ULEZ Ultra Low Emissions Zone Explained for 2023

What is the ULEZ?

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone – more commonly referred to as the ULEZ – is the area of London where high-polluting cars, vans and motorcycles must pay a daily charge to enter. The ULEZ was introduced in 2019, and began by covering the same area as the Congestion Charge, which is separate to the ULEZ.

From 25 October 2021, the ULEZ's borders expanded significantly up to the A406 North Circular and A205 South Circular roads to include boroughs miles from central London including Enfield, Bexley, Croydon and Hillingdon.

A further, larger expansion will happen on 29 August 2023, taking the boundaries of the ULEZ to cover all London boroughs, and right out to - but not including - the M25 in some places. This matches the existing Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) boundary.

Anyone who owns a diesel car that isn't Euro 6 compliant, petrol car that isn't Euro 4 compliant or a bike that isn't Euro 3 compliant will be subject to a daily charge of £12.50. Older cars (40 years old or older) are classified as historic, giving them an exemption.

Whether your car meets the ULEZ emissions restriction is based on the declared emissions of the vehicle, rather than its age. As a rule, petrol cars that meet the standards are generally those first registered with the DVLA after 2005, although compliant cars have been available since 2001, and diesel cars that are clean enough are generally those first registered with the DVLA after September 2015.

How can I check if my car is ULEZ compliant?

Find out if your car meets the ULEZ standards with our free ULEZ checker. Simply enter your vehicle registration details.

Is your vehicle subject to the ULEZ?

Please note: Vehicle data sourced from Transport for London (TfL). ULEZ standards are based on the declared emissions of the vehicle and not the age.

How much does the ULEZ cost to enter?

If your car doesn't comply with the ULEZ emissions standards, you'll be subject to a £12.50 daily charge.

The ULEZ operates all day, every day, with Christmas day being the only exception. The ULEZ is seperate from the £15 Congestion Charge, which means a daily charge of £27.50 if you're driving a car that's subject to both the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ.

The daily ULEZ charging period starts from 00:01 and operates until midnight that day, so if you're caught driving at 00:01 the following day, you'll be charged for two days.

How do I pay the ULEZ charge?

You can pay the £12.50 ULEZ fee at the TfL website, by phoning 0343 222 2222, or by using the TfL Pay to drive in London app. The app is available for Apple and Android, and is free. You can also pay the Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) charges, plus any fines using the app.

You can also use the app to set up Auto Pay online or in the app. It is free to set up and means TfL will automatically record the number of charging days a vehicle travels within the charging zone each month and bill you accordingly. You can register up to five vehicles.

A word of warning - be wary of scam and unofficial sites that look bona fide but charge you a premium - often up to £8 extra - on top of the cost. They usually don't pay the charge, leaving you with a penalty charge notice. These sites often appear at the top of Google searches so be sure to only go to the official TfL site.

Which cars are exempt from ULEZ payment?

The ULEZ is really aimed at discouraging diesels, and their higher particulate matter emissions, from driving in the capital, so only diesels that are Euro 6 compliant will be exempt. That tends to be diesels registered after September 2015, although you need to check with TfL as to whether a specific car is actually exempt.

It's more relaxed for petrols, which have to be Euro 4 or better, which is generally most cars registered after 2005 and some as early as 2001.

All hybrids, PHEVs and electric cars are exempt. As for LPG conversions, it depends on the individual model and engine, so it's important to check with TfL first. The emissions are taken from the V5C data held by the DVLA.


Emissions standard

Age of vehicle

Diesel Euro 6 Registered after September 2015
Petrol Euro 4 Registered after 2005

Where does the ULEZ cover?

From April 2019, the ULEZ covered the same area as the Congestion Charge Zone. It expanded in October 2021 up to the boundary of the North and South Circular. On 29 August 2023, the ULEZ expands again, right out to the M25 in some places, covering the same area as the current Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) - as this map from TfL shows:

Ulez -expansion -2023

What happens to the ULEZ in 2023?

