Currently reading: Non-ULEZ-compliant classics at bargain prices
London Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion has begun fire sale of cars that don't meet required emissions standards

You might not think London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is something you should care about if you live outside the capital, but it can be great news if you like a motoring bargain.

You see, the ULEZ is set to be expanded to encompass all of Greater London on 29 August – a significant increase in its reach that means thousands more motorists will be charged to drive non-compliant cars. As a result, such cars have flooded the used market, sending prices into freefall.

If you wanted a comfy diesel for the motorway slog to work, a little supermini to nip to the shops or even to speculate on a future classic, now is the time to buy.

There’s no need to feel guilty about using such cars outside built-up areas, as the open air of the countryside helps to dilute the toxic NOx emissions, making them less harmful. Moreover, many of the diesels which run afoul of the NOx standards for the ULEZ actually emit less CO2 than their petrol counterparts, reducing their impact on the climate. That said, it's still best to keep non-compliant cars away from the city centre.

Here is our guide to the best bargains to come out of the ULEZ expansion, hand-picked from within a 25-mile radius of central London.

The best deals for non-ULEZ cars for motorway driving

Volkswagen Passat (2006-2010)

2006Volkswagen Passat front tracking

The sixth-generation Passat is a supple, refined and spacious saloon that remains a classy pick almost 20 years later. We found a 2006 car with the 2.0-litre turbodiesel – good for more than 50mpg on the motorway – and 72,000 miles on the clock listed for sale at £1689.

Chrysler 300C (2005-2010)

Chrysler 300C front tracking drifting

A Yank tank with a difference: about 20% of the 300C was derived from the 1996-2002 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which made it a solid long-distance cruiser. An example with the Mercedes-sourced 3.0-litre diesel V6, showing fewer than 100,000 miles on the dash, is yours for £2595.

Mercedes-Benz CLS (2004-2010)

Mercedes-Benz CLS 2004 side tracking

Just £3200 gets you into what was once one of the world’s finest grand tourers. We’ve found one with the same V6 as in the 300C, a full service history and just two former keepers. Having racked up just 58,800 miles in 17 years, there’s plenty of life left in it.

The best deals on non-ULEZ small cars

Toyota Yaris (1999-2000)

Toyota Yaris 1999 front quarter tracking

Need a cheap second car for quick trips to the shops or to teach a young’un how to drive? It doesn’t get much better than the Mk1 Yaris. We found a 1999 petrol model with 65,000 miles on the clock for just £995.

Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TDI Bluemotion (2009-2014)

Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion front quarter tracking

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This Bluemotion model is legendary for its ability to ration fuel. Officially, it would return a ludicrous 91.1mpg on the motorway and a still-remarkable 67.3mpg around town. You won’t pay any road tax to run it, either. Nice ones – albeit with high mileages – can be had for around £4000.

Smart Fortwo CDI (2007-2014)

Smart Fortwo 2012 front quarter tracking

It might be as basic as ‘proper’ cars get, but if all you need is something to pop to the post office in, it’s hard to beat this Smart. Its torquey 0.8-litre diesel lump offers decent off-the-line urge at town speeds, and you get road-tax exemption to boot. Get a good one from £3000.

The best deals on non-ULEZ fun cars

Mazda MX-5 (1998-2000)

Mazda MX-5 1998 front driving through forest

The MX-5 is the definitive B-road car not only because it’s brilliant to drive but also because it’s historically been so cheap that you aren't overwhelmed with mechanical sympathy. Early Mk2 MX-5s can be had from £1000. They're generally reliable but notorious for quickly rusting away when kept outdoors.

MG F (1995-2000)

MG F front quarter drifting

This is a cracking little roadster, thanks to solid fundamentals and the fizzy K-series engine. Head gaskets are a problem, although many will have been fixed by now, but watch for chassis corrosion and problems with the complex hydragas suspension system. That means there are plenty of cheap fixer-uppers out there, if you’re willing to put the work in. We found one with plenty of rust prevention work and 65,000 miles on the clock for £1800.

