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ULEZ explained – what is London's ultra-low-emission zone?

The ULEZ or ultra-low-emission zone is an area that covers almost all London boroughs within the M25. Older cars that aren't compliant with ULEZ emissions standards must pay a daily charge if they want to drive within the ULEZ area.

Keep reading to find out if your car is ULEZ compliant and how much it'll cost if you want to drive a non-compliant model into the UK's capital city. If you're looking to upgrade to a ULEZ-compliant model, every used car for sale at Motorpoint meets ULEZ emissions standards.

What is the London ULEZ?

London ULEZ area shown on a map, shaded in blue
London ULEZ area shaded in blue – Map data © Google

The ULEZ is a scheme introduced in an effort to improve London's air quality. It aims to discourage the use of older vehicles that emit more harmful exhaust gases, in favour of newer models that have cleaner emissions. This means non-compliant cars must pay an extra daily rate to drive inside the ULEZ area.

There's a lot of evidence that shows a direct link between air quality and respiratory health. Reducing the amount of harmful emissions and greenhouse gases in the city should substantially improve the health of people that live and work within it.

What does ULEZ mean?

ULEZ stands for ultra-low-emissions zone. The name comes from the scheme's intended purpose – to reduce harmful emissions within its operating area.

2023 ULEZ expansion

Map showing difference in size between 2019 ULEZ area and 2023 ULEZ expansion area
2019 ULEZ area (left) vs 2023-onwards ULEZ area (right) – Map data © Google

The ULEZ first came into effect in April 2019 and only applied to Central London – the same area as the congestion charge. From 29 August 2023, however, the ULEZ was substantially expanded to include almost all boroughs within the M25 ring road.

That means locations including Enfield, Havering, Bromley, Croydon, Hounslow and Hillingdon are all now part of the ULEZ area.

What cars are ULEZ compliant?

Skoda Scala in blue, driving shot

ULEZ rules mean your vehicle's compliance depends on what emissions standards it meets. Emissions standards have been toughened up over time, starting at Euro 1, then Euro 2 and so on up to the current Euro 6 standards, with each level requiring an even greater reduction in harmful exhaust emissions.

ULEZ compliance requires different Euro emissions levels depending on what fuel type your car uses:

Fuel typeEuro level required for ULEZ compliance
Petrol (including hybrids)Euro 4 (all models from Jan 2006 onwards)
Diesel (including hybrids)Euro 6 (all models from Sept 2015 onwards)
ElectricAll EVs are ULEZ compliant

Are diesel cars ULEZ compliant?

Newer diesels that meet Euro 6 emissions standards comply with ULEZ rules and won't have to pay the daily charge to enter the zone. Euro 6 standards became mandatory for all new cars registered from September 2015 onwards, but many diesel models will have been made compliant before this cutoff date.

Are petrol cars ULEZ compliant?

Most petrol cars are ULEZ compliant. That's because the emissions standards required for petrols to enter the ULEZ area aren't as strict as diesels – petrols only need to meet Euro 4 while diesels must meet newer Euro 6 rules. Euro 4 became mandatory for all new cars from January 2006 onwards, so only older petrol cars from the early 2000s and before have to pay to enter the ULEZ.

How to check if a car is ULEZ compliant

You can use Transport for London's official service to check if a vehicle is ULEZ compliant. Simply enter your car's registration plate and it'll let you know whether you need to pay the daily charge. This service will also check whether you need to pay the Congestion Charge for Central London.

How much is the ULEZ charge?

Closeup of ULEZ sign

If your car doesn't meet ULEZ requirements, you'll have to pay a charge for every day you want to drive within the zone. The price is currently £12.50 per day.

How to pay the ULEZ charge?

The easiest way to pay the ULEZ charge is directly through Transport for London's website. You can also pay the Congestion Charge for entering Central London using the same service.

Alternatively, you can call TfL on 0343 222 2222 (charges apply) and follow the spoken instructions.

What cars are exempt from ULEZ?

A 1966 Austin Mini Super Deluxe in green
Classic cars built before 1973 are exempt from the ULEZ charge

As covered above, most newer cars are exempt from paying the ULEZ charge. All petrol cars registered from January 2006 onwards and all diesel cars from September 2015 onwards are automatically exempt because they meet the required emissions standards.

There are still a handful of exemptions for non-compliant cars. People who have registered their vehicle with the DVLA as either 'disabled' or a 'disabled passenger vehicle' will be exempt from the ULEZ charge until 24 September 2027. This also applies to vehicles that have been converted for wheelchair use, as long as the DVLA is aware of the conversion.

Are classic cars ULEZ exempt?

If your vehicle was registered before January 1973, then it's automatically exempt from the ULEZ charge. This exemption also applies to vehicles that are more than 40 years old that have been registered as historic vehicles with the DVLA.

Are blue-badge holders ULEZ exempt?

Blue badge holders are not automatically exempt from paying the ULEZ charge if their vehicle doesn't meet the required emissions standards. Only those who have actually registered their vehicle as either 'disabled' or a 'disabled passenger vehicle' with the DVLA are exempt from the ULEZ charge.

Is there a ULEZ scrappage scheme?

A 1984 Vauxhall Astra GTE in white

If you live within the ULEZ area and have a car that doesn't meet ULEZ restrictions, you can apply for a grant either to scrap it and replace it with an eligible vehicle, or to put it towards public transport costs. The grant offers up to £2,000 in exchange for a non-compliant vehicle, or a reduced figure alongside an annual bus and tram pass.

How does the ULEZ scrappage scheme work?

You'll need to live within the ULEZ area and own a vehicle that doesn't meet the emissions restrictions. The vehicle you're scrapping must've been registered to you at your London address since 30 January 2022 or before. It also needs valid insurance, road tax and MOT. If your application is successful, you will receive up to £2,000 to put towards a compliant car.

Need a ULEZ-compliant car?

All used cars for sale at Motorpoint are ULEZ compliant. If you need to drive into London on a tight budget, check out our picks for the best ULEZ cars under £10,000. Or, if you're ready to say goodbye to exhaust emissions for good, take a look at our range of electric cars.