What is the Congestion Charge? Including new 2020 rules

  • What is the Congestion Charge? 
  • Do I need to pay it?
  • Big changes made in 2020

The London Congestion Charge is a daily fee of £15 for driving a vehicle within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) during the hours of 7am to 10pm, every day of the year, except for Christmas Day.

Introduced in 2003, the charge is based on vehicle emissions, with some low CO2 and hybrid vehicles being exempt. Automatic number plate recognition cameras stationed throughout the congestion charge zone capture all vehicles travelling within the charge zone.

Where is the London Congestion Charge zone?

2020 London Congestion Zone

The charge zone covers the very centre of London. To check if your journey goes into the charge zone, use this postcode checker.

2020 London Congestion Charge changes

Until 22 June 2020 the London Congestion Charge's daily fee was only £11.50 and it only applied during the hours of 7am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

As stated in the opening paragraph, the zone's daily fee is now £15, and it's applied between 7am and 10pm, every day of the year. Technically this is a temporary measure, but we don't know how long for.

The reason for the increase is because TFL (Transport for London) needed a £1.6bn rescue package from the government because of a 90% drop in revenue due to Coronavirus. TFL's price hike is also aiming to reduce car journeys into the area by a third.

Do I have to pay the Congestion Charge?

All vehicles that enter the London Congestion Charge zone in the prescribed time period are eligible for the levy.

Exemptions include: two wheeled motorcycles or mopeds, emergency service vehicles, taxis and vehicles with a disabled taxation class. As long as your vehicle is registered correctly with the DVLA, then no action is needed when entering the congestion charge zone.

There are discounts (up to 100%) available for: residents, breakdown/recovery vehicles, blue badge holders, vehicles with more than nine seats, motor-tricycles and also ultra-low emission vehicles, and now, NHS staff too. These discounts must be applied for on the Transport for London website prior to entering the congestion charge zone.

Currently, only vehicles that meet Euro 6 standards (petrol and diesel), that emit no more than 75g/km of CO2 and have a minimum 20-mile zero emission capable range will qualify for the 100% cleaner vehicle discount. In other words, you'll need an electric car or a plug-in hybrid to be eligible for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount.

From 25 October 2021, the Cleaner Vehicle Discount will change so that only fully electric vehicles are eligible. Then from 25 December 2025, the cleaner vehicle discount will be discontinued. From this date, all vehicle owners, unless in receipt of another discount or exemption, will need to pay to enter the Congestion Charge zone during charging hours.

How do I pay the Congestion Charge, and what will happen if I don’t?

Payment for any congestion charge must be paid via an official Transport for London service, such as its website. Be aware of unofficial sites, as charges might be higher and might not be paid correctly.

A payment can be made up to 90 days in advance, or on the day of travel. Failure to pay before midnight the following day will cause a penalty charge notice of £160 to come through your door, although this is discounted to £80 if paid within 14 days.

If the penalty charge is not fully paid within 28 days the fee increases to £240.

For those travelling into the zone often, or for the forgetful, setting up Auto Pay removes the risk of a penalty charge notice.

Auto Pay works via direct debit, and allows Transport for London to record the number of charging days a vehicle travels within the charging zone and take full payment at the end of each month.

Further reading

>> London ULEZ: What you need to know
>> Low emission cars for London
>> Best used diesel cars for London's ULEZ