Drivers could soon pay up to £17.50 to drop off a friend or relative at Heathrow. The charge is mostly due to the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), which expands to cover the entire capital – including its largest airport – from 29 August 2023.
The ULEZ means drivers of non-compliant cars will have to pay a £12.50 daily fee to enter Greater London – i.e. most of the area inside the M25 motorway. There is also a fixed £5 fee for entering the terminal drop-off areas at Heathrow, bringing the potential cost to £17.50.
London mayor Sadiq Kahn said the ULEZ expansion was “one of the toughest decisions I’ve taken”, but claimed “five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives” as a result.
So what is the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, what changes are coming and do you need to pay? To provide the answers, here’s our quick guide to the London ULEZ. If you have any other questions, please ask us in the comments below.
What is the ULEZ?
Like the long-established Congestion Charge Zone, the Ultra Low Emissions Zone is an area of London that some drivers must pay to enter.
If your car doesn’t meet the required standard, driving into the ULEZ costs £12.50 per day. Unlike the London Congestion Charge, the fee applies no matter what time of day you travel.
The ULEZ operates around the clock, and every day of the year except for Christmas day.
London ULEZ: which vehicles are affected?
Only petrol cars meeting the Euro 4 emissions standard and diesel cars meeting the Euro 6 standard are exempt from paying the ULEZ charge of £12.50 per day.
The ULEZ also applies to vans, minibuses, coaches, lorries and other heavy vehicles. For motorcycles, it’s those with Euro 3 emissions or above that are exempt.
The Euro 4 standard became mandatory for all new cars in 2005. Euro 6 was introduced for all cars and light vans from September 2015 (January 2014 for larger vehicles). Euro 3 came into effect for motorcycles in 2007.
Vehicles likely to be liable for the ULEZ charge thus include:
- Petrol cars and vans sold before 2006
- Diesel cars and vans sold before 2015
- Motorbikes sold before 2007
You can check whether your vehicle is compliant by entering its registration number on the TfL website.
Also, don’t forget this fee comes on top of the £15 Congestion Charge if you enter central London.
London ULEZ: the charging zone
The ULEZ used to cover the same area as the Congestion Charge – circled in pink above. However, the zone now stretches to the North and South Circular roads (circled in red), including Heathrow airport.
Where the Congestion Charge is mostly limited to Westminster and the City of London, the ULEZ stretches across 16 London boroughs.
On the Transport for London (TfL) website, it states that: ‘If you are driving any petrol or diesel vehicle within this area, you will need to meet new tighter emissions standards or pay a daily charge’.
Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor of London’s plans mean the ULEZ charging area will cover the entire green zone shown above from 29 August 2023.
This new area stretches as far as Waltham Abbey in the north, Upminster in the east, West Drayton in the west and Tatsfield in the south.
On 12 April 2023, the High Court granted permission for a group of councils to challenge the legality of expanding the ULEZ to outer London. The coalition against the ULEZ includes the London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Hillingdon and Harrow, along with Surrey County Council. A judgement is expected on 5 July 2023.
Do I need to pay the ULEZ charge?
Our separate guide explains how to check if your car is liable for the ULEZ charge.
The ULEZ fee is £12.50, payable by anyone driving a vehicle that isn’t compliant, whatever time of day they enter the zone. It’s £100 per day to enter for non-compliant vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
A key point to note: the charge doesn’t buy you 24 hours in the ULEZ. The clock restarts at midnight, so if you drive a car into the zone at 11pm and leave at 3am the next day, you’ll be expected to pay £25 (2 x £12.50).
Inevitably, if the fee isn’t paid, a Penalty Charge Notice will be sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle.
How can I avoid the London ULEZ?
Navigation app Waze allows London residents to enter whether their vehicle is exempt or not. If not, the app can automatically guide you around the zone so you don’t have to pay.
If you’re a London resident on a low income or disability benefits, you may also be eligible for a £2,000 grant towards scrapping your old car and buying a ULEZ-compliant one. Click here for more details of TfL’s scrappage scheme.
Another option is simply to buy a suitable car. Many fun-to-drive modern classics, including the Vauxhall Monaro (pictured), ‘997’ Porsche 911, Honda S2000 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage are exempt from the charge.
As Tom Wood, CEO of Car & Classic, points out, older classic cars can avoid the ULEZ, too. “The exemption for cars in historical tax status, e.g. any classic vehicle made before 1 January 1983, still stands – so you won’t have to pay,” he explains.
“It could be a great time to buy or even save a classic car and commission it for ULEZ commuting duties. If, however, your classic is not 40 years old, don’t write it off and send it to be scrapped, as this is a rolling scheme. So in 10 years’ time, cars built before 1 January 1993 should be eligible.”
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