging from 1 to 6, each standard defines the acceptable limit for exhaust emissions released by vehicles sold in the EU and EEA member states.

Such explained: "The aim of Euro emission standards is to minimise the levels of pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter, produced by motors.

"In short, each car must conform to certain environmental standards based on its year of production. For example, Euro 6 standard applies to all vehicles rolled out from September 2015.

"This is currently the band with the strictest emission limits, meaning that all Euro 6 cars are the more eco-conscious motors you can drive. However, it's worth noting that a Euro 7 standard will be introduced in July 2025, which might apply specifically to non-exhaust emission models.

"Euro emission standards are particularly important for motorists cruising within the London ULEZ, as all vehicles entering the area must meet specific emission requirements. To navigate the ultra-low emission area for free, for instance, drivers must be at the wheel of a Euro 4 petrol car (at least) or a Euro 6 diesel car.

"If you're unsure about your car's Euro emission standard, read through your vehicle registration document, check the manufacturer's website, or get in touch with your dealership.”

What cars are exempt from ULEZ charges?

Based on Euro emission standards and other specific factors, there are many aspects that can determine whether you're allowed to circulate within the ULEZ boundaries without paying a penny.

Here's a quick breakdown:

  • Petrol cars – as mentioned, petrol-powered cars must meet at least the Euro 4 emission standard. This means that all petrol motors registered after 2005 should be able to enter London’s ULEZ free of charge.
  • Diesel cars – rules are more stringent for diesel cars, as they must meet at least the Euro 6 emission standard. This is because, compared to their petrol counterparts, diesel vehicles release more particulate matter.
  • Hybrid vehicles – as long as petrol and diesel hybrid models adhere to the above standards, they can enter the ULEZ for free.
  • Electric vehicles – all fully electric vehicles that produce no tailpipe emissions can drive in the ULEZ free of charge.
  • Blue-badge holders – some blue-badge holders might qualify for a ULEZ discount or exemption. But generally speaking, their vehicle must still meet the above emission regulations.
  • Historic cars – if you're the proud owner of a historic car, you might be able to hit the streets of London for free. In fact, vehicles that are over 40 years old and are registered as 'historic cars' can enter the ULEZ without having to pay the £12.50 fee.

ULEZ zone boundaries

From 29th August 2023, the ULEZ boundaries have been extended to cover every single borough in the capital, including Barnet, Edgware, and Finchley to name a few. But if you're cruising along the M25, don't worry – the motorway is not included within the ULEZ.

The ULEZ operates 24/7 all year round, except for Christmas Day. Even if you're just planning a short trip within the ULEZ, you will have to pay the daily charge if your car is not compliant.

Bear in mind that the fee applies only to cars on the move. So, if your vehicle is parked within the zone but hasn't been driven on a particular day, you won't be charged.

If you're visiting the capital aboard a non-UK registered vehicle, you'll still be required to stick to the ULEZ emissions standards or pay the usual £12.50 fee.

Online tools to check compliance

Yes, there's quite a lot to take in. Whether you're a London resident, a commuter, or a tourist, keeping up with all the ULEZ regulations can cause a few headaches.

The good news is that there are plenty of online platforms that can help you check your vehicle's compliance ahead of your journey.

For example, the Transport for London website has a handy tool that will tell you if you're exempt from the ULEZ daily charge.

All you need to do is type in your number plate and select the country of registration, and you'll have an answer within seconds.

So, does this guide make things clearer? Travelling within the ULEZ can put your pockets to the test if your car doesn't meet specific requirements.

But if it conforms to the right Euro emission standard or adheres to other special regulations, you can hit the streets of London without the need to splash extra precious cash.

Press releases | 30.11.23

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