Red and white congestion charge sign against blue sky

Direct Line Car Insurance customers who are London drivers will probably be more than familiar with the Congestion Charge. If your memory needs to be refreshed or you are a regional driver thinking of driving into the capital, then don’t set off without reading our introductory guide…

What is the Congestion Charge?

Introduced in February 2003, the Congestion Charge is designed to alleviate traffic gridlock in London and to help raise funds for public transport improvements in the capital. Payment of the Congestion Charge – £8 if you pay by midnight on the day of travel or £10 if you ‘pay next day’, by midnight the following charging day – allows you to enter, drive within and exit the Congestion Charging Zone as many times as you wish on that day. The Congestion Charge applies to weekdays only – Saturdays and Sundays are exempt. This means that, if you enter the zone on a Friday, you have until midnight on Monday to ‘pay next day’, albeit through the call centre or website only. Weekends, bank holidays and the three days between Christmas and New Year are also non-charging days.

How does it work?

Basically, cameras read your vehicle registration mark as you enter, drive within or exit the Congestion Charging Zone. They then check it against the database and, if you have not paid, you will be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and fined £100. If you pay this within 14 days, the fine is reduced to £50. If you fail to pay it within 28 days, the penalty is increased to £150. Failure to pay this can lead to action being taken by the County Court. If you have paid your Congestion Charge, or your vehicle is exempt from charges or 100% discounted, the record of your vehicle will be automatically wiped from the database.

Where do I pay my Congestion Charge?

You can pay at selected shops, petrol stations and car parks, by post – using a downloaded form from the website – by telephone, by SMS text message from your mobile phone and at BT Internet kiosks.

Who is exempt from or discounted under the Congestion Charge?

Not all drivers have to pay the Congestion Charge. Exemptions, discounts and possible refunds apply to:

  • Those who operate 10 or more cars in the capital – there is a fleet scheme to make paying easier
  • Residents who live within the Congestion Charging Zone
  • Disabled people or institutions for disabled people who hold a Blue Badge
  • Drivers of alternative fuel vehicles
  • Motor-tricycles, one metre or less in width and two metres or less in length
  • Vehicles with nine or more seats
  • Drivers of roadside recovery vehicles
  • Accredited breakdown organisations
  • Drivers of electrically propelled vehicles
  • NHS staff and fire fighters may also be able to claim a reimbursement of the Congestion Charge from their employers for certain operational journeys undertaken as part of their work
  • All two-wheelers, London licensed taxis and minicabs, certain operational vehicles used by the emergency services (including HM Coastguard and Port Authorities) and certain operational vehicles used by the eight London Boroughs, either partly or wholly within the congestion charging zone, the armed forces, Royal Parks Agency and breakdown organisations

To find out more about the Congestion Charge, how it could affect you, how to pay and how to avoid paying a penalty, visit the Congestion Charge website.

In the same vein, don’t risk paying the penalty for driving without adequate car insurance. With Direct Line, it’s quick and easy to apply for a quote for our great value car insurance online. Buy online at today and you could also benefit from an instant online discount.

Please note that the information contained within this article is correct at the time of creation. Information may have changed since this article was published by Direct Line.