How the largest ULEZ expansion yet will impact London’s classic car enthusiasts

One of the measures taken by the UK Government to help reduce carbon emissions nationwide is the Ultra Low Emission Zone, otherwise known as ULEZ, in London. First introduced in April 2019, drivers entering the ULEZ are charged daily fees of £12.50 if their vehicles do not meet the set emissions standards and model-based rules. Following the first expansion phase up to the North and South Circular Roads in late 2021, it’s set to be growing again in 2023. In this month’s blog, we’ll discuss how the next ULEZ expansion might affect classic car clubs, communities, and enthusiasts.

The next ULEZ expansion is set to be the largest yet. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is proposing that the ULEZ expand over the entirety of Greater London, targeting a go-live date of 29th August 2023. The new ULEZ area will essentially cover the entire Capital, stretching from Upminster in the East to London Heathrow Airport in the West, and Enfield in the North to well past Croydon in the South of the city.

Looking past the obvious impact this will have on cars in general, what does this mean, more specifically, for classic, and modern classic car owners? There is currently a rolling 40-year limit in place, using the historic vehicle tax rules, meaning owners with cars 40 years old or more do not have to pay for ULEZ. This is a rolling rule, for now… However, it’s worth noting that owners do have to sign up to register their cars for historic vehicle tax exemption via the DVLA.

What’s arguably more crucial is the areas that ULEZ will cover once it expands, and the events that will be affected as a result. For example, at Wimbledon’s Southside Common, there is the Southside Hustle classic car meet, which takes place on the first Sunday of every month, which could see a number of its attendees having to pay the daily £12.50 under the new ULEZ expansion regime. At Southside Hustle, you’ll see classic cars ranging from Sixties Lamborghinis to Nineties Citröens, with the latter not being eligible to attend without paying the ULEZ fee. Alternatively, on Fish Island in East London, you’ll find Porsche Club GB’s Out East meet, of which many of older 996, 993, 964 911 models would not be eligible to attend without paying. It’s these local, car club, and community-based events that we think will be affected the most following next year’s ULEZ expansion, and those that could suffer the most.

As ULEZ is set to expand more than ever before, it will mean that those living within the Capital who own classic vehicles built after 1983 (based on the 40-year limit) will be paying the £12.50 charge every time they use their cars. Classic car maintenance, upkeep and fuelling is already an expensive hobby (especially in 2022!), so this may be the final nail in the coffin for some, with enthusiasts potentially choosing to sell their vehicle or store it off the road until it becomes exempt from the fee. For instance, if you’re an owner of a 1984 Ford Escort, then you’ll only have to wait a year until you’re no longer charged every time you take it for a spin. On the other hand, if you drive something like a 1998 E36 BMW M3, simply driving your pride and joy could become very costly, very quickly. The result of this will be, in our opinion, that a substantial number of owners will end up storing, liquidating, or in some cases even scrapping their cars because of the proposed expansion.

All is not lost, however – there is still time – the expansion isn’t set to happen until 29th August 2023, meaning those enthusiasts can still enjoy their classic cars for a while without worrying about being charged to enter the expanded zone. And, while the ULEZ expansion does mean that modern classic owners, i.e. those with Eighties, Nineties and early Noughties vehicles, must pay the fee, every year that goes by more classic vehicles are potentially made to be exempt under the historic vehicle regulations. It’s worth highlighting that while the majority of the small events that we all love attending are only once a month, for example, perhaps £12.50 isn’t too much of a discouraging factor to keep supporting the industry and the people who make it what it is?

Our business is one that celebrates classic car enthusiasts and the wider classic vehicle industry, and hopes that, as a community, we will adapt to ULEZ and similar systems, whether it’s through owners changing how much they use their cars, or an increase in electrification. Here at Marc Brunel Recruitment, we’re lucky to know several leading companies in the EV conversion industry, as well as restoration specialists and bespoke vehicle constructors. If you’re interested in being a part of the future of classic cars and working with one of these firms, get in touch.

– Akash Cheeda

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