ULEZ: How it works & what to do

The Ultra Low Emission Zone or ULEZ is designed to improve London's air quality by discouraging high-polluting vehicles from driving across the capital.

Here's what you need to know...

What are the ULEZ rules?

The ULEZ prohibits high-polluting vehicles from driving across London.

If your vehicle doesn't meet the ULEZ emissions standards, you need to pay £12.50 a day to drive within the zone. 

You can use the Euro standard of your vehicle to checck whether it is ULEZ complaint. For newer vehicles, the Euro emissions standards may be listed in section D.2 of your vehicle log book (V5C).

The ULEZ standards are:

  • Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles (L category)
  • Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles
  • Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles

Lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, and buses, minibuses and coaches over 5 tonnes do not need to pay the ULEZ charge, but they may need to pay the LEZ charge.

The ULEZ rules are in place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, except Christmas Day. 

How to check if your vehicle is ULEZ compliant

You can check whether you need to pay a ULEZ charge for your vehicle by entering your number plate here.

Where is the ULEZ zone?

The zone covers all London boroughs, excluding the M25. You can check whether specific locations are covered by ULEZ here.

How does ULEZ work for residents?

If you drive a vehicle that doesn't meet the ULEZ emissions standards, you'll need to pay the £12.50 daily charge. This applies to residents as well as visitors to the city.

However, you'll only need to pay for days that your vehicle is driven - so if your vehicle is parked inside the ULEZ zone for a day but you don't drive it, you won't need to pay.

How does the ULEZ scrappage scheme work?

To help London residents swap to cleaner ULEZ-compliant vehicles, the Mayor of London has funded a £160m scrappage scheme - any resident of the 32 London boroughs or the City of London with an eligible vehicle can apply to scrap a car or motorcycle, and you no longer need to receive certain benefits to apply.

The last scrappage scheme lead to over 15,000 polluting vehicles being removed from London's roads, so the current scheme has been expanded to help even more London residents, charities and small businesses to benefit from the available funds.

London residents can apply for up to £2,000 to scrap a car or up to £1,000 to scrap a motorcycle. For wheelchair accessible vehicles, you can apply for up to £10,000 to scrap or £6,000 to retrofit the vehicle to meet ULEZ standards.

How will the ULEZ benefit us?

Air quality in London isn't great, and it's mostly down to polluting vehicles on the road. Air pollution is affecting the health of everyone who lives and works in the city - breathing polluted air increases the risks of cancer, asthma, lung problems and even dementia. It's so bad that it's even causing thousands of Londoners to die earlier than they should.

The ULEZ is designed to clean up the air by taking vehicles that don't meet the emissions standards off the roads, to help give the city a breath of fresh air.

Since the ULEZ introduction in central London, harmful nitrogen dioxide pollution has dropped by almost half, and in inner London, it's down by a fifth. 

But air pollution isn't just a problem in the city centre; most of the pollution-related deaths are actually happening in the outer parts of London. Since August 29th 2023, the ULEZ has been expanded to cover all of London's boroughs. That means cleaner air for all five million Londoners. 

Why are people unhappy about the ULEZ?

Even though a recent survey by The Eco Experts found that a whopping 73% of Brits believe we're in the midst of a climate emergency, the ULEZ was initially met with pushback from London residents and councils.

Many of the protests were linked to the energy and cost of living crisis, and the current cost of electric vehicles makes them unattainable for many of us. However, you don't need to drive an EV to be ULEZ compliant, just swap to a cleaner form of transport - whether that's a newer car, a bus, a bike or travelling more on foot.

But here's the bottom line: the UK is falling behind on its goal to slash emissions by 68% by 2023 compared to 1990 levels. Without some serious action, it looks like the government might not hit that target, so it's time to embrace the ULEZ and take the opportunity to switch to greener modes of transport.

What are other ways to get around?

It's hard to argue with the convenience of travelling by car, but if you regularly travel within the ULEZ zone (or just want to reduce your emission), there are plenty of cheaper, greener ways to get around...

Cycling and walking

Studies have shown that people who walk or cycle for 20 minutes a day as part of their regular journeys experience improvements to their mental and physical wellbeing. Plan your route via cycle lanes and wider pavements so that you can walk or cycle more safely. You might even find a quicker or more scenic route! Find out more about cycling in London here.

Public transport

Travelling by bus, tube or tram is a cost-effective and sustainable way to travel across London. You can take advantage of off-peak fares when you can, and check the cost of your journey here before you travel. The Mayor of London is also planning to expand bus routes in outer London to make travelling by public transport even easier.

Car clubs

Joingin a car club gives you access to local cars, and pay to borrow them by the minute, hour or day. Car clubs can offer a convenient and lower cost alternative to owning a car, with less maintenance costs and parking worries.

All car club vehicles in London meet the ULEZ emissions standards, and many now use electric or hybrid vehicles, to further reduce emissions and improve air quality. Find out more about car clubs in London here.