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London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone: what you need to know

The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) means some older cars need to pay a fee to enter the capital. Here are all the details.

The London ULEZ was introduced in 2019, affecting hundreds of thousands of vehicles driving on the streets of the capital. Other cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford and Edinburgh are set to follow suit.

The ULEZ – which was brought in by London mayor Sadiq Khan – is designed to improve air quality in London, with older, more polluting vehicles charged to enter the city. It replaced a previous measure called the T-Charge, which started in 2017.

If you frequently drive in London or are just planning a single visit, this ULEZ guide will tell you everything you need to know and whether or not your car incurs the charge.

How does the ULEZ work?

Initially, the ULEZ covered the same area as the familiar Congestion Charge Zone. But as of 25 October 2021, the boundary has been expanded to include the whole area inside the North Circular and South Circular roads.

Road signs at every entry point along the boundary will tell you that you’re crossing into the ULEZ, sitting alongside or below existing Congestion Charge signs. You can see a map of the zone below or use the

This charge is in addition to the Congestion Charge, which costs £15 per day and is in operation every day between the hours of 7am and 10pm, with Christmas Day being the only exception. That means a London commuter with an affected car could be facing an average annual bill of around £5760 for weekday driving just in congestion and ULEZ fees.

If you fail to pay the ULEZ charge by the following evening, a penalty notice will be sent to the owner of the vehicle.

The cars set to vanish from London’s roads

The arrival of the ULEZ looks set to effectively banish many iconic models from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s from London’s roads, unless their owners are prepared to pay for the privilege of driving them. For a lot of people, the costs will likely prove too prohibitive, which could force them to sell their cars. These are some of the ones we’ll miss the most:

Land Rover Defender

Every Defender, up to and including the heritage editions that came at the end of the off-road icon’s 67-year production run, is subject to the ULEZ charge. Unbeaten off road, available in a multitude of different configurations and a poster child of the British automotive industry, the Defender will be truly missed from London’s roads.

Porsche Boxster

As demand for Porsche sports cars of every kind continues to head into the stratosphere, the original Boxster remains one of the few affordable ways to get one in your garage. Maintenance can be expensive, however, so the additional costs associated with the ULEZ could force owners to park up their pride and joy instead of using it to commute.

Mazda MX-5

Not only are the original (NA) and second-generation (NB) MX-5s some of the most rewarding two-seater sports cars of their time, they’re also some of the most affordable. Cared-for used examples can be found for just £2000, but commuters would be looking at spending more than the price of the car just to drive it through London for a year. You’ll have to wait another decade before the first examples of the first-generation MX-5 become eligible for official classic status and therefore exempt from the charge – if that rule still applies by then.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

The hot hatch that inspired countless others (even if it wasn’t really the first), the Golf GTI is now on its seventh generation. There are plenty of early models in the hands of enthusiasts, but unfortunately Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3 cars are now subject to the ULEZ charge. Expect to see far fewer of them around, although according to the TfL ULEZ checker, early R32 models don’t yet incur a charge for driving into the zone.

BMW M3

Even the earliest (some would say best) versions of BMW’s compact super-saloon now fall foul of the ULEZ regulations, although considering how much the E30 has jumped in value in recent years, with the E36 following quickly behind, the numbers seen on the roads were already quite minimal. On the plus side, M3s from the E46 onward (including the mighty CSL) are compliant, so fast old BMWs won’t disappear from London’s roads altogether just yet.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

The W220-generation S-Class limousine skirts the boundary of ULEZ charging, with some petrol models still able to travel into London without paying a charge, including the AMG-fettled S55. However, a high percentage of these luxobarges were diesel-powered chauffeur cars. Anyone looking for a luxurious saloon to commute in will now need to think twice before buying one second-hand.

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Madrid’s AR/LEZ scheme

and black cabs are exempt!

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