All cars are equal, but some cars are more equal than others. In the latter group are those that may enter a designated and legally enforceable Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) for free. We could debate the rights and wrongs of such zones, but it’s a fact that some vehicles can enter them freely, while others are subject to a fine.
Whether a vehicle meets ULEZ standards has become very important to used car buyers. For many people, it’s the difference between passing up on a car or buying it. So, what are the rules? Essentially, to drive into central London for free, you must have a petrol car compliant with Euro 4 standards (usually registered after 2005) or a Euro 6 diesel (usually registered after September 2015).
Although you can use ‘ULEZ’ as a search term in the online classifieds, this isn’t always the answer. It’s best not to believe what a seller or website says, because there are exceptions due to when a car was built or registered – often quite different things.
The definitive guide is the Transport for London website, provided you know the car’s numberplate.
The good news is that the ULEZ scheme hasn’t wiped out interesting petrol engines – far from it. Here are some of the most interesting cars you can go and buy to drive with free abandon in London.
Well, not totally free, because there’s also the congestion charge (now seven days a week, 7am to 10pm), while the ULEZ is 24 hours a day. Don’t forget that…
2004 MAZDA RX-8, 76,000 miles, £1500: Here we have a 1.3-litre rotary engine – which might well be burning the odd litre of oil every day, due to dodgy seals. Never mind, because the RX-8 is a sports car on the cusp of becoming a classic. There are still some sound examples, but plenty are parked on flat tyres in urban front gardens. ULEZ compliance is one reason to save one.
2007 ALFA ROMEO BRERA 3.2 JTS V6 SV Q4, 81,000 miles, £3950: The world would be a much poorer place without the roar of an Italian V6 to brighten up our days. The Brera is a beautiful and striking coupé that stands out from a central area strangled by Toyota Prius-dominated anonymity. Four-wheel drive would help. Values are attractively marginal.