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A guide to the congestion charge

18th July 2023

The congestion charge was first introduced in 2003 by the Department for Transport, to reduce traffic congestion in central London by discouraging the use of private vehicles. Following the success of the scheme in London, various clean air zones have been rolled out across different cities in the UK.  

This guide will explain the congestion charge in London and what it means for drivers.  

What is the congestion charge?

The Congestion Charge is a daily charge for drivers who enter the Congestion Charge zone between 7.00am and 6.00pm between Monday and Friday and 12.00noon and 6.00pm on weekends and bank holidays. There’s no charge between Christmas Day and the New Year’s Day bank holiday.  

What is the congestion zone?

The congestion zone starts at King’s Cross in the North and Vauxhall to the South, and Paddington and Whitechapel to the west and east. The TfL has published an interactive map so that drivers can check if their journeys cross into the congestion zone and plan accordingly.  

Who has to pay the congestion charge?

The congestion charge applies to the vast majority of cars on the road, including foreign-registered cars. The charge only applies to privately-owned vehicles with some exemptions for electric, hydrogen, vehicles with 9 or more seats, motor tricycles and some plug-in hybrid vehicles.  

There are other discounts available for other user groups, such as: 

  • Residents 
  • Blue badge holders 

How much does the congestion charge cost?

The congestion charge costs £15 a day and you only need to pay it once a day, no matter how many times you leave or enter the congestion charge zone in one day.  

How do I pay the congestion charge

The best way to pay the congestion charge is by paying in advance or on the same day as it’s cheaper. If you don’t pay in advance or on the same day the charge increases to £17.50 if you pay before midnight on the third day after travel.  

The most popular way to pay for frequent drivers in the congestion zone is by autopay which triggers a payment when your licence plate is picked up by the number plate recognition cameras. Alternatively, you can pay online on the Tfl website 

What is the penalty for non-payment

If you fail to pay the congestion charge before midnight on the 3rd day, you’ll be issued a PCN (Penalty Charge Notice). If the penalty notice is not paid within 28 days, a charge certificate will be issued to the registered keeper of the vehicle.  

Penalty Charge 

If paid within 14 days 

Charge certificate 




At Merityre Specialists, we have a number of fast-fit centres across the Southeast of England for all your automotive needs. For more advice, find your nearest centre or contact us to find out more.