Are classic cars exempt from clean air zones, the ULEZ, LEZ, and Congestion Charge?

The UK Government will ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and other immediate actions to reduce pollution have been taken, which may affect you now. One of these actions is the implementation of clean air zones and low emission zones across different regions throughout the UK. How does this affect classic cars? Read on to find out.

Clean Air Zone

Clean air zone

What is a clean air zone?

A clean air zone is a designated area to improve air quality and reduce pollution. Pollution in the air is mainly caused by vehicles on the road and can harm the health of people living and working in the vicinity. Clean air zones have been rolled out in certain cities to discourage heavy polluting vehicles from entering the zone by issuing daily charges to their owners.

Where are clean air zones in the UK?

Bath and Birmingham have clean air zones already in place in their city centres. Oxford City Centre also has a ZEZ - Zero Emissions Zone.

There are official plans for Portsmouth to roll out its clean air zone by the end of 2021 and many more cities planned to follow suit later in 2021 and 2022.

Are classic cars and vehicles exempt from clean air zones?

Historic and military vehicles will automatically be exempt from clean air zones, but let’s clarify what is meant by historic vehicles.

If your vehicle was built or first registered 40 years ago, then it is eligible to be classed as historic. This means that modern classic vehicles would not be exempt from clean air zones. Don’t worry though, this doesn’t mean that you’re banned from driving through the city centre of Birmingham or Bath, it just means you have to pay a daily charge online, otherwise you might receive a hefty fine through the letterbox.

You can find other exemptions for clean air zones here.

Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Low Emission Zone (LEZ)

What is a ULEZ and LEZ?

The ULEZ and LEZ are similar to the clean air zone, in that their purpose is to deter heavy polluting vehicles from driving through the city. The ULEZ and LEZ were initiated to encourage heavy diesel polluting vehicles driving through London to become cleaner by upgrading their vehicle to meet the ULEZ standards. Whilst you can pay a daily charge to drive through the LEZ and ULEZ if your vehicle doesn’t meet the requirements. It is encouraged that you drive a vehicle that does meet the ULEZ emission standards.

Where are the ULEZ and LEZ in the UK?

The LEZ covers most of Greater London and operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. A map of the zone is available here.

The ULEZ covers Central London including areas such as Westminster, Marylebone, Farringdon and The City. A map of the zone is available here. It is the same zone covered by the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, except Christmas Day.

From 25 October 2021, the ULEZ is expanding from Central London up to, but not including, the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).

Are classic cars and vehicles exempt from the ULEZ and LEZ?

Whilst historic vehicles registered or built before 1980 currently avoid charges in London’s expanding ULEZ, other locations have their own rules and criteria on which vehicles can drive through their zones. However, owners of younger classic cars will face daily charges for entering ULEZ and LEZ zones.

Congestion Charge

What is the Congestion Charge?

The Congestion Charge was designed to reduce traffic and enable more people to safely walk or cycle throughout Central London by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. It’s a daily charge of £15 applied during the hours of 07:00-22:00, every day, except Christmas Day (25th December).

Charges differ depending on which day you pay, more info is available here. If your vehicle does not meet ULEZ standards, you will have to pay the ULEZ charge on top of the Congestion Charge.

Where in the UK is a Congestion Charge enforced?

The Congestion Charge covers Central London including areas such as Westminster, Marylebone, Farringdon and The City. A map of the zone is available here. It is the same zone covered by the ULEZ. There are many Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras in these areas that will identify drivers who travel within the Congestion Charge zone.

Are classic cars and vehicles exempt from Congestion Charges?

Unfortunately, you cannot get exemptions or discounts from the Congestion Charge for classic or military vehicles like you can with the LEZ/ULEZ.

What else is exempt?

There are some exemptions and discounts available, for example, motorcycles are exempt from the Congestion Charge and Blue Badge holders can apply for a 100% discount. Find out more about exemptions for the Congestion Charge.