Following its creation in 2019, and an initial expansion in 2021, the ULEZ will expand again on 29 August 2023. This increased area will see the zone grow across all London boroughs, right out to the M25 in some places.

The expanded ULEZ is part of a huge effort to help improve the air quality in and around London, and reduce the impact on the health of residents and visitors to the city.

TfL states that 9 in 10 cars driving in outer London already meet the ULEZ emissions standards. However, those that don't will be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50, even in you're a resident of London.

The money made from the ULEZ scheme will be reinvested in expanding and improving London's public transport system.

Entry signs at every boundary point will tell you when you're in the zone and advance information signs will appear on major roads around 0.5 miles from the boundary. Like the Congestion Charge zone, there will be no barriers or toll booths, instead cameras will read vehicle number plates. If your car qualifies for the daily charged, is parked in the zone, but you don't drive it, you don't need to pay.

Do I have to pay for ULEZ and the Congestion Charge?

If your vehicle isn't ULEZ compliant and you're driving in central London then you will have to pay both charges. That means £12.50 (cars, motorcycles and vans up to and including 3.5 tonnes) for the ULEZ and £15 for the Congestion Charge - £27.50 a time in total.

The Congestion Charge is in force in central London from 7am to 6pm Monday-Friday and 12pm to 6pm Sat-Sun and bank holidays. It applies everyday except 25 December (Christmas Day) and 1 January (New Year's Day bank holiday) inclusive.

The ULEZ is in force from 00:01 to midnight every day of the year except Christmas day. If you're liable to pay for the ULEZ, but don't enter the Congestion Charge zone, you only have to pay £12.50.

Are there any discounts?

There are a number of vehicles and drivers that qualify for an exemption from paying the ULEZ charge, at least temporarily.

If you're disabled, Blue Badge holders do need to pay the ULEZ charge if their vehicle doesn't meet the ULEZ emission standards.

However, there are three temporary exemptions - if your car is registered with the DVLA as a disabled passenger vehicle, if it's a wheelchair accessible vehicle, or if you're receiving certain disability benefits, you're exempt from paying until 24 October 2027. Wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles are included in this grace period, too.

NHS patients deemed too ill to travel by public transport can claim back ULEZ and Congestion Charge fees - ask your hospital if this applies to you.

London-licensed taxis are exempt from ULEZ charges. However, licenses can't be granted for taxis older than 12 years.

Not-for-profit organisations that operate minibuses used for community transport can register for a temporary 100 per cent discount of the ULEZ charge until 26 October 2025.

Historic vehicles are exempt if they were built more than 40 years ago, provided they're not being used for commercial purposes.

If you're driving your specialist agricultural vehicle, a military vehicle, a non-road going vehicle allowed to drive on the road like an excavator, or certain types of mobile cranes, or if you're a travelling showman, you're also exempt from paying the ULEZ.

What is the Cleaner Vehicle discount?

Formerly called the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED), battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are eligible for the cleaner vehicle discount, which gives drivers a 100 per cent discount on the £15 congestion charge.

From 25 December 2025, this will be discontinued, and drivers of these vehicles will have to pay to enter the Congestion Charging zone during its operating hours, unless they qualify for another type of discount.

Drivers of qualifying cars can apply for the discount online, where you'll have to provide a copy of the V5C vehicle registration certificate (logbook) issued by the DVLA that clearly shows that the vehicle is registered as fuel type 'Battery Electric' or 'Hydrogen Fuel Cell'.

It costs £10 per vehicle per year to register for the discount.

What about disabled badge holders?

If their vehicle is not exempt, Blue Badge holders have to pay the ULEZ charge unless the vehicle has a disabled or disabled passenger tax class.

There are three temporary exemptions - if your car is registered with the DVLA as a disabled passenger vehicle, if it's a wheelchair accessible vehicle, or if you're receiving certain disability benefits, you're exempt from paying until 24 October 2027. Wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles are included in this grace period, too.

What about taxis and private hire?

Taxis are exempt from the ULEZ, as long as they are London licensed. Emissions standards have already been introduced for London cabs, including that all new taxis must be zero emissions. 

