A complete guide to the best ULEZ exempt cars you can buy.
The Ultra Low Emission Zone, a scheme introduced in London by the major in 2019, is an initiative designed to reduce the amount of pollution produced in the capital. After just a few years of being in place, the scheme has reduced harmful pollution in certain areas by over 40%, making the capital a much safer place to live and breathe.
With that said, the ULEZ has made driving in London a lot more complex and a bit more of a hassle, especially if you don’t have the right kind of vehicle. Here’s a complete Car Adviser guide to the ULEZ and a list of the best cars to own to help you navigate this awkward additional charge.
In London, there is an area within central London where certain vehicles are charged to drive through. This charge was implemented to deter drivers from entering the area and to also incentives drivers to swap to more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles so that the air quality in these areas improves.
ULEZ operates 24 hours a day every day of the week and is only not in effect during Christmas day. This means that if you drive in a ULEZ area at 3am or 3pm in the wrong kind of vehicle, you’ll still be charged a fee.
The fee you get is daily, meaning that if you enter the ULEZ once in 24 hours or multiple times in that time frame, you’ll still get charged the same. Plus, even if a tiny part of your journey enters a ULEZ, you’ll still get fined a charged for entering.
The daily fee for a ULEZ charge is £12.50 if your car doesn’t meet the requirements. This is for most vehicles, including cars, motorcycles and even some specialist vehicles. Although £12.50 doesn’t seem that large, it can start to add up if you’re entering the Ultra Low Emission Zone daily. In fact, if you live within the ULEZ and need to drive to work every day, you could be paying an extra £3,000 a year for these charges.
If you’re entering a ULEZ area in a large truck to deliver goods or in a coach that isn’t exempt, the fees you’ll have to pay will be even larger. You could have to pay £100 a day for these specialist vehicles. This is why you don’t find as many larger vehicles in ULEZs.
The only way to avoid getting a ULEZ charge is to enter this zone with a exempt, modern vehicle. That’s because these vehicles typically emit low emissions. Driving a hybrid or electric car will also avoid paying a ULEZ charge.
What determines if your car is ULEZ exempt is the Euro Emission Standards. These are a set of six tiers of different emission volumes that go from level 1 to level 6. If your vehicle is in level 1, it emits a lot of pollution and will likely be charged when entering a ULEZ area. In contrast, a level 6 means that your car produces very little or no emissions.
Currently, for your car to be ULEZ exempt, it needs to meet the Euro Level 6 threshold if you’re driving a diesel car. If you have a petrol car, it must be Euro Level 4. Most cars that have been registered after 2005 will likely pass these standards, but some may not, so it’s important to check the status of your vehicle.
If you’re driving a motorbike, it needs to meet at least Level 3 on the Euro Emission standards for it to not be charged.
Currently, Transport for London, the government body that manages the ULEZ, makes around £80million a year on the charges. With that said, ULEZ is not run for profit, and the money made is often put back into improving the transport system within London.
It’s in everyone’s best interest to upgrade to a car that produces the lowest amount of emissions as possible. Not only will this help protect the environment and make the UK a cleaner place to live and breathe, but getting a ULEZ exempt car can save you from a lot of hassle.
Currently, the biggest reason for getting a ULEZ exempt car is that without one, visiting London can be very expensive, especially if you’re going to be entering central London often. Over a year, a person commuting into London daily will save over £3,000 if they get a ULEZ exempt car. This can be a considerable saving.
Plus, many other locations are soon to adopt their own low emission scheme in the near future, meaning that it may be beneficial to get a low emission car to safeguard you from these changes as well.
Another big reason to upgrade to a low-emission car, or even one that is hybrid or electric, is because the rules are soon to change regarding what cars you’re allowed to drive. Soon, petrol and diesel cars will be illegal to buy new, meaning that upgrading to a exempt vehicle will save you a lot of hassle in the future.
Of course, if changing your car will cost you more than the amount you can save, then upgrading to a ULEZ-exempt car may not be worth it in the end. This is especially true if you don’t visit areas within the ULEZ often or if you decide to travel via public transport or on a bike.
If you want to be ULEZ exempt, before looking for a new car, it’s best to first check to see if your current vehicle is okay to drive in the area. You’ll find that most modern vehicles younger than 2015 will be ULEZ exempt. There are many checkers available online to see if your car is okay. If you want more information about ULEZ checks, Car Adviser has an article about them here.
If you find that your current car isn’t ULEZ exempt, then it’s best to find one that is, especially if you live in or frequently travel to London. Plus, because many other cities are beginning to introduce their own low emission and low pollution schemes, it may be a good idea to ensure that your next car is exempt so that you can guarantee that you’ll be able to drive in these locations without being charged too.
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As stated previously in the article, most cars made after 2005 will be ULEZ exempt, meaning you’ll have plenty of choices about what cars you can get.
