When it was initially rolled out in 2019, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) covered central London. This included the City of London, Westminster, Marylebone, Mayfair, Lambeth, Vauxhall and Southwark.

However, it has since been expanded to include all London boroughs. 

Other cities have followed suit. So far, Birmingham, Bristol, Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh have all put ULEZ in place to cut emissions.

But what exactly is ULEZ and how does it work? And most importantly, does it mean the end for classic cars?

In the following guide, we dig into the details so that you know where you stand when it comes to paying ULEZ fees.

What is ULEZ?

ULEZ was put in place to tackle London’s rapidly worsening air pollution

It means that cars that do not meet specific emissions standards have to pay a daily fee if they enter the zone. This includes both UK and non-UK registered vehicles.

To meet the requirements set by ULEZ, your vehicle must meet emissions standard Euro 4 or above if it runs on petrol, or Euro 6 if it is a diesel. For most car owners, this means that if your petrol car was registered after January 2006, or your diesel car after September 2015, you should meet the standards to avoid the charge.

How does ULEZ work?

If your car does not meet the European air pollution standards outlined above, you will incur a charge when you drive into a ULEZ. This will apply even if you live in an Ultra-Low Emission Zone.

ULEZ applies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and its fees must be paid on top of any Congestion Charges. The timer resets at midnight, which means you could end up paying twice for one journey.

At the time of writing, the ULEZ fee is £12.50 a day for cars, small vans, motorcycles and other light vehicles. All money must be paid by 12am on the third day after driving into the zone. 

The fee will only apply if you’re actively driving around. If your vehicle is parked, you will not pay a fee for the time that it is stationary. For instance, if you drive into an ULEZ, you will pay the day’s fee. But if you then park up and do not move the car the following day, you will not pay a charge until you move it again.

What cars are exempt from ULEZ?

You may be wondering, ‘Are classic cars exempt from ULEZ?’. Well, you will be relieved to hear that there are a couple of ULEZ exemptions that may fit your beloved car.

In fact, all vehicles built before 1 January 1973 actually qualify as ULEZ exemptions. 

However, when it comes to other classic and historic cars, ULEZ charges will only be removed if they have a ‘historic’ tax class status registered with the DVLA. 

To successfully have your car’s tax class changed to ‘historic’ and get it qualified as an ULEZ-exempt car, it has to be at least 40 years old. This means that many modern classics, which were made in the 1980s or 1990s, will not count as Ultra-Low Emission Zone classic cars.

If your classic car is nearing the 40-year mark, you need to be careful as ULEZ requirements are different to MOT exemption regulations.

When your car turns 40, you have to wait for that year to finish before you can apply to have your car’s status changed to ‘historic’ and get a ULEZ classic car exemption. An application can then be made from 1 January the next year.

However, the DVLA will not process any applications asking for a transfer into the historic class until 1 April, so your application could be waiting around for a while.

If you’re unsure whether you can get a ULEZ classic car exemption, you can enter your vehicle’s details into the government’s Clean Air Zone Service portal. 

You should note that if you are disabled, your car will not be granted an ULEZ exemption. However, you can apply for a ULEZ grace period that extends to 2027. If you do not apply, you will still be eligible for a ULEZ fee.

How do I ensure my classic car isn’t charged?

To make sure you aren’t charged when you drive your classic car, you need to have it registered as a vehicle of historical interest.

To do this, you need to do the following:

  • Update your log book

To change your car’s registration, you need to have its tax class altered to ‘historic’. To do this, you need to fill in the applicable section on your car’s log book (V5C Registration Certificate). In Section 1, ‘Change my vehicle details’, write ‘historic’ for your car’s tax class.

You should then sign and date the bottom of Section 8.

Remember: if your car has just turned 40, you need to wait until 1 January the following year before you can apply for this change.

  • Fill in a tax application form

You then need to fill in tax form V10 and write ‘historic’ in the tax class section.

  • Go to a Post Office

Once you have filled in the above forms, you can go to a Post Office with a tax-issuing facility to check and process your application. You will also need to take along a valid MOT certificate (it must be valid from the first day of the new tax period). If your MOT certificate has expired, you’ll need to fill in form V112.

What do I do if my classic car was registered late?

Occasionally, a car is not registered for some time after being built. This may be because it was being exported or it remained in a dealership for some time. This means that your classic car could be older than it appears on any records.

If this is the case with your classic car, registering it in the historic tax class can be more difficult. This is because you will need to prove to the DVLA when your car was built. To get enough evidence, you can try to find the original build sheet from the car’s manufacturer.

If you’re stuck, you should try reaching out to members of a relevant car owners club and tapping into their extensive collective knowledge.

Talk to us about Classic Car Insurance

Whether you have ULEZ compliant classic cars or not, your prized vehicle deserves the right protection. At Chris Knott Insurance, we have built long-term relationships with classic car insurers and car clubs to help owners get exactly the right cover.

If you’d like to find out more about our Classic Car Insurance, you can check out our dedicated webpage or give us a call on 0800 917 2274.