London Congestion Charge zone: the ultimate guide

London congestion charge

For those who live, work, or just plan to drive through London, be sure to keep the Congestion Charge in mind. Designed to cut down on traffic and emissions in central London, the charge was introduced in 2003. It is run by Transport for London, who also run the LEZ and ULEZ — depending on when you travel and the sort of vehicle you drive, you could even be faced with paying all three!

Where is the Congestion Charge zone?

The Congestion Charge zone operates in central London and covers areas such as:

  • Fitzrovia
  • Westminster
  • Waterloo
  • City of London
  • Charing Cross
  • London Bridge
  • Soho
  • Bloomsbury
  • Mayfair
  • Barbican
  • Chelsea
  • Euston

The entry points to the congestion one are clearly marked by signs, and a Congestion Charge map is also available on TFL’s website.

How does the TFL Congestion Charge work?

The TFL Congestion Charge isn’t operated by a physical barrier. Your car’s registration plate will be read by cameras and a check run on a database to see if your vehicle has been registered, has paid the charge, or has applied for an exemption.

London congestion charge
The Congestion Charge aims to lower traffic in central London.

How do I know if I have to pay the Congestion Charge?

The Congestion Charge applies to all vehicles with the exception of the following:

  • Motorcycles
  • Emergency vehicles
  • Vehicles driven by disabled people and in the ‘disabled’ tax class
  • Blue Badge holders
  • Drivers of full-electric or hydrogen fuel cell cars (until Dec 2025)
  • Breakdown service vehicles
  • Vehicles with nine or more seats

You will need to provide proof that you or your vehicle fits into one of these categories, and you will need to apply for a discount before you enter the congestion zone. If you do not meet any of the above criteria, you will have to pay the Congestion Charge. Even if you do sit in one of the above categories, if you have not applied for an exemption, you should assume you have to pay the charge.

How to pay the Congestion Charge?

You can pay the Congestion Charge in multiple ways:

The fee must be paid within three days of your journey. This time period was introduced in response to COVID-19 measures, previously, the fee had to be paid by midnight, so this may once again be the case in the future.

How can I pay the London Congestion Charge in advance?

You can pay Congestion Charge up to 90 days in advance of your journey either online or by phone.

congestion charge times
Driving before 7am or after 10pm means you will not have to pay the Congestion Charge.

How much is the Congestion Charge?

The Congestion Charge is £15 if you pay in advance or on the same day. After this, it becomes £17.50 until the third day of your journey. Once this period has passed, you are in danger of being hit with a penalty charge notice of £160, or £80 if you pay it within 14 days.

Which cars are exempt from the Congestion Charge?

As mentioned, cars of disabled people, blue badge holders, cars with more than nine seats, or which are fully electric are all exempt. You will need to apply for the discount with TFL though, so don’t assume this will be automatically applied to you.

What time does the Congestion Charge end?

The Congestion Charge operates 7am-10pm every day except for Christmas day. That means you can travel through the zone before 7am or after 10pm without paying the charge. The ULEZ may still apply, though.

What’s the difference between the ULEZ, LEZ, and the Congestion Charge?

While they all seem similar, these three zones are separate and must be paid individually.

ZoneAreaCharge per day
ULEZUp to but not including the North and South Circular roads£12.50
LEZMost of Greater London£100-300
Congestion ChargeCentral London£15/£17.50

The LEZ is not applicable to cars or motorbikes, or to large vehicles that meet certain emission standards.

London congestion charge exemptions
Zero-emission vehicles are exempt from the Congestion Charge.

Why are electric cars exempt from the Congestion Charge zone?

The congestion zone was introduced to cut down not only on traffic but also on emissions in central London. For this reason, electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel vehicles, which have zero emissions are exempt. Hybrid cars are not zero emission as they still use traditional fuel, so they will not be exempt.  Keep in mind that clean vehicle exemptions will only be in place until the end of 2025.

Time to sell?

If you are hoping to escape the Congestion Charge, then it may be time to go for an electric vehicle. These cars are growing in popularity and can accommodate a large range of budgets, with popular models like the affordable Nissan Leaf, to the more high-end Tesla options.

So, if you think it’s time to sell your car, Motorway can help! You can sell in four simple steps:

1. Get a valuation

We give you an instant valuation, all we need is your reg and mileage.

2. Create a car profile in minutes

It’s all done from your phone with simple, easy-to-answer questions. We’ll guide you through the photo process too, capturing all those key angles.

3. Your car goes up for sale

We alert the 4,000+ dealers on our network to your car entering our daily sale and they make their offer.

4. Your car gets collected and you get paid

We’ll be in touch as soon as the sale is over to let you know your best offer (it can be in as little as 24 hours!). The winning dealer will come to you to collect your vehicle. After a quick inspection, you’ll be paid by secure bank transfer.

Simple! Your car is sold and you’re free to start shopping for your next Congestion Charge-friendly, environmentally friendly car!

Read more

Our guides cover everything you need to know about the charge zones that operate in London and beyond, as well as plenty of key info about selling your car!