London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has expanded to cover the whole city (yep, all 32 boroughs plus the City of London).
You might be wondering if you’re one of the drivers who gets an exemption or discount. Unfortunately, the rules here get pretty complicated. To help, we’ve broken down all the important bits in this guide. Here’s how it all works 👇
ULEZ is an initiative designed to encourage people to travel in greener ways. Boris Johnson first made plans for it back in 2015, then Sadiq Khan implemented it in 2019 – at which point it only covered central London. It’s been expanded since then and, as of August 29th 2023, now covers the whole of London.
Anyone driving a vehicle that doesn’t meet European emission rules gets charged every time they enter the ULEZ (currently £12.50 a day). Drivers of vehicles that meet the below rules won't be charged:
We’ve written a separate guide about ULEZ with some basics you need to know. To find out about specific ULEZ exemptions and discounts, keep reading 👇
To make things fairer for people who are likely to struggle with the new ULEZ rules, the authorities have implemented some exemptions.
Most of these take the form of a ‘grace period’ – where certain people will get longer (sometimes a few years longer) to sort out a ULEZ-friendly vehicle. In the meantime, they can drive their current vehicle in the ULEZ without being charged. There are some discounts for certain drivers and vehicles, too.
It’s really important to understand the ins and outs of all this – as you might need to apply for certain exemptions and discounts for them to be valid.
Let’s take a look.
Big thing to note here: being a Blue Badge holder doesn’t automatically mean you’re exempt from ULEZ charges.
But, if your vehicle doesn’t meet the ULEZ emissions standards, you might be able to benefit from a ‘grace period’ up to 24th October 2027. So you wouldn't have to pay any ULEZ charges until 25th October 2027. (Or ever, if you can sort a vehicle that meets the ULEZ emission standards by this point).
You’re eligible for a grace period if one of the below points applies to you:
You’re also eligible if you car has been adapted to make it wheelchair-accessible, and is registered in your name with the DVLA. You have to apply for this grace period. To be accepted, your vehicle must be fitted with at least one of these adaptations:
And you’re also eligible if you receive one of these disability benefits:
Or if you meet one of these medical criteria:
If you need to get to a medical appointment but are too ill, weak or disabled to use public transport, you might be able to claim back any ULEZ charges for your journey. The same goes for London’s Congestion Charge.
This only applies if, as well as being too ill to travel on public transport, you also:
You will need to have a ‘sign off’ from a medical professional to get your money back.
You might also be able to claim your money back if a medical professional says you’re too vulnerable to travel on public transport to a medical appointment because of a pandemic.
You can make a claim to get your ULEZ money back at the Transport for London website.
According to Transport for London: 'London-licensed taxis are exempt from ULEZ charges. Older, more polluting taxis are subject to a 12 year age limit, with newer, cleaner taxis extended to 15 years.
'All newly licensed taxis must be zero emission capable (ZEC) vehicles.'
If you own a small business (less than 50 employees), own a micro business (up to 10 employees), run a charity, or are a sole trader, you might not have to pay ULEZ charges just yet.
This only applies if you have either:
If either of these is the case 👆 – you can apply for a ULEZ grace period.
If you’ve ordered a brand new van or minibus, the grace period means you don’t have to pay ULEZ charges until 29th November 2023. And if you’ve arranged to have your existing van or minibus retrofitted, you have until 29th February 2024.
Your business has to be registered in one of the 32 London boroughs, or the City of London for you to be eligible.
Some vehicles are automatically exempt from ULEZ, including:
If your vehicle isn’t registered in the UK, you might need to register it with TfL for the exemption to apply.
You also might be able to get a 100% ULEZ discount if you have a ‘show vehicle’. That is, a vehicle that’s been modified for the purpose of putting on a show. The modifications need to be genuinely necessary to make your performances possible. They need to be used in the performance, or to carry performance equipment – things like that.
We can’t exactly list out every single car that meets the ULEZ emissions standards (TfL estimates that 9 out of 10 cars currently driving in outer London are already exempt from ULEZ charges), but here’s a quick list of popular makes and models to give you an idea:
Technically, yes. You could look into retrofitting your vehicle to make it compliant with the ULEZ emission standards. This would involve upgrading its exhaust system or changing its engine. But, honestly, the sums might not stack up here. It’s possible it would cost you more to retrofit your vehicle than it would to sell it and get a new ULEZ-friendly one.
On that note – you might find this guide to cheap electric cars handy 😌
Is there a scrappage scheme? Yep, there is a ULEZ scrappage scheme, which means you could get up to £2000 from the government to scrap your existing car, or up to £1000 to scrap a motorbike.
Do I need to pay ULEZ when visiting Hampton Court Palace or Chessington World of Adventures if visiting from outside London? Yes – you need to pay ULEZ charges to visit these places because they now fall inside of the Ultra Low Emission Zone. (It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from.)
What hours/days does ULEZ operate? ULEZ is a 24/7 thing. It’s active every hour of every day – except Christmas day.
What happens if I don’t pay the ULEZ charge? If you don’t pay your ULEZ charge in time, you get a £160 fine. You have 28 days to pay this – but listen up: you only have to pay £80 if you pay the fine within 14 days. If you don’t pay the fine within 28 days – it doubles to £240. Ouch.
How is ULEZ different to the congestion zone? London’s Congestion Charge only applies to central London, whereas ULEZ now applies to all of London. You can be charged both a ULEZ charge and a Congestion Charge in one day. One doesn’t negate the other.
Say you enter an outer London borough in a car that doesn’t meet ULEZ emission standards (and you’re not exempt for any reason). This means you have to pay a ULEZ charge. And say, later that day, you drive into central London. This means you now also have to pay a Congestion Charge, on top of the ULEZ charge. Them’s the rules, unfortunately.
Don’t forget: from 2030, the government is banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars - so it’s worth considering buying an electric vehicle as the deadline approaches.
Whatever you drive, you need to be insured to hit the road. It only takes a few minutes to get a quote.