With that said, there are certainly a few cars that are much more popular than others that are more often driven in these low emission zones.
Here’s a look at some of the best and most in-demand ULEZ exempt cars, with models to suit multiple different budgets and preferences.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious model to drive around within the ULEZ, you can’t go wrong with the BMW 3 series. Not only is it a classy and stylish vehicle, but it offers a great mileage per gallon for a car of this specification.
The engine of this car is super powerful, giving you access to nippy acceleration and control, which can help when navigating the often crowded streets of inner London. Plus, the car has many extra quality-of-life features you may not find in more budget options.
The BMW 3 series comes in many different versions, including the innovative and relatively unique Plug-in-Hybrid, one of the best options for a car that’s good for the environment while not compromising on power and performance.
The car is rear-wheel drive and only comes with a 4-door option, meaning that it’s fairly spacious and is great for executives going about business while also being suitable for families. The car’s interior is comfortable for both the driver and passenger, and you can easily adjust things like the wheels and seats so that it fits you perfectly.
Do note that not all 3 Series cars are ULEZ exempt. You need to get the 323i, 325i, or 330i option for petrol cars. You’ll have to get the smaller 318i or 320i engines if you prefer diesel. Despite this, they still pack a punch, and this option is one of the best if you’re looking for a high-spec ULEZ-exempt vehicle.
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Another more luxurious option for those looking for a ULEZ exempt vehicle is the Mercedes C-Class. This modern Mercedes blends classic looks and style with comfort and innovation, including hybrid technology, allowing you to feel the benefits of electric power. This car is slick and is perfect for drivers who want to turn heads while driving around the city.
Depending on your preferences, you can also get this model as an entirely electric vehicle, which will be beneficial when petrol and diesel cars are outlawed in the near future.
The C-Class is one of the most expensive cars suggested in this list, which shows in its design and interiors. It’s a larger vehicle, which may not suit drivers looking for something more nimble when driving around smaller city streets.
The car has a great suspension, meaning that it remains comfortable no matter how bumpy the road you’re on, and in some cases, it even has a more sporty feel. This can easily handle a few potholes and controls very well despite the fact that it’s a slightly more robust size.
If there are negatives to this vehicle, it can be pretty loud, especially in terms of road noise, as you’ll be able to hear vibrations and wind, especially when cruising at high speed.
Although that can be annoying, its reversing camera and rear and front parking sensors definitely make up for the noise, as they can be instrumental in helping you to fit into tight spots, which can be invaluable when driving around the city. The C-Class also has multiple features, such as GPS and a slick and responsive touchscreen. If you want to drive around in style without paying ULEZ charges, this is a great option.
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The A3 is a classic Audi model that many drivers within London have fallen in love with. Despite being ULEZ exempt, this car compromises on nothing and offers a comfortable yet responsive drive that’s more than capable of keeping up with the fast-moving traffic.
This car is great for driving in the central London ULEZ areas because it’s pretty compact, making it much more agile and better suited to frequent city driving.
You have multiple options regarding the specific model you can get, but to ensure you get the most for your money, it’s a good idea to get the S line models as they’re well equipped with various features and perks.
To keep under ULEZ regulations, you’ll have to get their 1.4-litre petrol engine or the 2.0-litre diesel engine, which are still great options and provide enough power and speed.
Although it’s a more luxury and business savvy look, this Audi A3 is designed to be a family car, focusing on comfort and safety. With front and rear airbags and other amazing features to keep the car safe, this car is great for ferrying the family around in style and sophistication.
In addition, the handling on the A3 is perhaps one of its best features, with it being predictable, secure and engaging, which is great if you’re looking for a seamless riding experience.
With it being a little less than some of the other great luxury ULEZ exempt vehicles, it’s a great mid-range option that you should definitely consider.
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Based on over 29,710 reviews.
For those who want to get a car that’s not only great for now but also has one eye on the future, then there’s nothing better than getting the fully electric Nissan Leaf. This model is one of the best options on the market for affordable electric cars, as it is not only super great for the environment and ULEZ exempt, but it also drives really well, has a tremendous average mileage per charge, and is stylish and comfortable.
The Nissan Leaf has no tailpipe emissions, meaning it’s one of the cleanest cars you can drive, which is perfect for inner-city driving. The vehicle also boasts some initiative technology to help improve your driving experience, such as e-Pedal and ProPILOT, which help give the car a more futuristic feel.
All of the Nissan Leaf models are perfect for ULEZ driving, meaning that you have a wide choice to find one that’s in your budget and most appeals to you.
What’s great about the Nissan Leaf that makes it so popular is that it’s one of the first electric-only cars to drive and feel like a car powered by the traditional fuel types. It has good power, a decent top speed, and is spacious without being too large. It’s a great all-around car which you should seriously consider if you’re looking for ULEZ exempt cars.