ULEZ-Exempt Cars & Vans Explained

ULEZ-Exempt Cars & Vans Explained

From the 29th August, the ULEZ zone now extends to all London Boroughs and the City of London. But what does this mean for motorists living in London or wishing to travel into the city by car? 

In this blog, we explain what the ULEZ is, why it's in place and how you need to navigate the fees when driving your car in or around the city. We also let you in on the top ULEZ-compliant cars and vans so you can check whether that new buy is worth it or not. 

What is ULEZ? 

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone is an area in London (and other UK cities) with restrictions on what type of vehicle can drive within it, in order to reduce emissions. If a car is not compliant, it can still drive inside the zone but will incur a charge.  

What Cars Have to Pay the ULEZ Charge?  

Because the ULEZ is intended to reduce emissions within the city of London, the criteria is based on how polluting a vehicle is, not by its age, this is determined by its Euro rating.  

The Euro rating required to be compliant is listed below: 

Cars, Vans and Minibuses 

  • Petrol: Euro 4 
  • Diesel: Euro 6 

Motorbikes and Mopeds 

  • All fuels: Euro 3 

What are the Euro 5 and Euro 6 Standards? 

From 1992 the EU has mandated the level of emissions new cars can emit, based on both Co2 (Carbon Dioxide) and Nox (Nitrous Oxides) emissions. 

The levels have evolved over the years, meaning manufacturers were required to improve and update their cars as time went on. Below are the years the new standards were implemented: 

  • Euro 1: 1992 
  • Euro 2: 1997 
  • Euro 3: 2001 
  • Euro 4: 2006 
  • Euro 5: 2011 
  • Euro 6: 2015 

From this, and the ULEZ requirements above we can see that broadly any petrol car made in 2006 and any Diesel car made in 2015 or later is compliant.   

If your car is older than 2006/2015, it might still meet the ULEZ standard, as some cars met the emissions regulations earlier than mandated. 

How much is the ULEZ Charge? 

If your car is not ULEZ compliant, the daily charge is £12.50. This applies to every day of the year except Christmas Day (25th December). 

The charging period runs from midnight to midnight, meaning if you drive into the zone at 11:30 PM, and leave at half past midnight, you will have to pay a total of £25.00.  

What happens if you don't pay the ULEZ Charge? 

ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras operate in places all around the area that constantly scan for cars that do not meet the ULEZ standard. If a car is spotted, and the fee is not paid within three days, you will be issued with a £180 fine.  

The fine is reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.  

Why are Petrol Cars ULEZ Compliant? 

From the above data it would seem that the ULEZ rules are quite a bit more lenient on Petrol cars than Diesel, so why is this?  

Euro ratings are more heavily affected by the Nox emissions, so whilst modern Diesel Particulate Filters trap much of the exhaust emissions, those made before 2015 do not usually trap enough Nox. Petrol cars have catalytic converters that trap Nox and convert it to less harmful compounds, but catalytic converters cannot be fitted to a diesel engine.  

Is it Worth Buying a ULEZ-Compliant Car? 

So we’ve established that in order to drive into the ultra-low emissions zone, without paying the fee, your car needs to meet the standards above, but what if you don’t live inside the zone?  

Thanks to the ULEZ regulations, secondhand cars that are compliant are often around 25-30% more expensive than those that aren't, meaning it could cost you considerably more to sell your car for an upgrade.  

We’d advise you to figure out how often you need to enter the zone and calculate whether paying the fee is more cost-effective. If you only enter once per month, for example, it will only cost £150 per year to keep your old car. 

What Car Should I Buy to Meet the ULEZ Standard?

If you do need to change your car for a ULEZ-compliant one, there are some great examples on the second-hand market that won't break the bank.  

All of the below cars were found by our team on Autotrader, so are accurate representations of what’s for sale, at the time of writing. 