Porsche Boxster (1996-2000)

Porsche Boxster front quarter tracking

The car that saved Porsche. A little less than £5000 is enough for a well-presented example that has a decent service history and a couple of quality-of-life modifications such as an auxiliary input for the stereo. Prices bottom out at around £3500, but you won’t want the hassle of buying a rough one.

The best deals on non-ULEZ 4x4s

Toyota Land Cruiser (2002-2009)

Toyota Land Cruiser front driving through mud

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The Land Cruiser is famed for its dependability, so 100,000 miles is barely run in. Around £7000 gets you in a car that’s cosmetically rough with suspect histories, while nicer examples float around £10,000. It's a great choice if you need something that just works, regardless of the conditions.

Land Rover Discovery 3 (2004-2010)

Land Rover Discovery 3 climbing over rocks

Most of these have done stratospheric mileages at this point, but if you wanted a 4x4 that’s as stylish as it is capable, you will struggle to do better than a Discovery 3. You can get a rough one for £3000, but we would recommend spending around double that to get a car with all its service stamps. Pay special note to whether the timing belt has been changed, as it’s an expensive job.

Jeep Cherokee (1984-2001)

Jeep Cherokee front static

The Cherokee has all the charm of a classic Land Rover at a fraction of the cost. This wagon is well on its way to cult status and is exceptionally capable off road, especially with a couple of choice modifications. About £5000 gets you a decent runner; £7500 buys an immaculate example.

Non-ULEZ future classics

Audi A2 (2000-2005)

Audi A2 front cornering

The A2’s lofty mission resonates especially strongly today: the whole point of its lightweight, aerodynamic construction was to save fuel. As with the best classics, it was a terrible failure in its day, so it’s unlike anything to have come since. We found a 1.4-litre turbodiesel car in rough cosmetic shape and with 168,900 miles for £1650 – a perfect restoration candidate.

BMW 5 Series (1996-2000)

BMW 5 Series front cornering

Arguably the final – and best – car to have come from the BMW of yesteryear, the E39-generation 5 Series offers a tremendous drive and has wonderfully restrained styling compared with today’s pig-nosed equivalent. Asking prices range from £1000 for one in desperate need of TLC to £8000 for immaculate examples with the M Sport package.

Citroën ZX (1991-1998)

Citroen ZX side tracking

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This was a great car to drive in its era, outclassing both the Peugeot 306 and the contemporary Volkswagen Golf in the twisties. At £895, the ZX we found is a great prospect for a low-stakes project that you can plug away at over time.

Read more: Best ULEZ-compliant used cars


Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin Autocar
Title: Editorial Assistant, Autocar

As a reporter, Charlie plays a key role in setting the news agenda for the automotive industry. He joined Autocar in July 2022 after a nine-month stint as an apprentice with sister publication, What Car?. He's previously contributed to The Intercooler, and placed second in Hagerty’s 2019 Young Writer competition with a feature on the MG Metro 6R4

He is the proud owner of a Fiat Panda 100HP, and hopes to one day add a lightweight sports car like an Alpine A110 or a Lotus Elise S1 to his collection.

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HiPo 289 15 April 2024

The point of ULEZ is to stop toxic exhaust fumes from poisoning the people who live in Central London.  There is a mountain of evidence that proves the link between NOX and particulates and heart desease, breathing disorders like asthma and other illnesses.  The only sure way to reduce exhaust pollution is to buy a vehicle without an exhaust.  A good start would be to avoid any car mentioned in this article.

DVB78 7 August 2023

CO2 does NOT contribute to Climate Change

It is the food of plant life on earth!

Paulkew 5 August 2023
The ulez goes out to the M25? That's going to annoy the people who live between the border of London and the motorway, having London impose policies where they live in Surrey etc.
It's not going out to the M25 unless there are bits of the motorway inside London, Kahn has no authority outside Greater London. Hopefully he doesn't have any inside after the next election.
Unlike the present ulez, there is no ring road for people who don't want to enter it to follow on its border.