London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion has arrived, with the zone doubling in size to include outer London.
The expansion has added millions of homes to the ULEZ, as well as Heathrow Airport. Anyone with a vehicle that doesn’t meet emission standards will have to pay a daily charge to drive in the zone.
The expansion is intended to tackle London’s problems with air quality. However, many are unhappy with the expansion, or just confused about how it will apply to them.
Read on for our complete guide to London’s ULEZ expansion, including what to do if your vehicle is not ULEZ compliant.
What is the ULEZ?
The ULEZ refers to an area that now covers most of London. Drivers operating a vehicle in the zone that does not meet emissions standards must pay a fee of £12.50 each day. The ULEZ is in effect 24/7 every day except Christmas Day.
You need to pay the ULEZ charge whether you’re travelling into London from somewhere else or you’re a resident. However, you don’t need to pay for days your car is parked within the zone, just for days you drive.
The quickest way to check if your vehicle meets emissions standards is with this free tool. Just input your license plate number to see if you need to pay. Prior to the expansion, about 6% of vehicles entering the ULEZ had to pay a fee.
The ULEZ charge applies to cars, motorbikes, vans and speciality vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and minibuses up to 5 tonnes.
Lorries, vans and other specialist vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and buses, coaches and minibuses over 5 tonnes do not need to pay the ULEZ charge. Instead, they must comply with the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards or pay a charge. Read more about larger vehicles and the LEZ here.
What areas are part of the ULEZ expansion?
The ULEZ has been expanded to cover all 32 London boroughs, inner and outer, including Heathrow Airport.
The M25, the circular motorway around London, is not included. That means you can avoid the charge by bypassing the city on the ring road if you are not travelling into London itself.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan expects that the ULEZ expansion will improve air quality for more than 5 million people.
Why are drivers unhappy with the ULEZ expansion?
Many are unhappy with the ULEZ expansion, with complaints coming from both drivers and local councils.
In fact, five Conservative-led local Councils tried to challenge the expansion in court before their case was dismissed.
Meanwhile, many drivers are concerned about handling the additional expense alongside the rising cost of living, and 44% of those with a car that doesn’t meet ULEZ standards are worried it is now worth less.
Complaints were also raised about the Scrappage Scheme. Initially, the government offered £2,000 to those in receipt of certain benefits to help them upgrade their vehicle. However, the scheme has since been expanded to cover everyone living in London. This is hoped to help alleviate any extra expense incurred by the ULEZ expansion.
However, this is still an imperfect solution. Those living just outside London who travel into the city regularly, for example to work, will receive no support under the Scrappage Scheme.
What can I do if my vehicle isn’t ULEZ compliant?
It’s believed around 10% of vehicles being driven in the area covered by the ULEZ expansion are not compliant.
If you live within a London borough and your car is not ULEZ compliant you can apply for £2,000 towards the cost of a new vehicle through the Scrappage Scheme.
The vehicle needs to be registered to a London address and have valid tax, registration and MOT. You also need to have owned it since at least January 2022.
Once you’ve been accepted into the scheme you will need to take your vehicle to a scrapyard to be destroyed. You can then claim £2,000 for a car or £1,000 for a motorbike, which you’ll receive by cheque.
Alternatively, drivers can claim one or two annual bus passes as part of the payment. Eligible businesses and charities can apply to scrap more than one vehicle, and there are larger allowances available for scrapping and replacing wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
For those who would pay more than £2,000 to replace their vehicle, the options are more limited. Drivers can, of course, sell their cars privately, although they are unlikely to find a buyer in London.
If you are currently driving a non-ULEZ-compliant car and haven’t done so already, now is the time to run the numbers. Will you be better off trading in your current vehicle for £2,000, using it in part exchange at a car dealership, selling it privately outside of the city, keeping it for occasional use and paying the charge or leaving car ownership behind and switching to a rental vehicle, car club or even an e-bike.
Every situation is different, and the option that makes the most sense for you will depend on your current vehicle and how you use it.
Will you be affected by the ULEZ expansion? Have you already used the Scrappage Scheme, or do you have another plan for making your vehicle compliant? Let us know on our social media at the links below!
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