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Best London Congestion Charge exempt cars

October 11, 2022 by

Driving through London is not exactly cheap. Not only do you have to pay the Congestion Charge if you head into the centre of town, but the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) could add further costs to your journey.

It used to be the case that hybrids could escape the Congestion Charge, but this exemption was ended in October 2021, and now only fully electric or hydrogen cars are spared the £15 fee. Do note that even this exemption will come to an end in December 2025, after which point every car, no matter how it is powered, will have to pay the Congestion Charge.

Fortunately, the Ultra Low Emission Zone is rather easier to avoid by picking the right car.

Our guide will set out some of the best choices to avoid the Congestion Charge, and explain how to avoid ULEZ fees.

Best London Congestion Charge exempt cars

Only zero-emission cars are spared the congestion charge, so it might make sense to head over to our dedicated page on the best EVs; we’ll run through some top picks here as well though.

We have a dedicated page on the Congestion Charge as well, but for reference it operates from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 12-6pm at weekends and on bank holidays.

You can use our handy Congestion Charge Checker to find out if your current car needs to pay the Congestion Charge.

Tesla Model 3

It doesn’t take much looking to find a Tesla Model 3 in London — they’re sprinkled about everywhere. It’s really not hard to see why either, it may well just be the best electric car on the market today.

It’s loaded with more technology than a Currys warehouse, and the minimalist interior means there’s loads of space too. You may find the lack of physical controls a little alienating (everything aside from critical driving functions is located within the central display), but charging access is plentiful with Tesla’s ‘Destination Chargers’ sprinkled throughout the capital along with access to its brilliant rapid-charging Supercharger network.

Vauxhall Corsa-e

If for some reason the looks of the e-208 aren’t quite your thing, you can still get its impressive mechanical bits in another package. Step in the Vauxhall Corsa-e. It’s not quite as boldly-styled as the Peugeot, but still looks pretty smart and is equally impressive when it comes to the technical bits.

You can get as much as 209 miles between charges from it — ideal if you commute into London rather than from within — with a generous amount of equipment for the money too. That said, like with the e-208, it’s pretty expensive as far as Corsas go.

Mini Electric

The modern MINI is a great town car, being small, agile and nippy, and the electric version is even better suited to urban life.

It retains the fun feel the hatch is known for, but with the eco-friendly edge of an electric car. It feels great inside too — with plenty of high-quality materials dotted throughout and a cutting-edge digital display right in front of the driver. A 145 mile range from a 32kWh battery isn’t much compared with some rivals, but it’s more than enough for town.

Lexus UX 300e

If a luxury SUV is your chariot of preference for London, the Lexus UX 300e might be up your street.

You’re sure to turn heads with its unique looks, and the interior is equally as striking. You won’t find a scratchy surface anywhere.

The UX 300e’s claimed range of 196 miles might not be all that impressive, but if you’re using this largely as an urban runaround you should get by fine on that — and 50kW charging will return 80% of charge in 50 minutes.

Toyota Mirai

The Toyota Mirai drives like a conventional EV

The Toyota Mirai runs on hydrogen rather than petrol, but instead of burning its fuel it splits electrons off from hydrogen molecules, with these powering the battery and motor, and the fuel ‘cell’ essentially acting as an on-board power station generating electricity.

On top of that sophisticated engineering sits a smooth, comfortable car that drives much like an EV, and while hydrogen filling stations are thin on the ground, many of the handful that do exist are clustered around London, which explains why you see Mirais in town from time to time. That lack of filling infrastructure makes recommending a Mirai tricky in most cases, but we thought we would mention it just to illustrate that it’s not only EVs that are Congestion Charge exempt.

Peugeot e-208

Standing out on the roads of central London is a hard thing to do, considering it’s often home to some of the world’s most luxurious SUVs and supercars. Opt for a Peugeot e-208 though, and you might find yourself turning a few heads away from wrapped McLarens and Bentleys.

The all-electric version of the popular French hatchback is one of the best-looking cars on the market, let alone just within its class. There’s more than just show to it too, with an equally as impressive interior plus a decent 217-mile range from its batteries to boot. It’s rather pricey as far as the 208 range goes, but then you won’t have to worry about paying the congestion charge, and ULEZ fees that may come to newer petrol cars and of course, fuel costs.

Renault Zoe

The Renault Zoe was one of the first all-electric hatchbacks on the market, yet it’s still one of the best. Now in its second generation, the French hatchback is as stylish as ever — and undercuts key alternatives on price too.

Granted, the relatively low price is felt in a subpar interior in terms of quality and space, but there’s plenty of technology on board (as long as you avoid entry-level cars) and it feels right at home zipping around tight streets. You’ll be able to eke out a strong 240 miles between charges as well.

Kia e-Niro

Finding an electric car for your London commute doesn’t have to mean going for something small or ridiculously expensive, as the Kia e-Niro proves. This is without a doubt one of the best EVs money can buy.

As well as offering up to 282 miles of range between charges, the e-Niro has bags of space both in the cabin and the boot — so it’s an ideal family car for the weekends l. It’s not the best when it comes to cutting out tyre and road noise, but that’s nicely offset by plenty of high-quality materials that you’d expect of something more high-end. There’s the typical Kia seven-year/100,000-mile warranty as well.

Audi Q4 e-tron

SUVs are to London what seagulls are to a seaside chip shop — hanging about everywhere. If you’re wanting something on-trend for your capital commute then, take a look at the Audi Q4 e-tron.

On the face of it, it looks no different to a traditional Audi SUV, but lying under the sleek skin is an impressive electric setup that’s good for up to 321 miles between charges. The interior is fantastic, too, and there’s decent space inside as well. There’s a coupe-like Sportback version if you want something sleeker, though this does cut into the practicality a little.

ULEZ exempt cars

The ULEZ was introduced in April 2019 when it occupied the same small central area as the Congestion Charge, but in October 2021 it was expanded to take in all areas inside the North and South Circular ring roads – a sizeable chunk of London.

The ULEZ charge operates on a 24/7 basis, and there’s also an ongoing consultation looking at expanding the zone to include Greater London (essentially inside the M25 motorway).

Fortunately, ULEZ rules are much less strict than the Congestion Charge rules, with the ULEZ being based on what ‘Euro’ emission class a car sits in.

These Euro rules stipulate the maximum levels of harmful emissions cars are able to produce, with stricter rules being introduced periodically over the years.

Petrol cars that meet Euro 4 standards are exempt from the ULEZ, as are diesel cars that meet Euro 6 standards.

Euro standards are phased in over time, with the stages first applying to new models of car that are launched on the market, before applying to all new cars that are sold. In broad terms, most petrol sold cars from January 2006, and most diesels sold from September 2015 should be exempt.

Do note that Euro standards do not relate to engine size in any way, meaning a petrol car with a large V8 will be exempt from the ULEZ if it was bought new after 2006 or so, whereas a 1.2-litre diesel from 2014 would likely attract the £12.50 charge.

Many examples of the Vauxhall Monaro are ULEZ exempt, despite the fact it has a 5.7 or 6.0-litre V8 engine

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