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The best cheap ULEZ-compliant petrol cars

Looking to change your car to avoid London's ULEZ zone charges? Here are our top petrol-powered recommendations.

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With the expansion of the London ULEZ zone out to the boundary of M25 now in force, you may find that your car no longer meets the zone’s emissions requirements, leading a hefty £12.50 daily charge for taking your vehicle on the road.

If you’re in this position, you have the choice of paying this tax every single day you need to drive within the M25, or selling your your non-compliant car and buying another, newer, car to avoid this charge. The good news is that there are plenty of ULEZ-compliant cars available relatively cheaply on the used market – and they could also save you a few more pounds at the pump in the long run too.

Transport for London does have a scrappage scheme available for eligible Londoners to claim up to £2,000 by scrapping their current car. But if you live outside London and have to drive in every day for work, bad luck. The Mayor of London doesn’t care about you.

Which cars are compliant with the new ULEZ rules?

The ULEZ requirements are based on a car’s ‘Euro’ emissions standards, which are EU/UK legal requirements for exhaust pollution. The key standards here are Euro 4 for petrol cars and Euro 6 for diesel cars.

Once the expanded ULEZ goes into effect, you will need to have either a petrol car that meets Euro 4 emissions standards (which should be any petrol car built after 2006) or a diesel car that meets Euro 6 emissions standards (which is any diesel car first registered after 2015). Any hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles will be compliant with the rules.

Because compliant diesel cars are much newer, they’re also likely to be more expensive. So if you’re looking for a cheap car that meets the new ULEZ rules, it’s going to be petrol-powered.

You may find some older petrol cars built before 2006 that meet Euro 4 standards, as car companies had some models on sale well before the laws came into effect, but you’ll need to check carefully.

Bear in mind that the ‘Euro 4’ standard is the minimum from August 2023, but you can bet London to a pound that this will move to Euro 5 cars (2011 onwards) in coming years – and the daily rate will certainly start going up from the current £12.50 as well. If you plan to keep your next car for several years, you’re probably better looking for a Euro 5 or Euro 6 model. They’ll be quite a bit more expensive but you’re less likely to have to sell them anytime soon.

Looking for a cheap, ULEZ-compliant car? Start here.

We’ve spent some time browsing the listings of our premier car marketplace partner site, Motors.co.uk, to find the best cheap used cars that comply with the London ULEZ.

These cars are located all over the country, but plenty of car dealers offer nationwide delivery (although usually at extra cost). Incidentally, we’ve concentrated on cars that are Euro 5-compliant, so you can be confident that your wallet won’t be raided by the Mayor of London every day for at least a while yet…

The model availability and prices mentioned below are accurate as of August 2023.

Under £3k

Mini hatch (2006 to 2012)

We found a 2010 Mini on Motors.co.uk from £1,750

The Mini hatch is a British classic, and this second-generation model is the cheapest car to pick up on our list. It’s fun and economical to drive, and is well suited to navigating the boroughs of London.

That said, it doesn’t come with much boot space, and it could run up an expensive repair bill if parts begin to fail.

Ford Focus (2011 to 2018)

We found a 2012 Ford Focus on Motors.co.uk for £2,320

Ford Focus (2011 - 2014) front view | Expert Rating

Praised by reviewers for its comfortable ride and value-for-money, the family-sized Ford Focus is both practical and cheap to run. There are thousands of models available on the used market for affordable prices.

This third-generation model currently holds an Expert Rating of 72%, and is available as either a five-door hatchback or estate.

Vauxhall Insignia (2008 to 2017)

We found a 2010 Vauxhall Insignia on Motors.co.uk for £2,490

The Vauxhall Insignia certainly offers value for money – you’re unlikely to find this level of interior space and comfort for under £3k. This car is well-suited to motorway cruising and has a reputation for long-term reliability.

The Insignia isn’t very exciting to drive, however, and smaller cars are more fuel-efficient.

