Congestion Charge London – When Do I Need to Pay?

If you’re planning a trip to London, then make sure you have brushed up on all of the ‘road user charges’ that apply to certain areas of the capital if you drive your car through them.

The two main ones that affect most drivers are the Congestion Charge, and the ULEZ. See our ULEZ Guide for the Uninitiated for more details on whether your car meets the required emission standards to avoid this particular charge. 

The Congestion Charge (hereafter referred to as ‘CC’) is an £11.50 daily charge for driving within the ‘congestion charge zone’, and operates separately to the ULEZ – meaning that whilst the ‘zones’ are the same, some motorists may be required to pay for both if driving within the zone at the wrong time. Access the TFL website to pay online.

If you do not pay your CC fee by the end of the day after your travel through the zone, you will receive a fine. It may be worth paying in advance for making journeys where possible; as it limits the likelihood of you forgetting to pay!

 The CC applies if you drive within the zone between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. Any driving within the zone outside of these times is exempt. 25 – 31 December is the only extended period of the year where the CC is not active. 

The ULEZ however operates 24 hours a day, 364 days a year! (Christmas day is excluded)

There are ways of minimising the effect of the CC though:

  • A car can be stationary within the zone during the ‘active’ hours and not be charged. The charge will only apply if you drive the vehicle within those hours.
  • You can set up auto-pay (as you can with the ULEZ) to ensure that you don’t forget to pay for your travel within the zone; and remove the requirement for logging onto the TFL website every day to manually make a payment. 
  • The auto-pay feature also reduces the daily charge by £1; although there is an annual registration fee of £10 – so be sure that you will be driving into the zone more than 10 times per year to make this worthwhile.

The only way for the average motorist to avoid the CC though – without being a resident of the relevant zone – is to drive a car that qualifies for the ‘Cleaner Vehicle Discount’, I.E. meets the following list of criteria:

  • emit no more than 75g/km of CO2 (Euro 6 Standard)
  • have a minimum 20 mile zero emission capable range

The Cleaner Vehicle Discount is a 100% discount, but keyly it is a DISCOUNT, so you must apply for it with the TFL and register your car with them. You cannot just drive into the zone with impunity until you have done so.

The Cleaner Vehicle Discount rules are changing on 25 October 2021. From this date onwards to qualify you must drive a battery-powered electric only vehicle; and on 25 December 2025 the Cleaner Vehicle Discount will be removed entirely. 

 You are EXEMPT from the CC (no registration required) if you drive a motorcycle. 

Why not take a look below at some of our top ‘Congestion Charge Beating’ picks:



Due to the Covid-19 Crisis, the government have opted to change the terms around the current Congestion Charge – both in the daily fee and when the charge applies. We have put together a summary HERE!


About Carsnip

Carsnip is the UK’s largest used car search engine, with over 500,000 dealer sold used cars across the UK. We operate a natural language search engine, to help you find your perfect used car, and narrow down the choice by what’s most important to you.

About the Author

Sam Wardega is a freelance car journalist working on behalf of

A lifetime Petrolhead who started with Hot Wheels aged 2, and now just spends his life savings on owning his dream cars. As they say, boys don’t stop playing with toys; they just get bigger and more expensive!

Related articles