London ULEZ will be expanded on 29 August, so there are plenty of deals on non-compliant cars
London Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion has begun fire sale of cars that don’t meet required emissions standards
You might not think London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is something you should care about if you live outside the capital, but it can be great news if you like a motoring bargain.
You see, the ULEZ is set to be expanded to the outer border of the M25 on 29 August – a significant increase in its reach that means thousands more motorists will be charged to drive non-compliant cars. As a result, such cars have flooded the used market, sending prices into freefall.
If you wanted a comfy diesel for the motorway slog to work, a little supermini to nip to the shops or even to speculate on a future classic, now is the time to buy.
There’s no need to feel guilty about using such cars outside built-up areas. The open air of the countryside dilutes the toxic NOx emissions to the point that they don’t pose a public health risk.
Moreover, many of the diesels which run afoul of the NOx standards for the ULEZ actually emit less CO2 than their petrol counterparts. As CO2 contributes to climate change, rather than respiratory illnesses, a good diesel is often the better choice of the two fuels for limiting the damage you cause to the environment.
This is our guide to the best bargains to come out of the ULEZ expansion, hand-picked from within a 25-mile radius of central London.
The best deals for non-ULEZ cars for motorway driving
Volkswagen Passat (2006-2010)
The sixth-generation Passat is a supple, refined and spacious saloon that remains a classy pick almost 20 years later. We found a 2006 car with the 2.0-litre turbodiesel – good for more than 50mpg on the motorway – and 72,000 miles on the clock listed for sale at £1689.
Chrysler 300C (2005-2010)
A Yank tank with a difference: about 20% of the 300C was derived from the 1996-2002 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which made it a solid long-distance cruiser. An example with the Mercedes-sourced 3.0-litre diesel V6, showing fewer than 100,000 miles on the dash, is yours for £2595.
Mercedes-Benz CLS (2004-2010)
Just £3200 gets you into what was once one of the world’s finest grand tourers. We’ve found one with the same V6 as in the 300C, a full service history and just two former keepers. Having racked up just 58,800 miles in 17 years, there’s plenty of life left in it.
The best deals on non-ULEZ small cars
Toyota Yaris (1999-2000)
Need a cheap second car for quick trips to the shops or to teach a young’un how to drive? It doesn’t get much better than the Mk1 Yaris. We found a 1999 petrol model with 65,000 miles on the clock for just £995.
This Bluemotion model is legendary for its ability to ration fuel. Officially, it would return a ludicrous 91.1mpg on the motorway and a still-remarkable 67.3mpg around town. You won’t pay any road tax to run it, either. Nice ones – albeit with high mileages – can be had for around £4000.
It might be as basic as ‘proper’ cars get, but if all you need is something to pop to the post office in, it’s hard to beat this Smart. Its torquey 0.8-litre diesel lump offers decent off-the-line urge at town speeds, and you get road-tax exemption to boot. Get a good one from £3000.
The best deals on non-ULEZ fun cars
Mazda MX-5 (1998-2000)
The MX-5 is the definitive B-road car not only because it’s brilliant to drive but also because it’s historically been so cheap that you aren’t overwhelmed with mechanical sympathy. Early Mk2 MX-5s can be had from £1000. They’re generally reliable but notorious for quickly rusting away when kept outdoors.
MG F (1995-2000)
This is a cracking little roadster, thanks to solid fundamentals and the fizzy K-series engine. Head gaskets are a problem, although many will have been fixed by now, but watch for chassis corrosion and problems with the complex hydragas suspension system. That means there are plenty of cheap fixer-uppers out there, if you’re willing to put the work in. We found one with plenty of rust prevention work and 65,000 miles on the clock for £1800.
Porsche Boxster (1996-2000)
The car that saved Porsche. A little less than £5000 is enough for a well-presented example that has a decent service history and a couple of quality-of-life modifications such as an auxiliary input for the stereo. Prices bottom out at around £3500, but you won’t want the hassle of buying a rough one.
The best deals on non-ULEZ 4x4s
Toyota Land Cruiser (2002-2009)
The Land Cruiser is famed for its dependability, so 100,000 miles is barely run in. Around £7000 gets you in a car that’s cosmetically rough with suspect histories, while nicer examples float around £10,000. It’s a great choice if you need something that just works, regardless of the conditions.
Most of these have done stratospheric mileages at this point, but if you wanted a 4×4 that’s as stylish as it is capable, you will struggle to do better than a Discovery 3. You can get a rough one for £3000, but we would recommend spending around double that to get a car with all its service stamps. Pay special note to whether the timing belt has been changed, as it’s an expensive job.
Jeep Cherokee (1984-2001)
The Cherokee has all the charm of a classic Land Rover at a fraction of the cost. This wagon is well on its way to cult status and is exceptionally capable off road, especially with a couple of choice modifications. About £5000 gets you a decent runner; £7500 buys an immaculate example.
Non-ULEZ future classics
Audi A2 (2000-2005)
The A2’s lofty mission resonates especially strongly today: the whole point of its lightweight, aerodynamic construction was to save fuel. As with the best classics, it was a terrible failure in its day, so it’s unlike anything to have come since. We found a 1.4-litre turbodiesel car in rough cosmetic shape and with 168,900 miles for £1650 – a perfect restoration candidate.
BMW 5 Series (1996-2000)
Arguably the final – and best – car to have come from the BMW of yesteryear, the E39-generation 5 Series offers a tremendous drive and has wonderfully restrained styling compared with today’s pig-nosed equivalent. Asking prices range from £1000 for one in desperate need of TLC to £8000 for immaculate examples with the M Sport package.
Citroën ZX (1991-1998)
This was a great car to drive in its era, outclassing both the Peugeot 306 and the contemporary Volkswagen Golf in the twisties. At £895, the ZX we found is a great prospect for a low-stakes project that you can plug away at over time.