Whether you’re a Londoner, or you’re planning on driving in London, you’ve probably heard of the ULEZ, i.e. Ultra Low Emission Zone. Basically, if your car doesn’t meet the minimum emission standards under ULEZ, you’ll need to pay a charge to drive in an ULEZ zone (unless it’s Christmas Day).
It can all get a bit confusing especially as things change fast and the ULEZ feels like it’s constantly expanding. It used to only cover Central London, but this is no longer the case. From August 2023, it’ll cover all London boroughs.
And whether you’re borrowing your mate’s car in London with temporary car insurance or driving your own set of wheels, you’ll need to make sure you pay that ULEZ charge to avoid fines.
We’ll break it all down in this article to make sure you stay compliant. But, if you’re in a rush, then feel free to use the handy table of contents below to get the answers you need now.
What is an ULEZ check?
A ULEZ check is used to make sure your car meets the minimum emission standards. If it does, then you’re good to go without worrying about paying extra charges. But if it doesn’t, then you might need to pay a daily £12.50 charge to drive in ULEZ zones.
Nobody likes to pay extra charges, of course. And the ever-expanding ULEZ makes it feel like you can’t catch a break.
But here’s the thing: poor air quality is linked to serious illnesses and even premature death in Londoners. And those living in the outer areas of London are particularly affected. That’s why the ULEZ is expanding.
So think of an ULEZ check as Batman protecting his fellow citizens from villains. Except, the villains killing innocent residents aren’t the Joker or Harley Quinn in this example. Instead, they’re excessive emissions that can lead to illness and premature death. Dark. Like the Dark Knight.
How do I know if I have to pay ULEZ?
The good news is that four out of five cars already meet the ULEZ emission standards. But, you should probably make sure before you set off on your journey so there are no nasty surprises.
Checking whether you need to pay the ULEZ charge is easy. All you need is your car registration number. Then, you can check your vehicle here by filling in your reg, choosing your country of registration, and selecting “find vehicle”.
You’ll be prompted to confirm your vehicle details are correct, and then you’ll be shown your results.
The website will tell you whether the car meets the ULEZ emission standards or whether you need to pay the charge. Plus, you’ll also find out whether you need to pay the congestion charge and you’ll be told how to pay both charges too. Easy-peasy!
What happens if I forget to pay the ULEZ charge?
Did you drive through an ULEZ area recently? If you forgot to settle your charge immediately after your journey, don’t worry. You’ve got a three day grace period. But if you fail to pay your charge by midnight on the third day after your journey, you’re toast.
If that sounds like an ominous fairytale-esque warning, it’s because it sort of is. Your car won’t turn into a pumpkin once the clock strikes midnight on the third day, but you will probably get a fixed-penalty notice. And it’s a pretty steep fine too. Expect to pay £180, lowered to £90 if you pay up within two weeks.
If you’re particularly forgetful and drive through London often, those fines and charges can rack up quick. Depending on how much stress your ULEZ charges have caused you, your reaction to forgetting might be anything from mild panic and scrambling for your wallet, to getting out in front of the TFL office in London and screaming “ULEZ sucks” while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Full disclosure: we don’t recommend or endorse this!
Also, there is an easier way.
You could just set up auto pay for free online. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting again, because your car will be registered, so everytime you drive through an ULEZ area, you’ll be charged automatically. Problem solved – no pumpkins, failed gunpowder plots, or fairytale curses to worry about.
How can I avoid paying ULEZ?
There are a few ways you can avoid paying ULEZ. The first step is to check whether your car meets the ULEZ standards. If it does, you’re sorted! No charges necessary and you can drive safe in the knowledge that your car meets some pretty stringent emission standards.
But if it doesn’t, things get a little bit more complicated. The ULEZ area will basically cover all of London, including the outer boroughs. This means that driving in London might become an expensive pastime.
So what do you do?
See if you qualify for an exemption
Did you know you might actually be exempt from paying ULEZ? Or, at the very least, you might be able to bag a temporary discount.
If you’re classed as disabled and have a car that’s registered with the DVLA under the “disabled passenger vehicle class”, you’ll probably be able to benefit from the grace period that exempts you from paying any ULEZ charges until October 2027.
Also, if you’re disabled and over the state pension age, your car doesn’t even have to have a special tax class for you to qualify for the exemption.
Same goes if you own a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV). If your WAV is fitted with certain adaptations and it’s registered in your name, you can apply for an exemption lasting until October 2027.
People claiming certain disability benefits and NHS patients deemed too ill to travel on public transport can also get exemptions in some circumstances.
You can check if you’re exempt here.
Scrap your car
If you’re a Londoner and you’ve been dreading the upcoming ULEZ expansion, fear not! There’s a way to avoid shelling out all that money, namely the new ULEZ scrappage scheme. You might qualify if you’re on low-income or have disabilities.
You could get up to £2,000 for scrapping your car or £1,000 for scrapping a motorcycle. Plus, if you’re driving a wheelchair accessible car, you might be able to snag £5,000 to retrofit your set of wheels to avoid ULEZ charges.
You can check if you’re eligible and apply for the scrappage scheme here.
Borrow your friend’s car
Let’s say you’re not ready to give up your turn-of-the-century diesel-guzzling monster car just yet. But you really need to make that trip to London and the trains simply won’t do. And your friend Alice drives a gorgeous electric Tesla that you’ve been dying to try anyway.
If Alice agrees to let you borrow it, you could skip the ULEZ charge altogether. And you could drive in style too. Win-win.
But wait, you know Alice would have an absolute fit if you scrape her precious Tesla. Plus, you’re not even 100% sure your comprehensive car insurance extends to her car. What do you do?
You get temporary car insurance, that’s what. Temporary car insurance can last anywhere between an hour to a few weeks. With Zixty, you can arrange a policy and be on the road in minutes.
Bonus points: if you enable our free Zixty Miles add-on, we’ll even carbon offset your journeys up to 100 miles a day while you’re a customer. Yes, even if you’re driving Alice’s Tesla. Also, we’ll plant a tree on your behalf every time you take out a policy. How’s that sound?
If you want to check us out, you can learn more about Zixty’s temporary car insurance here.
So there you have it – everything you need to know about checking your car’s ULEZ status, plus a few ways to avoid paying ULEZ altogether.
Ultimately, the charge might be steep but it’s there for a good reason; to make sure the air we breathe is a little cleaner and healthier.
Plus, with temporary car insurance like Zixty, it’s easier than ever to borrow someone’s ULEZ-friendly car for that trip to London