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The Ultra Low Emission Zone explained

Adrienne Wyper / 15 April 2019

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) could now cost up to £24 to drive in central London – we explain the new emissions charge.

A driver in London

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (or ULEZ, as it says on the road signs) is an area of London, covering the same ground as the Congestion Charge zone, where low emissions standards for vehicles are being enforced.

You need to pay to enter the Zone if your vehicle doesn’t meet these standards. The Zone operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week (midnight to midnight), 365 days a year, unlike the Congestion Charge.

How much does the ULEZ cost?

If your vehicle doesn’t meet the emissions standard, you’ll pay £12.50 a day for cars, motorbikes and vans up to 3.5 tonnes. Larger vehicles, like lorries and coaches, pay £100 a day. This is in addition to the Congestion Charge of £11.50 a day.

The ULEZ replaces the former T-Charge, or Toxicity Charge, which was introduced in 2017, and was in force from 7am to 6pm.

If you fail to pay the charge you’ll be liable for a fine of £160, reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days.

Why has the Ultra Low Emission Zone been introduced?

Air pollution is made up of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide, which can damage the respiratory system, increasing the risk of developing asthma and other lung diseases, cancer and dementia. Polluting vehicles account for around half of London’s harmful NOx emissions. Development of childhood asthma can be attributed to exposure to nitrogen dioxide in 19% of cases in the UK, rising to 29% in London.

It’s not the only measure being taken by Transport for London (TfL); the authority is also encouraging more walking, cycling and use of public transport, and all buses within the Zone meet the emissions standard or are electric.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Tackling London’s lethal air and safeguarding the health of Londoners requires bold action. Air pollution is a national health crisis and I refuse to stand back as thousands of Londoners breathe in air so filthy that it shortens our life expectancy, harms our lungs and worsens chronic illness.

London’s restriction on polluting vehicles is one of the world’s toughest, but other European cities have similar schemes, and some have bans on diesel vehicles. TfL hopes the zone will reduce the numbers of polluting cars in the city centre, and estimates that about 40,000 vehicles a day will be affected.

Does my vehicle meet the ULEZ emissions standards?

As a general rule, if your diesel car is more than four years old, or your petrol car more than about 13 years, you’ll probably have to pay. However, charging is based on your vehicle’s declared emissions, rather than its age.

For petrol, cars, vans and minibuses must meet Euro 4 standard, and diesels Euro 6. Motorbikes must meet Euro 3. Enter your registration number here to check whether you’re liable:

How do I pay the ULEZ charge?

You can pay in several ways.

• Set up an Autopay account ( to pay the charge automatically; in addition to the charge, this service costs £10 per vehicle per year.

• Pay on the TfL website ( for the previous working day, the next day, or for a chosen period.

• Download the TfL Pay to drive in London app from Apple ( or Google Play (

• Pay by phone on 0343 222 2222 calling from the UK, 00 44 20 7649 9122 from abroad, or on textphone 020 7649 9123 if your hearing is impaired.

Are there any ULEZ discounts or exemptions?

If you live within the ULEZ, or bordering it, you won’t have to pay the charge until 24 October 2021, although if your vehicle doesn’t meet the T-Charge emissions standard you’ll continue to pay that, discounted by 90%.

Vehicles over 40 years old are exempt, as are those with a ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicles’ tax class. Blue Badge holders whose vehicles aren’t in those tax classes will need to pay if their vehicle doesn’t meet the emissions standards. If you’re using your vehicle to attend an NHS hospital appointment, you may be eligible for a refund.

What are the future plans for ULEZ?

Standards will be stricter from 25 October 2021, when the zone will be extended to the area within the South and North Circular roads. You will be able to drive along these roads without making payment.

Have you been on an amazing road trip that you would like to share with us? We're looking for fantastic journeys our readers have been on for a new feature in the magazine. Do email with details of where you went and when, and any great pictures, along with your recommendations for places that other road users can check out on the route.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.