This is the day the city’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) grows 18 times larger – meaning significant daily charges for anyone using ULEZ roads in a car that doesn’t meet strict emissions standards.
These charges could easily add up to thousands of pounds every year – and it’s estimated that over 350,000 motorists will be affected.
We’ve put together a guide that explains exactly what’s changing; which cars will be affected, and what you can do to avoid the hefty new costs.
What is the ULEZ?
The Ultra Low Emission Zone is an environmental health initiative first proposed by Boris Johnson as London Mayor back in 2014.
At the time, the anticipated roll-out was planned for September 2020 – but it was brought forward by Sadiq Kahn, who argued that increased urgency should be given to lifting over 100,000 city residents out of dangerous levels of transport-related pollution.
The idea was fairly simple; if vehicles using central London roads didn’t meet certain EU emissions standards, they would be forced to pay a daily £12.50 charge (or £100 per day for lorries, coaches, and buses).
The required standards depended on the type of vehicle you were using:
- Motorbikes would have to meet Euro 3 standards (most pre-2007 bikes don’t)
- Petrol cars and vans should need to meet Euro 4 standards (most pre-2005 petrol cars don’t)
- Diesel cars and vans would need to meet Euro 6 standards (most pre-2016 diesel cars don’t)
- Buses, coaches, and lorries would have to meet Euro 6 standards
The rules apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year – except Christmas Day.
Although the primary driving factor was the on-going health benefit for people living and working in London, it was also anticipated that the ULEZ would reduce congestion in the city too.
Did the ULEZ work?
According to Transport for London (TfL) reports, the ULEZ has been an overwhelming success.
In October 2019 – just 6 months after the scheme was introduced, nitrogen dioxide levels in the centre of the city were down around 36% - and the TfL revealed that there were 13,500 fewer polluting cars in central London each day.
In reaction to the results, Current London Mayor Sadiq Khan, said: “These figures prove without a doubt that ULEZ is exceeding expectations, reducing polluting vehicles and cleaning up our lethal air. I am determined to stop Londoners breathing air so filthy it is damaging our children’s lungs and causing thousands of premature deaths.”
Why is the ULEZ growing?
With such positive environmental results, it’s clear to see why there would be such support for an expansion of the scheme.
On 25 October, the ULEZ will grow from its current central London area to cover most of the capital. As a result, the ULEZ will be 18 times larger and will apply to all the streets within the North and South Circular roads.
While health and environmental groups are largely pleased to see the ULEZ grow, leading voices in the automotive world have highlighted some stark concerns – not least how socially divisive the scheme could be. Edmund King, president of the AA, has recently warned that poorer households and families are likely to be the hardest hit by these changes:
“A family of five living within the North or South Circular may have bought a diesel people-carrier in 2014 in good faith. They are likely to lose a vehicle essential for shopping and family trips, even though they do the lowest mileage of drivers in the UK.”
How can you check if your car is compliant?
Whether you’re pleased about the growing ULEZ or worried that it’s going to have a significant impact on your life; it’s absolutely essential that you check to see how your vehicle is affected.
Although pre-2005 petrol cars and pre-2015 diesel cars are almost all subject to ULEZ charges – there are a few exceptions, so we’ve put together a helpful tool that makes it quick and easy to check whether your car conforms.
If your vehicle is one of those subject to the £12.50 daily cost and you live in or drive through the new expanded ULEZ area, don’t panic – we’ve put together some information that will help you decide on a suitable next step.
What are your options if your car doesn’t meet the new demands?
It’s likely to be extremely impractical to keep a non-conforming car if you live within the new ULEZ. Even driving your vehicle a mile each day would result in charges of over £4,500 across a year.
So, what are your options?
Sell your car
Although demand for older, non-conforming vehicles will be understandably low in London, there’s nothing stopping you selling your vehicle – although you may have to advertise a little further afield than you normally would.
Be aware that dealers may see an opportunity to pay less if you’re desperate to get rid of your old car. Use our online valuation tool to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
Scrap your car
Scrapping your car might sound like an extreme option – but it can actually be a lucrative way to turn your old car into funds that will help towards a new vehicle. As an added bonus – there’s no haggling or hassle involved!
If you use our online scrap comparison service, your car will be offered to our UK-wide network of scrap partners. Since many of these are specialists who are looking for particular makes and models, you may find you’re offered more than you expect.
Checking the price of your next vehicle
If you decide to replace your vehicle with a conforming car – it’s a good idea to check out our valuation tool again to make sure you’re paying a fair price for your next set of wheels.
Fortunately, there are ULEZ compliant petrol vehicles out there on the second-hand market for £1,000 or less – and many sellers are indicating whether or not their vehicle is ULEZ compliant. Again though, you should always double-check any car you’re considering to make sure it conforms. Also, it’s important to check that your insurance costs won’t increase drastically; you don’t want to save on ULEZ charges only to find you’re paying a lot more for cover.
Support for people on low incomes
TfL has introduced some support to help those on low incomes replace their vehicles.
If you receive universal credit, child tax credit, pension credit, or working tax credit – you may be able to apply for a grant of £2,000 to help replace your car with on that meets the required standards. To qualify, you must live in one of the 32 affected London boroughs.
TfL also has schemes in place to support charities, sole traders, and micro-businesses to replace vans and minibuses.
How are classics and enthusiast-owned retro cars impacted?
Depending on how you define the term – owners of ‘classic’ vehicles are not going to be affected by the changes. If your car qualifies for historic tax (i.e. if it was manufactured more than 40 years ago), it will be exempt from ULEZ charges.
However, this leaves the owners of more modern classics in a tricky situation. If you have a post-1981 classic, vintage, or specialist vehicle – you’re going to be stuck with the prospect of paying £12.50 every time you take it for a spin on London roads. Got an Escort Cosworth, Peugeot 205 GTi, or a ‘90s Mini? Sadly, your running costs just increased – along with the running costs for owners of thousands of other retro motors.
How will the ULEZ be enforced?
If you’re wondering if it’s possible to avoid paying the charges – you’re going to need to think again.
Work has already begun on an enormous enforcement camera infrastructure that will span the entirety of the new ULEZ. As of October 2020, 650 cameras are in situ – and there are another 750 on their way.
If you fail to pay the £12.50 daily charge, the current fine stands at £160 – or £80 if it’s paid within 14 days. There’s no room for manoeuvre either; when the initial ULEZ was launched, one Ford Focus driver managed to rack up nearly £13,000 worth of fines for failing to pay over 81 days.
ULEZs around the UK
Although there have been some delays and suspensions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other areas in the UK planning ULEZ style ‘Clean Air Zones’ (CAZs) – including Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton.
Birmingham’s CAZ is due to come into force in June 2021 – with £8 charges for non-compliant vehicles using city-centre roads.
Around the UK, the debate about the severity of the ULEZ style impact on drivers goes on – but it’s fair to assume that sooner or later, we’ll be seeing fewer and fewer older vehicles in our town and city centres.