Should I buy a diesel car? Everything you need to know

Some important changes are taking place that could affect owners of diesel cars. We round up everything you need to know if you own a diesel or you’re thinking of buying one

Words ByClaire Evans

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently announced the introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the English capital from April 2019. Once it’s in operation, drivers of vehicles with higher emissions will have to pay an extra fee to drive through certain parts of the city.

It’s expected that other cities around the UK will soon follow London’s lead and introduce their own ultra low emission zones.

What’s the ULEZ?

The ULEZ will cover the same area as the current Congestion Charge zone. All cars, motorcycles, vans, buses and HGVs that travel through it from 8 April 2019 will have to meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily fee.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ fee is payable for vehicles entering the zone 24-hours-a-day, every day of the year including weekends and public holidays.

The cost of the charge is Β£12.50 for cars, motorcycles and vans, and Β£100 per day for buses, coaches and HGVs.

The charge will apply to petrol-engined vehicles that don't meet Euro 4 standards and diesels that don't meet Euro 6 standards. That means petrol cars registered before 1 January 2006 and diesel cars registered before 1 September 2015 will have to pay the Β£12.50 fee on top of the Β£11.50 Congestion Charge, taking the daily cost of entering the city up to Β£24 for affected vehicles.

There are hefty fines for vehicle owners who don’t pay the ULEZ charge. On top of the daily fee, owners of cars, motorbikes and vans will face a fine of Β£130, which will be reduced to Β£65 if paid within 14 days, while bus, coach and HGV operators will have to pay Β£1000 (reduced to Β£500 if paid within 14 days).

The ULEZ charge will replace the T-Charge fee, which is due to be introduced in October 2017. It’s an extension of the current Low Emission Zone.

What’s the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ)?

This is a scheme introduced in 2008 to discourage the most heavily polluting vehicles from driving in Greater London. It operates 24-hours-a-day and, although it does not include cars, it does charge a fee for HGVs, and coaches registered before 2006, and buses, vans, horseboxes and pick-up trucks registered before 2001.

It costs Β£100 per day for smaller vehicles and Β£200 per day for larger vehicles.

What’s the T-Charge?

It’s a scheme to deter the most polluting cars from driving into London that covers the period before the ULEZ is introduced. It will come into force on 23 October 2017 and levies an additional fee of Β£10 on cars first registered before 2005.

Drivers of all vehicles with emissions below those specified by the Euro 4 emissions standards will have to pay the T-Charge.

Like the ULEZ, the T-Charge will operate 24-hours-a-day, every day of the year, and will cover the same area as the current Congestion Charge zone.

How much is car tax for a diesel car?

From April 2017, the cost of road tax for new diesel cars has gone up. The previous low rates of tax that applied to diesel cars have been removed, and the amount payable for diesels is now the same as petrols – it’s dependent on emissions in the first year and then a flat rate of Β£140 per year after that.

Buyers of all cars costing Β£40,000 or more (including optional extras but not on the road costs) also have to pay a premium rate of Β£310 per year for years two to six of the car's life.

This change only applies to new cars registered on or after 1 April, it doesn’t affect cars registered before that date. So if you buy a second-hand diesel car with 99g/km of CO2 emissions, it will still be tax-exempt.

Is anything being done to help owners of diesel cars cope with the extra costs?

Although there will be no assistance with the cost of car tax on new diesel cars, the Government has said it will aim to help owners of diesels living inside the ULEZ and other areas where low emission zones are introduced.

There are no official details yet about what form that assistance might take, but there are rumours about a diesel scrappage scheme that would encourage owners to trade in higher emission diesels for cleaner models.

What if I want to drive through other European cities?

There are more than 200 low-emission zones in various European cities, so if you’re thinking of driving your car abroad, check for low emission schemes along your planned route and at the destination.

Paris is among the most recent cities to introduce a scheme to combat air pollution. Its Air Quality Certificate scheme bans cars first registered before 1997 from entering the city between 8am and 8pm on weekdays. It also bans motorcycles first registered before 2000 and buses and HGVs built before 2001.

Newer vehicles are rated on their emissions and will qualify for one of six different coloured windscreen stickers that will allow access to the city inside the PΓ©riphΓ©rique ring road (the equivalent of London's M25).

The cost of a sticker is €3.70 (Β£3.20) plus postage and they can be requested via the Air Quality Certification Service

Next: The best (and worst) electric cars 2017

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