London's Ultra Low Emission Zone: everything you need to know

London’s clean air zone encompasses all roads inside the Congestion zone; non-compliant vehicles must pay a £12.50 daily fee...

Ultra low emission zone will go live in 2019

The ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) comes into force on 8 April 2019 and replaces the Toxicity charge T-Charge.

Initially it will only cover vehicles entering or being driven in the capital’s existing Congestion Charge zone. Then, from 25 October 2021, it will be expanded to include roads as far north as Palmers Green, east to Barking, west to Ealing and south to Forest Hill.

Diesel cars that don’t meet Euro 6 standards and petrols that don’t comply with Euro 4 will be penalized with a daily levy of £12.50 for driving within the zone. That means it will penalize most diesel cars first registered before September 2015 and petrols first registered before January 2006.

The ULEZ will operate 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, and will be in addition to the existing Congestion Charge, which means older car owners will have to pay £24 a day to drive in the zone.

London residents who are registered inside the Congestion Zone have a grace period until 24 October 2021 before they must pay the ULEZ charge. They'll still have to pay the T-charge until that date, but they'll continue to receive a 90% discount.

A public consultation was carried out by Transport for London (TfL) prior to the confirmation of the zone’s expansion – 56% of respondents were in favour of the extension of the zone.

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggest that more than 780,000 diesels and 858,000 petrol cars will be affected - substantially more than the 321,000 diesels and 255,000 petrols that Transport for London believes will be affected.

On the flip side, the expansion will result in more than 100,000 Londoners no longer living in areas that exceed air quality limits – an 80% increase on the current situation.

London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is calling for a diesel scrappage scheme to help owners of cars that will be penalized by the scheme. He said: “We’re doing everything we can to tackle the issue and are starting to see improvements in air quality with the wide-ranging action we’ve already taken on tackling the most polluting cars and cleaning up our bus and taxi fleet. “An expanded ULEZ will really help to transform the air that millions of Londoners breathe.

“Some motorists will need help switching to greener transport options, which is why City Hall is urging ministers to deliver a diesel scrappage scheme to get the dirtiest cars off our roads and offer drivers a fair deal, especially the many diesel drivers who bought vehicles thinking they were more environmentally friendly after government advice.”

Similar schemes on the way across Europe


Ultra low emission zone will go live in 2019

Other European cities are also introducing measures to cut pollution. In France, under the Crit-Air scheme, all French registered vehicles entering Paris now have to display a sticker stating how much they pollute; failure to do so will result in a fine. The new rules also became applicable to foreign vehicles, including British ones, from 1 April 2017.

The French authorities have introduced the scheme to combat air pollution after several recent bouts of smog. Vehicles will qualify for one of six different coloured stickers that are based on their emissions, ranging from zero-emissions electric vehicles to diesel-engined vans and trucks.

However, the stickers aren’t being given out for all vehicles, meaning cars first registered before 1997 aren’t allowed in the city at all during the schemes operating hours of 8am to 8pm from Monday to Friday. Scooters and motorcycles built before 2000 are also banned, along with trucks and busses built before 2001.

Unlike London, Paris does not have a fee-paying congestion zone: instead it was operating a scheme that banned some cars at peak times, identifying them by their numberplate.

Anyone who wants to take their vehicle anywhere in the city inside the Périphérique ring road (similar to our M25) must order a windscreen sticker for it via the Crit-Air website. The cost is €3.70 (£3.20) plus postage.

Paris is not the first to introduce a restricted vehicle zone, with 200 European towns and cities already having similar zones, including 53 in Germany.

London introduced the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in 2008, requiring the most-polluting diesel vehicles to pay a daily fee of for entering Greater London.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Best used ULEZ-compliant SUVs for less than £20,000

It should be fairly easy for drivers of petrol cars to avoid the charge, since all mainstream models produced from 2005 onwards are Euro 4-compliant, but when it comes to diesels, only those that were registered from September 2015 meet the grade.

To help make things easier, we've named our top 10 used diesel SUVs which meet the ULEZ standard:

10. Nissan Qashqai

Used Nissan Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai is an old favourite in the small SUV market, because it’s just the right size for urban driving while still having plenty of interior space for five. There’s a plethora of equipment fitted as standard, but N-Connecta cars add extra safety technology including rear cross-traffic alert, a driver fatigue monitor and blindspot monitoring.

It won’t rock your world when it comes to the driving experience, but that’s not the point of the Qashqai; instead, it's safe, predictable and very comfortable. Its 1.5-litre diesel engine isn’t overly intrusive at a canter and manages exceptional fuel economy in everyday driving.

We found: 2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi N-Connecta, 2796 miles, £16,560

Read the used Nissan Qashqai review here

9. Hyundai Tucson

Used Hyundai Tucson (2015-present)

You get a lot for your money with the Hyundai Tucson. It isn’t as if the car you’ll be getting is wanting for equipment, either, with SE Nav models receiving sat-nav, a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control, climate control and heated front seats.

You might be a little underwhelmed by an interior that favours grey plastic, but it's well made and should stand up to the challenges of family life. Space inside is good, although the rear seats don’t fold or slide like they do in some rivals. The driving experience isn’t particularly engaging, either. However, it's comfortable enough and its light steering takes the stress out of parking.

We found: 2018 Hyundai Tucson 1.7 CRDi Blue Drive SE Nav 2WD, 3862 miles, £17,280

Read the used Hyundai Tucson review here

8. Kia Sportage

Used Kia Sportage 16-present

Just like the Qashqai, the Kia Sportage isn’t for those who value driving. Instead, all of its controls are light and easy to manage in a perfectly pleasant sort of way. The ride is firmer than some rivals', but as long as you stick with mid-range models on 17in wheels, it won't be uncomfortable.

Even if you go for only a mid-spec 2 car, you’ll still get sat-nav, rear parking sensors, heated front seats, power-folding door mirrors, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, rear privacy glass and some additional safety tech.

Kia's 1.7-litre diesel engine suits the Sportage, because its extra low-down torque makes for a more relaxed driving experience. A combined fuel economy figure of 61.4mpg (NEDC) should make it cheap to run, too. Also, if you buy a Sportage that’s less than two years old from Kia’s approved used programme, the warranty will be topped back up to seven years.

We found: 2018 Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi ISG 2, 3103 miles, £18,000

Read the used Kia Sportage review here

Next: the top 10 continued >

Page 1 of 4

Buy a new car with What Car?

Before you buy, visit What Car?’s new car deals section.

We have discounted deals on most new cars on sale, so you're never far away from finding a new car deal in your area.

It's all based on Target Price, which is the price we think you should pay based on research by our team of mystery shoppers, and the best discounts they can achieve.

If you’re still not sure then our deals team can help; call them on 03302 216207 – lines are open from 8am until 10pm seven days a week.