Private hire vehicles, like other cars, will have to meet the emissions standards to enter the ULEZ without paying. However, certain wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be given a sunset period until 24 October 2027, where they will be exempt from the charge. These vehicles will only be exempt when carrying out a private hire booking for a TfL-licensed operator.

Do I have to pay if I live in London?

The 100 per cent discount for residents living within the ULEZ expired in October 2021, meaning you have to pay, unless you change your car to one that complies with the ULEZ rules. 

This shouldn't be confused with the 90 per cent residents' discount on the Congestion Charge that those who live within the Congestion Charge residents' discount zone receive.

What's the fine for not paying the ULEZ?

If the vehicle does not meet the ULEZ standard, and the daily charge is not paid, then a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) will be issued to the registered keeper or operator.

For motorcycles, cars, vans and minibuses this will be £180, reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.

Are classic cars exempt from the ULEZ?

If your car was built more than 40 years ago, you can apply with the DVLA to stop paying vehicle tax. If you do this, any vehicle with this historic vehicle tax class is exempt from the ULEZ, provided your car isn't being used for commercial purposes.

The 40-year date is a rolling system, so for example if you are looking to apply for a ULEZ exemption in June 2023, your car needs to have been built before June 1983.

If your car was built before 1 January 1973, it is already exempt from the ULEZ, regardless of commercial use, to bring the regulations in line with the existing Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) discount.

If your vehicle meets all the criteria but is registered outside the UK, it still qualifies for an exemption, provided you register it with TfL before you travel.

What is the LEZ?

The Low Emissions Zone is much larger than the ULEZ and operates every day of the year. From August 2023, the ULEZ will be expanded to match the current LEZ boundary. The LEZ only applies to commercial vehicles such as HGVs, buses, coaches, horseboxes, plus large vans and minibuses. Cars, most vans and motorcycles are exempt.

What cars are free to drive in Central London?

Central London is covered by both the ULEZ and the Congestion Charging zone. In order to skip paying both, your car needs to be a battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle registered for the cleaner vehicle discount.

This gives drivers a 100 per cent discount on the £15 congestion charge, and avoids the £12.50 ULEZ daily charge. However, from 25 December 2025, the cleaner vehicle discount will be discontinued.

Ask HJ

Are there exemptions for classic cars from the ULEZ in London?

What exemptions are available to enthusiasts using 25+-year-old cars as daily drivers as ULEZ expands in London and with other cities contemplating introducing similar restrictions? Would an engine upgrade giving Euro 5 compliance on emissions work?
At present, proposed exemptions fall in line with the MoT and free road tax cut-off date of 40 years or more. Any car with a pre-Euro 4 powertrain (approximately 2003 for petrol cars and 2008 for diesel) will be faced with the ULEZ charge. There are currently no plans to change this. The charge is based on the vehicle's specific launch data, so an engine change will sadly make no difference.
Answered by Keith Moody
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Ask HJ

How can a Euro5 diesel van be ULEZ compliant?

I'm considering buying a 2016 Renault Trafic S127 Energy dCi panel van (66 Plate) and have checked online with Transport for London's ULEZ Checker and it seems to be compliant. The problem is that I understand the van has a Euro5 engine (not Euro6) which has worried me in case I discover long-term that it's not compliant at all. Can you shed light on why this particular model is 'ULEZ friendly" even though it has a Euro5 engine?
The ULEZ rules are based on the declared emissions of the vehicle, rather than the age. However, with the ULEZ due to be expanded to the north and south circular in 2021 and drivers being charged £12.50 (on top of the Congestion Charge), you’re right to be concerned. Given you’re in the market for a 2016 van, I’d strongly recommend choosing a Euro6 model (that was registered after September 2016). It won’t cost you a great deal more to purchase but will provide peace of mind and protect you from any future changes in TfL’s emission rules. For more information on the ULEZ (and to check if a van has to pay or not) see: https://vans.honestjohn.co.uk/ulez-van-checker-will-you-have-to-pay-the-low-emissions-charge/
Answered by Dan Powell
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