The ULEZ is a daily charge for vehicles that do not meet certain emissions standards within the Greater London area. It was introduced in April 2019 and expanded to cover a larger area in August 2023.
The charge applies to most vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses, and trucks. Vehicles that meet the ULEZ emissions standards are exempt from the charge.
The daily charge is £12.50 for most vehicles. However, there are discounts for residents of the ULEZ, disabled drivers, and vehicles that are used for essential purposes, such as delivering goods or taking children to school.
The ULEZ charge is designed to reduce air pollution in London. TfL estimates that the charge will remove up to 100,000 older, more polluting vehicles from the roads each year.
The ULEZ charge has been welcomed by environmental groups, who say it is a necessary step to improve air quality in London. However, some businesses and motorists have complained about the charge, saying it is unfair and will disproportionately affect low-income households.
ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone. The aim of the zone in London is to reduce air pollution by discouraging the use of higher-polluting vehicles. The London ULEZ came into effect in April 2019 and since then, all vehicles that do not meet certain emissions criteria are subject to a daily charge.
The ULEZ charge applies to cars, motorcycles, vans and specialist vehicles up to and including 3.5 tonnes. It also applies to minibuses up to and including five tonnes.
Lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles over 2.5 tonnes are subject to the Lower Emissions Zone (LEZ) charge rather than the ULEZ charge. The LEZ charge also applies to minibuses and coaches over five tonnes.
The ULEZ operates 24 hours every day except Christmas Day. It is operated by Transport for London (TfL).
The ULEZ charge initially applied to areas within the North and South Circular Roads. However, the zone has since been expanded across all London boroughs and now stretches out towards the M25, including Heathrow Airport.
Other key areas included within the zone include Edgeware to the northwest, Enfield to the north, Romford, Rainham and Erith to the east, Bexley and Orpington to the southeast and Croydon, Coulsdon and Sutton to the south. Dartford in Kent lies just outside the boundary, as does Chigwell in Essex, Watford in Hertfordshire, and Staines, Weybridge and Caterham in Surrey.
The new extended zone comes into effect on 29 August 2023.
The current daily ULEZ charge is £12.50. This applies to all vehicles driven within the zone that do not meet the emissions criteria, including residents’ vehicles. However, you do not need to pay the charge if your vehicle is parked and not driven. The daily charge runs from midnight to midnight.
Although there are no barriers or toll booths for entering and leaving the zone, there are advance road warning signs indicating how far you are from the boundary. Also, the main signposts indicate which routes at the next junction lead into the ULEZ zone, to help you avoid it where possible. The ULEZ scheme operates on cameras that read vehicle number plates. These are then checked against the TfL database to see if the vehicle meets the ULEZ emissions standards. There are signs to remind you that cameras are in operation when you are within the zone.
You can learn more about how TfL uses personal information online here.
All the funds that are raised from the ULEZ charge are invested in improving the city’s transport network, including the introduction of new bus routes in outer London.
If your vehicle is not registered in the UK and does not meet the ULEZ emissions standards, then you need to pay the charge. If your vehicle complies with the emissions criteria, then you still need to register with EPC plc.
If you do not pay the ULEZ charge you will receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) of £180.00. This is reduced by 50% if the penalty is paid within 14 days. PCNs will be issued to vehicles registered outside of the UK as well as those registered within the UK. If you have failed to pay the ULEZ charge for more than one day, you may receive multiple PCNs.
You may also receive a PCN if you paid for an incorrect vehicle number plate, or for an incorrect day, or if you paid by post less than 10 days before your date of travel in the ULEZ.
To challenge a PCN, you must submit a representation within 28 days, either online or in writing. Only the person or organisation named on the PCN can make a representation – even if they were not the driver. You will have to indicate on what grounds you are making the representation and provide supporting evidence.
If you are making your challenge in writing, you can use the relevant section of the PCN and post it to:
Low Emission Zone
PO Box 553
Darlington DL1 9TZ
The easiest way to ensure you do not miss a ULEZ charge is to register for Auto Pay. This way, you will be billed automatically for both the ULEZ fee, if your vehicle does not comply, and also for the Congestion Charge (CC), if you enter the central London Congestion Charge zone. By registering for Auto Pay you avoid the risk of receiving a penalty charge from failing to pay. You can register up to five vehicles for Auto Pay.
If you wish to register more than five vehicles, either for personal or business use, you can set up Fleet Auto Pay.
