Shortage of cheap used cars to avoid Ulez fee

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London households face a shortage of cheap used cars to avoid being hit by the planned expansion of London’s ultra low emission zone (Ulez), according to new analysis.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is expanding the zone to cover the whole of the capital from August 29 to boost air quality, with a £12.50 daily fee for vehicles not meeting minimum standards.

Transport for London (TfL) estimates that more than 200,000 drivers of non-compliant vehicles will be affected.

The typical cost for an electric car is even higher, at £36,102.

There are also just 5,150 Ulez-compliant cars on sale in London for £5,000 or less, according to the data shared with the PA news agency.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said Ulez expansion is “absolutely necessary” to reduce deaths from “toxic air”.

Prices of used cars are at record levels after supply chain disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic cut the number of new cars produced in the UK last year to the lowest since 1956.

Transport for London (TfL) is running a £110 million scrappage scheme, which offers up to £2,000 for people on certain low income or disability benefits who have a car that does not meet the standards.

A TfL-commissioned report by consultant Jacobs published in May 2022 warned of a “disproportionate” impact on low-income households “due to their lesser capacity to switch to a compliant vehicle and/or to change mode”.

Recent research by the Financial Conduct Authority found that three out of 10 UK adults have £1,000 or less in savings.

Auto Trader editorial director Erin Baker said: “When the average price of a used car is £18,000, a £2,000 scrappage scheme is a drop in the ocean for low-income drivers in outer London who want to avoid Ulez payments.

“Drivers looking for cheaper ways to beat the tax are also struggling.

“With the impact of the Covid pandemic likely to keep used car prices high for some time, the lack of affordable options for those on tighter budgets is a real worry in a cost-of-living crisis.

“Many of those who can’t use public transport will be put in an impossible position.”

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “While cleaning up London’s air is unquestionably the right thing to do, the next Ulez expansion comes at a time when many households are struggling with high bills in the cost-of-living crisis and simply can’t afford to switch to a compliant vehicle, especially in what is currently a very expensive second-hand market.

“The mayor should consider a more generous scrappage scheme or a means tested TfL-backed discounted leasing scheme for those who need to use their vehicles daily.”

The mayor’s spokeswoman said: “The mayor has been clear that the decision to expand the ultra low emission zone London-wide was not an easy one, but with around 4,000 Londoners still dying from toxic air every year it is absolutely necessary.

“Eighty-five per cent of vehicles in outer London are already Ulez-compliant.

“For those that aren’t, the mayor has announced the biggest scrappage scheme yet – £110 million – to help small businesses, charities and Londoners who need it most amid the cost-of-living crisis, including low-income and disabled Londoners.

“Businesses and charities can also apply for a grant to retrofit, rather than replace, certain vehicles.”

For diesel cars and vans to avoid the Ulez charge they must generally have been registered from September 2015, while most petrol models registered after 2005 are exempt.

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