There are countless reasons for London’s approach to congestion charging and reduction, most of them are good. You can’t honestly say you miss beaten-up old white vans spewing fumes in the gridlock, after all, can you?
The downside is that the diesel cars we all loved for their low running costs and claimed low CO2 have been responsible, in particular, for some of the nastiest pollutions you’ll find at street level. The soot is one thing, but the NOx is another, and that’s only really been a focus of emissions controls in more recent years.
So vehicles that produce excessive CO2 and NOx are charged daily to drive in London – on top of the congestion charge. The easiest way to detect them is by their number plate and Euro emissions level, meaning diesel cars compliant with Euro 6, and petrol cars compliant with Euro 4, are the ones that meet London’s aims for cleaner air and anything older gets charged.
TfL suggests cars older than 2006 for petrol models, and 2017 for diesel, are likely to be subject to ULEZ charges, but it goes by the stated emissions rather than the age, and some models achieved these standards much earlier.
Look for ‘Euro Status’ on the logbook to confirm compliance. Euro 4 is mandatory from 1 January 2006, Euro 6 from 1 September 2015, but cars already manufactured could be registered up to 1 September 2016 and still be Euro 5. You can double-check make and model compliance with London Assembly’s Cleaner Vehicle Checker for a rough guide, but it doesn’t cover cars older than 2005.
Want to search the classifieds for used cars and find a ULEZ compliant bargain? Here are some suggestions.
Diesel cars before 2017 – Euro 6 for ULEZ1: Audi A3 Cabriolet – from 2014
A diesel and a cabriolet might seem like an odd combination, but in the mid-2000s, company car drivers couldn’t get enough of them. When you’re looking at the potent 2.0-litre TDI 150 on a 14-plate, check the V5C as it could be Euro 6, and thus, ULEZ compliant.
2: Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D – from 2012
Yes, there is a ten-year-old diesel SUV – with 4×4 if you want it – that complies with ULEZ. Mazda’s clean-burning CX-5 diesel isn’t a common sight in Britain but it is a very appealing one if you want a sensible family SUV. Models as early as 2012 meet Euro 6 standards, amazingly.
3: Volkswagen Golf GTD – from 2013
The VW Golf Mk7 is a great car overall. It remained on sale until just a couple of years ago and yet was still competitive. Unsurprisingly that’s partly because it was designed to be as futureproof as possible, including Euro 6 diesels from the end of 2013 – look for 63-plate examples.
4: Mercedes-Benz E 350 and E 300 BlueTec – from 2013
Want to waft around London in classic style? The Mercedes E-Class is the very model of understated quality, and the smooth V6 diesel combined with cutting-edge emissions controls means the E 300 and E 350 in BlueTec guise meet Euro 6 from late 2013. Well-maintained examples will return good fuel economy and impressive motorway pace as well.
5: Unexpected petrol performance – BMW from 2002
Fancy something more like a modern classic? Amazingly, BMW’s six-cylinder engines met Euro 4 quite early, though finding the right one does require paying attention. The 5 Series and Z4 for example both achieved it for the 2002 model year in 3.0i form. The saloons sometimes qualify for ULEZ exemption from 2000. Check the logbooks, check the TfL website – but you’re not going to be forced into a boring, nearly-new car if you’re an enthusiast looking for a fun estate or convertible – and these cars are often inexpensive, too.
What else should you consider when buying a used car for ULEZ?
If you’re venturing outside London looking for your next used car, don’t forget that your existing non-compliant car could still be interesting for drivers away from such zones. Particularly diesel SUVs, larger 4x4s, and luxury cars, but good, well-maintained family cars with low mileage are always going to find willing buyers. Dealers with cars you want outside of London may give a much better trade-in value than if you’re getting rid of a non-compliant car in the ULEZ.
Also, look at the mileage you do and the age of the car. If you’re considering a complex model approaching seven years old, it’s possible that a lot of wear and tear components will need replacing, making that reasonable cash purchase into a frustrating monthly outlay.
You may find it cheaper, in the long run, to lease a new electric car for short trips around London – over 9,000 miles the saving for electricity over petrol or diesel means it costs about a third for the same distance. You could use those savings towards a car subscription or lease offer and having something brand new and warranted – and less likely to be covered by further restrictions based on emissions.