Petrol ULEZ-Compliant Cars 

Thanks to Petrol engined cars being relatively low emitters of Nox, there are many more options when it comes to ULEZ compliant petrol, and every car since 2006 will be compliant, some great examples include: 

ULEZ Cars under £3,000: 

  • 2011 Ford Fiesta 1.4 - These very popular superminis car can be bought for around £2,500 and are a perfect runaround or commuter car 
  • 2007 BMW 120i - For a more premium small car, the 1 series from circa 2007 in good condition only cost around £2,800  

ULEZ Cars under £8,000: 

  • 2013 Volvo V40 T3 -  A stylish Swedish hatchback with the great T3 turbocharged petrol engine can be bought for around £7,500. Many even come with adaptive cruise control, panoramic sunroof and more 
  • 2014 Mazda 6 - A large executive saloon - or estate - in high trim; SE-L with the great 2.0 Skyactiv Mazda engine can be bought for just under £7,000 

ULEZ Luxury and Automatic Cars: 

  • 2005 Lexus GS300 - Supremely luxurious and comfortable the 2005 GS300 has an excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox and reliable Toyota engine, all for less than £4,000 and ULEZ-compliant 
  • BMW 320i - the German executive saloon of choice for many, the 320i comes available with the 6-speed automatic gearbox, making for an extremely pleasant but well-handling drive, a snip at £6,000 for a good one. 

ULEZ Sports Cars: 

  • 2009 BMW Z4 - A 2.0 litre BMW sports car with a powered convertible roof and 0-60 in less than 7 seconds, all for £6,500 and ULEZ compliant 
  • 2010 Mazda Mx-5 - For a more affordable option the 1.8 Mx-5 Mk3 is a great choice, available on the secondhand market for around £4,500 

Diesel ULEZ Compliant Cars and Vans 

The list of Diesel cars that meet the ULEZ standards is a good deal shorter than that of petrols, mainly because the ULEZ rules require diesels to be Euro 6 rated which came into effect in 2015. 

To help, we’ve listed some diesel cars that are ULEZ compliant, sorted into different categories below. 

Cheapest ULEZ Compliant Diesel Cars 

  • 2015 Peugeot 208 - With under 100,000 miles on the clock and a modern-ish 1.4 Diesel engine the Peugeot 208 could make a bargain commuter for £3,000 
  • 2015 Dacia Sandero - Fitted with the 1.5 Dci Renault engine, the 2015 model is euro 6 rated, and therefore compliant with ULEZ, yours for £3,500 
  • 2015 Citroen C4 - As the 1.6 HDi Diesel engine used an AdBlue system to reduce emissions the C4 from 2015 onwards is ULEZ compliant, and can be bought for around £3,500 

ULEZ Compliant Diesel SUVs 

  • 2015 Peugeot 2008 - The 1.6-litre diesel engine provides just enough power for this midsize SUV, at £3,700 its cheap for an SUV full stop, never mind a fuel-efficient and ULEZ-compliant one 
  • 2016 Renault Captur - Another French car on the list, but one that has styling way beyond its price point. Using the plucky 1.5 DCi engine, the Captur can be had for around £5,000 on the used market 
  • Honda CR-V - a higher-end SUV, the CR-V is considerably bigger than the rest in this category, but the 2.2 Diesel engine provides more than enough grunt. If a 4WD system and extra large boot are top on your list then one can be yours for around £8,000

Cheapest ULEZ Compliant Vans 

  • 2017 Fiat Fiorino - Fitted with an economical 1.3-litre engine, the Fiorino is a small car-based van. Perfect for tradesmen needing to drive into central London with a modest amount of tools. £6,000 will bag one with less than 90,000 miles on the clock 
  • 2017 Transit Connect - The 1.5 TDCi is the same engine used in the similar age Focus, meaning it is ULEZ compliant. A van that’s covered around 110,000 miles can be bought for around £6,500. 
  • 2017 Ford Transit - As a full-size van, this is the one to opt for if you need to carry large items or lots of tools, ubiquitous in the van world, the transit still stands as the most popular van in Britain. An example with 130,000 miles on the clock will fetch around £7,000 

In Conclusion 

We’ve listed a number of great ULEZ-compliant deals you can pick up on the used market and explained exactly why your car may or may not meet the criteria.  

If you need a new used car be sure to check for more information on car types, servicing and other used car guides on our blog here. 

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