Under £5k

Ford Fiesta (2008 to 2017)

We found a 2013 Ford Fiesta on Motors.co.uk for £3,000

Ford Fiesta (2008 - 2013) front view | Expert Rating

This sixth-generation Ford Fiesta hatchback was the UK’s best-selling car every single year from its launch to its retirement, and for good reason. It’s fun to drive, cheap to run, and quite affordable on the used market too. It currently holds an Expert Rating of 77%.

Volkswagen Golf (2009 to 2013)

We found a 2012 Volkswagen Golf on Motors.co.uk for £3,950

The Mk6 Volkswagen Golf is an excellent family car choice, which comes with a well-built interior and a powerful but economical engine. It offers comfort for inner-city driving, and provides a boost of speed on the motorway should you need it.

However, other mid-sized hatchbacks offer a bit more boot space.

Skoda Octavia (2004 to 2013)

We found a 2011 Skoda Octavia on Motors.co.uk for £3,995

A popular choice for taxi companies across the UK, this second-generation Skoda Octavia is a capable all-rounder with a spacious and practical cabin, and a large boot. It’s also very fuel efficient and has proven reliable over the years.

If interior quality is one of your top priorities though, you’re better off taking a look at the Volkswagen Golf instead.

Under £10k

SEAT Leon (2012 to 2019)

We found a 2013 SEAT Leon on Motors.co.uk for £5,995

A dependable family car with satisfying driving dyanmics, the SEAT Leon offers a practical interior, punchy performance and attractive looks for a cheaper price than the closely related Mk7 Volkswagen Golf. It currently holds an Expert Rating of 76%.

Nissan Qashqai (2006 to 2013)

We found a 2012 Nissan Qashqai on Motors.co.uk for £7,995

Suited to ferrying a family of four from A to B, the Nissan Qashqai offers a comfortable ride with an elevated SUV driving position and adequate engine performance.

This first-generation model has garnered a reputation for being durable, but clutch and suspension issues are commonly reported by Qashqai drivers, which can lead to a large repair bill.

Toyota GT86 (2012 to 2020)

We found a 2012 Toyota GT86 on Motors.co.uk for £9,995

Toyota GT86 (2012 - 2016) front view | Expert Rating

Fast and agile, the Toyota GT86 is a competitively priced sports car that is serious fun to drive and rather comfortable too.

That said, there aren’t many on the used market to pick from, and this coupé doesn’t offer the best fuel economy. It currently holds an Expert Rating of 80%.

Under £15k

Mazda 6 (2013 to 2022)

We found a 2014 Mazda 6 on Motors.co.uk for £11,100

Mazda 6 saloon (2013 onwards) – front three-quarter

The Mazda 6 was one of the more highly-regarded family-sized saloons during its time on sale – commended for its comfort, clean looks and stylish cabin.

However, some alteratives offer better rear headroom, and the Mazda’s running costs are on the high side too. It currently holds an Expert Rating of 73%.

Volkswagen Tiguan (2008 to 2016)

We found a 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan on Motors.co.uk for £11,949

The first-generation Volkswagen Tiguan is a strong used SUV choice. It offers great driver visibility, good fuel economy, a spacious and well-built interior and it is frequently praised for its long-term reliability.

Some owners have noted that the car has been rather expensive to service, however.

Audi Q5 (2008 to 2016)

We found a 2011 Audi Q5 on Motors.co.uk for £12,990

The Audi Q5 is a spacious and sohisticated SUV with neat handling and strong performance. It is easy to drive and park, and while it may be on the more expensive side, there are several of these first-generation models available on the used market for under £15k.

Fuel economy is also acceptable, but smaller cars on this list provide more miles per gallon.

First off, check your current car’s compliance before opting for a change. Your’s car’s emissions standard will be listed in the vehicle’s V5C log book. You can also type your registration into Motorway’s ULEZ compliance checker for an immediate answer.

If your car is non-compliant, head over to Motors.co.uk and use the in-depth search engine to find your desired model. After entering your postcode to find suitable cars in your area, set your budget and fuel type in the side bar, and enter the keyword ‘Euro 4’ or ‘Euro 5’ in the ‘Vehicle Features’ tab.

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Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is the Deputy Editor at The Car Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in car-buying need with independent and impartial advice.