What is the Congestion Charge? Including latest rules

  • What is the Congestion Charge? 
  • Who pays the Congestion Charge and who gets discount?
  • How it differs from the ULEZ charge

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 aims to discourage drivers from using the city centre. In a bid to improve city centre air quality, the congestion charge is based on vehicle emissions, where ‘cleaner’ electric vehicles qualify for 100% discount. Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras stationed throughout the CCZ 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.

What changes were made in 2020 to the London Congestion Charge?

The daily fee is now £15. It applies between 7am and 10pm, every day of the year, with the exception of Christmas Day. 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.

However, 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 also aims 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, ahead of your journey and can’t be activated retrospectively.

The Cleaner Vehicle Discount, introduced in October 2021, means only fully electric vehicles are eligible, excluding hybrids from any kind of discount.

TFL plans to discontinue the Cleaner Vehicle Discount in December 2025 altogether. 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.

If I have to pay the ULEZ charge, do I still have to pay the Congestion Charge?

The Ultra-Low Emission Zone was introduced in April 2019. The zone covers the whole of the area between the North Circular and South Circular. Vehicles which do not meet the ultra-low emissions threshold must pay the £12.50 charge.

The ULEZ charge is separate to the Congestion Charge, so if your vehicle does not meet the standards required in the ULEZ and you travel further into the Congestion Charge Zone too, you will be expected to pay both the £12.50 ULEZ and the £15 Congestion Charge Zone fee.

To make it easy, both fees can be paid by the same mechanism via the TFL website.

Further reading

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