London Congestion Charge – Do you need to pay?

  • Find out more about the London congestion charge
  • Prices are set to rise on 16 June 2014
  • Discover how you could avoid paying the charge

The congestion charge has been around for over a decade yet it still manages to trip a lot of us up when travelling through the city. Although company car drivers should be able to claim back the expense when travelling on business miles, your fleet manager will not be happy if a penalty notice arrives on their desk which could leave you out of pocket and footing the bill.

So we think it’s pretty important to know where the congestion charge zone is applicable in London, how much it costs and how and when to pay.

In this guide we have answered all the above and more to help you get to grips with the London congestion charge.

The why and the when

The Congestion Zone was introduced on 17 February 2003 in a bid to combat pollution and congestion in our nation’s capital while raising funds for London’s transport system.

It is applicable to most vehicles that travel within the designated zone of central London between the hours of 07.00 and 18.00 Monday to Friday.

You don’t need to pay the congestion charge on weekends, public holidays or between the Christmas period (Christmas Day through to New Years Day).

Where is the London Congestion Zone?

The congestion zone covers most of central London within the Inner Ring Road including the West End, Embankment, Tower Bridge, Oxford Street, Westminster (Big Ben) and the financial district (City of London).

There are plenty of road signs signaling when you will be entering the congestion zone and most sat-navs and route planners can be programmed to avoid it if you’re just travelling through on your way to a meeting.

Once you have paid the congestion charge daily fee you can enter the zone as many times as you want during that specific day.

The extent of the London congestion zone can be seen on this map

How do you pay?

There are no toll booths or barriers that you need to go through to enter the congestion zone, instead cameras are used to clock every car which enters and then the registrations are checked against a database.

Those cars which are shown as unpaid are then checked by Transport for London (TfL) and the driver or company is issued with a penalty notice charge.  You can pay the day after at a slightly higher rate without recieving the penalty but after that the charge will be enforced.

You are able to pay the congestion charge online, by phone, by SMS, cheque or postal order. The option to pay in shops and petrol stations was removed in July 2013.

The vast majority of people - including company car drivers, pay through the automatic payment method called Congestion Charge Auto Pay which also provides account holders with a £1 daily discount as well as taking away the risk of receiving a penalty notice.

How much does it cost?

On 16 June this year the congestion zone is going up to £11.50 per day (currently set at £10.00).

As explained, the Congestion Charge Auto Pay scheme gives you a £1 discount and will record the number of days your car travels within the charging zone each month and bill your debit or credit card, ideal if you are a regular traveller in the city.

You can pay the next working day without being fined but the fee is £14.

Failure to pay after that and the penalty charge is £130 (reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days and increased to £195 if not paid within 28 days).

Remember that you do not need to pay on weekends, bank holidays or before 07:00 or after 18:00.

Are there exemptions?

Yes, there are plenty.

One of the most prevalent is the cars which emit less than 74g/km which currently only include electric and hybrid cars and vans which get a 100 percent discount on the congestion charge.

You can find out more our top hybrids cars and our pick of the best electric cars .

The following vehicles are also free:

  • London licensed minicabs and taxis
  • Emergency service vehicles, such as ambulances and fire engines plus HM Coastguard and Port Authorities, The armed forces, Royal Parks Agency and breakdown organisations like the AA and RAC.
  • NHS vehicles exempt from road tax
  • Two-wheeled motorbikes, side cars, mopeds and bicycles
  • Vehicles used by disabled people exempt from road tax
  • Vehicles for more than one disabled person exempt from road tax

If you live in the congestion charging zone you will also qualify for a 90 percent discount.

For more information about the London Congestion Charge visit the Transport for London website.