If you are not registered for Auto Pay, you need to pay the ULEZ charge no later than midnight on the third day after your journey. You can pay online or pay by phone as follows:
Within UK: 0343 222 222 (TfL call charges apply)
International: +44 343 222 2222
Textphone: 020 7649 9123 (for impaired hearing)
Opening times: 08:00 to 20:00 Monday to Friday
Closed: weekends and bank holidays
You can manage your account, make payments and save your vehicle details on the ‘TfL Pay to Drive in London’ app, which is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
You can easily check if the ULEZ charge applies to your vehicle online here. Just enter the number plate and country of registration. You will have the opportunity to confirm that the number plate matches your vehicle type.
There are some exemptions in place for certain vehicles, as follows:
Vehicles for disabled people:
– grace period until 27 October 2027 for DVLA-registered ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicle’ tax class
– grace period until 25 October 2027 for DVLA-registered wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs)
– grace period until 25 October 2027 for those receiving certain disability benefits or meeting certain medical criteria
Wheelchair-accessible private hire vehicles
– grace period until 24 October 2027 for wheelchair-accessible private hire vehicles (PHVs)
Community transport minibuses
-grace period until 26 October 2025 for not-for-profit organisations (for example schools and charities) operating community transport minibuses
– London-licensed taxis are exempt from the ULEZ charge, but vehicle age limits apply
– vehicles with ‘historic vehicle tax class’ are exempt from ULEZ charges
Showman’s vehicle discount
– some showman’s vehicles are eligible for 100% discount from the ULEZ daily charge
NHS patient reimbursement
– available to those clinically assessed as unable to use public transport to attend a hospital appointment; the claim must be made through the treating hospital
Business and charity short-term grace period
– available for small businesses and charities that are awaiting delivery of a newly ordered minibus or van, or the retrofitting of an existing minibus or van
For more information including links on how to apply for exemptions check here. Note that conditions apply and some exemptions are for a limited time only.
As a guide, the vehicles that are affected by the ULEZ charge are petrol cars produced before 2006 and diesel cars produced before 2016. TfL says that nine out of ten cars seen driven in outer London already meet the ULEZ emissions criteria.
Motorcycles also need to meet the emissions criteria.
The ULEZ standards are as follows:
– motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles (L category): Euro 3
– petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles: Euro 4 (NOx)
– diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles: Euro 6 (NOx and PM)
Fully electric cars are exempt from the ULEZ charge. Hybrid cars must meet the same standards as above.
If you drive different cars, or are hiring a car, or car-sharing, or borrowing a car, make sure you check if that particular vehicle is subject to the ULEZ charge.
Residents of the 32 London boroughs or the City of London can apply for financial assistance to scrap any of their non-compliant vehicles. Small businesses, sole traders and charities with a registered address in London are also eligible to apply – up to three vans or minibuses.
The aim of this £110 million scrappage scheme is to help London residents, small businesses and charities retrofit or scrap their higher polluting vehicles and switch to cleaner modes of transport.
Find out more about the scrappage scheme here.
The ULEZ charge does not apply to vehicles when they are parked. So if you are driving to Heathrow in a non-compliant vehicle and parking in one of the airport parking car parks, you will pay the charge for the days that you arrive and depart but not while your car is parked.
If you are dropping passengers off at Heathrow and your vehicle does not comply with the emissions criteria, you will need to pay both the ULEZ daily charge and the
Heathrow drop-off charge.
The same applies for London City Airport.
If you are driving an older vehicle through any of the 32 London boroughs or within the M25, you may need to pay the ULEZ daily charge. The aim of the ULEZ scheme is to improve air quality and health benefits for all Londoners and operates on number-plate recognition. If you fail to pay the charge, you could receive a Penalty Charge Notice for £180.00, which you can reduce by half if you pay within 14 days. Payment can be made online, via the TfL Pay to Drive in London app, by phone or 14 days in advance by post.
Exemptions and grace periods apply to some vehicles and drivers. You can also apply for financial assistance from the Scrappage scheme to help you switch to a cleaner mode of transport.
Both Heathrow and London City airports lie within the ULEZ area, so if travelling to one of these in a vehicle that does not meet the emissions criteria, the ULEZ charge will need to be paid when entering and leaving the airport. The daily charge does not apply, however, for the days a vehicle is parked in one of the airport car parks.