London Congestion Charge: what is it, which cars pay and which are exempt?

All the facts about the £11.50 charge for driving into central London including a map, how to pay and how to check if you need to…

Since 17 February 2003, motorists wanting to drive into London at peak times on weekdays have had to pay a Congestion Charge for the privilege.

The scheme is enforced by Transport for London (TfL) and is a separate to the ULEZ (Ultra-Low Emission Zone) which currently operates in the same area.

• Guide to Clean Air Zones

Read on to learn more about the Congestion Charge, including what it is, which vehicles are affected and how to pay it.

What is the Congestion Charge?

The Congestion Charge is an £11.50 daily fee that motorists have to pay if they want to drive into central London at any time between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. As its name suggests, the purpose of the congestion charge is to reduce congestion in the city centre – something that was first examined in a UK Government report in 1964.

The charging zone applies to the area within the London Inner Ring Road, including the City of London and the West End. Out of Greater London’s total population of around 8.9 million people, approximately 136,000 live within the Congestion Charge zone.

Some vehicles are exempt from the Congestion Charge, but drivers of those that are affected and fail to pay will face a fine of £130, reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days.

London Congestion charge zone map

Below is a map of the congestion charge zone. You can find out if a specific address is in the congestion charge zone by inputting the postcode on the TFL website.

Which vehicles have to pay the Congestion Charge, and which are exempt?

If you drive a conventional petrol or diesel car, or a non-plug-in hybrid (including mild hybrids), you will have to pay the Congestion Charge if you drive into central London during its hours of operation.

All alternatively-fuelled vehicles used to be exempt from the Congestion Charge but, in December 2018, TfL announced that these exemptions were to be phased out. Since 8 April 2019, only vehicles capable of achieving zero-emissions driving – such as plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars – have been exempt from the Congestion Charge.

To avoid the congestion charge, a plug-in hybrid must be capable of travelling for at least 20 miles on electric power alone and must have official CO2 emissions of under 75g/km. If you own and electric car or plug-in hybrid that is exempt from the congestion charge you need to register it with TFL before driving into the zone or you will still be fined. 

These rules will tighten up even further in October 2021, when PHEVs will lose their exemption. Then, in December 2025, drivers of electric cars will also be required to pay.

The following groups of people and vehicles are fully exempt from the Congestion Charge or eligible for a discount:

  • Residents of the Congestion Charge zone (90 per cent discount)
  • Blue Badge holders (fully exempt)
  • Accredited breakdown vehicles (fully exempt)
  • Vehicles with nine or more seats (fully exempt)
  • Motor tricycles less than one metre in width and two metres in length (fully exempt)
  • Roadside recovery vehicles (fully exempt)

How to pay the Congestion Charge

If you regularly drive into central London during the Congestion Charge’s hours of operation, you can set up an Auto Pay account. Doing so demands a £10 annual registration fee, but you’ll receive a £1 discount on the daily charge.

You can also pay the Congestion Charge on the TfL website, the TfL app or over the phone by calling 0343 222 2222

If you’re buying a used vehicle and you want to check to see if it has outstanding congestion charge fines you can email TFL at this address.

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