Are Classic Cars Exempt from ULEZ?


ULEZ has impacted millions of drivers over the past five years, particularly since its expansion across London in 2023. As a leading provider of classic car insurance, we are particularly passionate about helping our customers navigate how ULEZ relates to classic vehicles. 

While the regulations have been with us for some time, many classic car owners and prospective classic car buyers still have questions around whether or not there are classic cars which are ULEZ compliant, and if not, whether classic cars can be exempt from ULEZ. 


Are there any classic cars which are ULEZ compliant? 

It is very unlikely that there will be many, if any, vehicles which currently class as both classic and as ULEZ compliant. 

This comes down to the simple fact that the earliest a car will gain a classic status in the UK is at 15 years old, and often several years later than this. You can then couple that information with guidance from the Mayor of London’s office in July 2023 

“We have set emissions standards through the ULEZ. These are Euro 4 (petrol cars and vans up to 16 years old) and Euro 6 (diesel cars and vans up to 6 years old).” 

So, when you consider that the majority of cars need to be less than 16 years old to qualify as ULEZ compliant, and that a vehicle can’t be considered a classic until it is at least 15 years old and often much later you can see that these statuses are currently close to mutually exclusive. 


Are there any classic cars which are ULEZ exempt? 

Now that we’ve clarified that it is very unlikely that a classic car will be compliant with ULEZ, the key question – and the primary subject of this article – is whether classic cars are exempt from ULEZ. 

In short, if your classic car is over 40 years old, then there’s a good chance it can be exempt. 

Once a classic car is 40 years old, you can follow guidance from the Government’s own site to apply for Historic Vehicle status, which entitles you to: 

  • MOT exemption:You are exempt from MOTs if the vehicle was built or first registered more than 40 years ago and no ‘substantial changes’ have been made to the vehicle in the last 30 years, for example replacing the chassis, body, axles or engine to change the way the vehicle works.” 
  • Vehicle tax exemption:If your vehicle was built before 1 January 1984, you can stop paying vehicle tax from 1 April 2024. If you do not know when your vehicle was built, but it was registered before 8 January 1984, you do not need to pay vehicle tax from 1 April 2024.” 

Also, in addition to the standard benefits of Historic Vehicle status, when it comes to historic vehicles and ULEZ, guidance from Transport for London says: 

  • ULEZ exemption:Two categories of historic vehicles are exempt from ULEZ: 
    • All vehicles built before 1 January 1973 
    • Vehicles over 40 years old that have been successfully registered with the DVLA for a historic vehicle tax class” 

So yes, if your classic car is built before 1973, or you secure the Historic Vehicle status, your classic car can be exempt from ULEZ. 


Can classic cars registered outside the UK be ULEZ exempt? 

Yes. The same Transport for London guidance mentioned above offers the following line: 

“If your vehicle meets the above criteria but is registered outside the UK, it is also exempt, but you will need to register it with us before travelling in the zone.” 

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How has ULEZ impacted classic car popularity?

The popularity of classic cars since ULEZ is somewhat of a mixed picture.  

You’ll be aware of the increasing number of classic car owners who have felt forced to scrap their vehicle since the introduction of ULEZ, with many modern classic cars likely to be part of City Hall’s £160m scrappage scheme providing grants towards replacing non-compliant vehicles. 

At the same time, the interest in older classic cars does seem to be on the rise since the recent expansion of ULEZ, which seems closely linked to the ULEZ exemption they may enjoy. 

An article from Auto Express in August 2023 noted that “searches for the term ‘ULEZ’ on the sales and auction website Car & Classic are 30 times higher this year than they were in 2022. 

On a similar note, an interview with London-based classic car dealer Merlin McCormack saw him reveal that “we have seen a massive spike in people looking for pre-1983 cars, which still have extras like heated seats, air conditioning, but have far more character in comparison to a new car.” 

So, while there is some clear optimism on the enduring love and popularity of classic vehicles going forward, there have undoubtedly been some tough impacts on many classic car owners.

For some personal insights from classic car owners, you can take a look at our ULEZ opinion and testimonials page. 

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