London ULEZ loophole can help classic car owners avoid daily charges

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London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is set to expand again on August 29, 2023, with Transport for London launching a £110million scrappage scheme to slash the number of polluting cars. The scheme helps Londoners who receive certain low-income or disability benefits apply to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s scheme which could give some drivers a grant worth up to £5,000.

However, some drivers are looking into the viability of other options including using a classic car to get around.

Drivers can apply with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to stop paying vehicle tax if it was built more than 40 years ago.

For example, when the ULEZ launched in April 2019, vehicles built before 1979 were eligible to apply for the historic vehicle tax class.

All vehicles that have a historic vehicle tax class are exempt from the ULEZ. This tax class excludes any vehicle used commercially (for example, coffee vans or street food vans).

In line with the existing LEZ discount all vehicles constructed before January 1, 1973, are exempt from the ULEZ, regardless of commercial use or otherwise.

If a vehicle meets the above criteria but is registered outside the UK, it is also exempt, but the owner will need to register it with Transport for London before travelling in the zone.

Current ULEZ regulations require a petrol car to conform to Euro 4 emissions standards or later, while diesels must be Euro 6 and above.

Classic car experts Hagerty have compiled a list of nine of the best affordable, ULEZ-compliant historic vehicles.

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These nine vehicles are registered for the 40-year-plus historic status and, as a bonus, are free from vehicle tax.

All Mk1 Vauxhall Cavaliers are of course ULEZ exempt, but with slightly higher average prices as they become accepted as true classics, it’s left to the first few years of Cavalier Mk2 production to fly the flag for Vauxhall in Hagerty’s list of affordable ULEZ choices.

It benefits from its modernity relative to the Mk1, with front-wheel drive liberating extra cabin space, and relatively modern engines for its era for smooth, economical performance. 

All but the sportiest Mk2s make up our price spread, with 1300 saloons being cheapest, and 1800i five-door hatches – making 114bhp – covering the top end.

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The Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 has a price range of between £1,925 and £2,425 according to Hagerty’s Price Guide.

Another popular Vauxhall model which is also ULEZ-compliant is the Vauxhall FE Victor/VX, which petrolheads can get their hands on for between £2,200 and £2,500.

The Austin Metro also makes the list, with it being a personal favourite of the late Princess Diana, who was often seen driving around Earls Court in an Austin Metro L in the early eighties.

Launched in 1980, three years of the Metro are now ULEZ compliant, and Austin’s shot at making a more modern Mini is as ideal for scooting around a city as it ever was. 

At 3.4 metres long, parking shouldn’t be an issue – that’s nearly two feet shorter than a modern Fiesta. 

Hagerty claims the most expensive model should not cost more than £5,000, but regular models can be snapped up for between £1,075 and £2,425.

Austin appears on the list again, with its Maestro model, which drivers can find for around £2,500.

The experts said: “Yet another favourite, the Austin Maestro was a car you’d once have seen everywhere and in every city, but launched in 1982, the first couple of years of Maestro now benefit from ULEZ exemption, so perhaps we’ll see a few more enjoying life within the M25 in the coming years.

“The most affordable 1.3 and 1.6-litre models now qualify. The MG Maestro, launched in 1983, is also now old enough, but with higher prices (spanning £1100–£5800 for non-turbos), you won’t find it in this list. 

“A regular Maestro will still happily handle city-bound errands, and there’s a growing enthusiast base too.”

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