London’s Ulez is still causing headaches for some used car dealers

  • Some dealers say they’re struggling to sell Ulez-compliant cars as buyers can’t afford them
  • But others have successfully prepped their businesses and seeing good trade
  • Around 60,000 vehicle owners a day are being clobbered with Ulez charge
  • Ulez expansion has been branded ‘a tax on the poor’ by TV star Mike Brewer

Time 2:05 pm, November 14, 2023

The expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) is still causing headaches for some used car dealers, while others are seeing little to no effect in business.

The zone was expanded to London’s outer boroughs including Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon on August 29. Cars entering the zone have to meet Euro 4 standards for petrols and Euro 6 standards for diesels.

Any vehicle not complying with the requirements have to pay £12.50 a day, and figures released last month showed around 60,000 vehicle owners a day were being clobbered with the charge.

At the time, Car Dealer reported some used car dealers were turning away non-compliant cars as they became a ‘pain’ to sell as the expansion kicked in.

Mr Wheeler Dealer, and Car Dealer Used Car Awards host, Mike Brewer, called the expanded zone a ‘tax on the poor’.

Meanwhile, business was booming for dealers outside of the zone thanks to an influx of non-compliant motors, especially diesels.

Over two months on, some dealers are still struggling to sell cars as customers can’t afford to switch into compliant second-hand cars.

Cars have to meet strict rules to enter zone; EVs are naturally exempt

Last week, MyLondon reported some used car dealers have given up buying Ulez-compliant cars as they can’t sell them on to locals.

Gulfam Asghar Jajj, a sales executive at House of Motors London, Ilford, told the website: ‘It’s not good for the business at the moment. Because there are so many good cars [that are not Ulez compliant], and people are looking for Ulez cars that are expensive […] that impacts our business.

‘They look at the price and they can’t afford it.’

Asghar Jajja added that the cost of putting cars through their MOTs is a drain on the company’s bottom line – especially if the cars then take time to sell.

However, while some dealers are suffering with business drying up, others are seeing little difference in trade.

Samuel Evans, director of Sidcup-based Beck Evans, told Car Dealer that selling non-compliant cars can be problematic, but many of his customers have already made the switch to compliant cars.

‘We have had some [non-compliant] cars come into stock and they have sold quickly, but we try not to stock them unless they are part-exchanges as they stick around.

‘We are right in the zone and we have to pay the charge [for non-compliant cars] every time we need to move them.’

He added: ‘Customers in the M25 are more aware of Ulez and won’t buy a non-Ulez car.

‘Most of our customers have changed their cars or vans over the last year [to compliant ones].’

Taslim Miah, founder of car supermarket group Watford-based Car Planet (who has appeared on the Car Dealer Podcast, above) shifted his business to stock more Ulez-compliant cars before the zone was expanded, in an attempt to keep business moving smoothly.

‘Prior to the expansion, we anticipated the change and shifted our inventory more towards Ulez-compliant vehicles. This decision was guided by a clear shift in consumer behaviour,’ he told Car Dealer.

‘Customers were more prepared this time, opting to buy Ulez-compliant cars well ahead of the deadline, resulting in much less demand overflow post-deadline compared to the initial Ulez introduction.’

He added: ‘Our recent sales data further supports this trend. Pre-Ulez expansion, it took an average of eight-plus days to sell non-Ulez cars. Post-expansion, this duration has increased to 32-plus days, clearly indicating the need to shift our stock towards Ulez-compliant vehicles, contrary to the strategy adopted by some other dealerships.’

Miah said 10-15% of Car Planet’s inventory remains non-Ulez compliant to appeal to customers outside of the zone.

He also added that there is ‘steady demand’ for Ulez-compliant cars within the zone, and any slowdown in sales is due to wider issues such as cost-of-living concerns and higher interest rates.

Are you a car dealer struggling to sell cars in the Ulez zone or perhaps business is booming? We’d love to hear your story – contact us using the details on the ‘About Us’ page

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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