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The coolest ULEZ-exempt cars for less than £5,000

Rory White

04 Jun 2021

If you want to look rich, but can't afford the £12.50-per-day ULEZ charge, these premium motors will turn heads and help you avoid the charge.

London is changing. Gone are the days of smoking through the centre in your gas guzzler, because since April 2019 there has been a daily charge if your car doesn't meet the required emission levels. Of course, there's the congestion charge to consider, too.

That congestion charge window was recently increased from 7am to 10pm, every day, plus the price has been hiked to £15 a day. But from 25 October 2021 the ULEZ area is also growing in size, stretching as far and the north and south circular roads.

For more information on the times and boundaries of these charges now and in the future, make sure you head to our article on the subject.

Now, nobody can avoid the congestion charge, even if that remains confined to a relatively small area of central London. The ULEZ, however, can be avoided if you own a petrol car from around 2005 or a diesel from around 2015.

You can check whether your car is exempt from the charge here, but in the meantime, we've picked out some of the coolest options that'll be exempt from the charge for less than £5,000.

Mercedes S-Class (2006-2013)

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Now, when considering cars like these, you need to keep in mind that just because they're cheap to buy, they won't be cheap to run.

This Mercedes S-Class is a case in point, but ensure it has a strong service history record, its air suspension isn't collapsing and that all (most of) its electrics work and you could be cruising through the ULEZ with a V6 or even a V8 petrol engine under the bonnet.

This generation of S-Class is impeccably built inside, too, and its pillowy drive is only bettered by the likes of Rolls-Royce. What's not to like?

BMW 6 Series Convertible (2005-2010)

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Yep. You can drive around London with the wind in your barnet in a BMW 6 Series Convertible straight-six or V8 petrol for less than £5000 while avoiding the ULEZ charge. However, we will add, the reliability record of the 6 isn't particularly rosy.

Make double sure of a decent service history, check the suspension and brakes thoroughly and that the electronics all need to work, including that complicated roof.

Still, if the roof does get stuck down, at least more people will be able to see how cool you are. Until it rains, of course.

Chrysler 300C SRT-8 (2005-2010)

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The Chrysler 300C looked like nothing else on the road when it was launched in 2005 and it still turns heads today.

You had the choice of six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, but why bother with that when there is this SRT-8 model at the top of the range. It comes with a thumping great 6.1-litre Hemi V8 engine that produces 425hp and sounds superb.

There are very few around for sale these days and the ones that are have often had a trip to Halfords. However, for just under £5000 it is still possible to find the odd bargain SRT-8. You won't be disappointed. Unless you like saving fuel.

Land Rover Range Rover (2005-2012)

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Talking of financial buffers, you might want to do a decent bit of saving ahead of buying a Range Rover of this vintage. When working, they are some of the finest cars ever made, with lovely interiors, a cosseting ride, superb practicality and off-road prowess. When they're working...

Yes, the L322 Range Rover we're focussing on here has, er, a bit of a reputation for unreliability to say the least. You'll also need the later 4.2-litre supercharged V8 petrol rather than the earlier 4.4-litre V8 to move under the ULEZ radar, making £5000 examples a bit leggy.

However, Land Rover owners are a dedicated bunch. Buy one that has had its issues ironed out, and there are genuinely very few cars as rounded for the money.

Alfa Romeo Brera (2005-2010)

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We couldn't have a list of cool cars without an Alfa included. The Brera wasn't a smash hit when it was launched in 2005, but there are still enough on the used market to give some choice.

There are four-cylinder petrols that qualify for ULEZ exemption, but if you can find one, go for the 3.2-litre V6, which goes and sounds like an Alfa should. Well, the sound part anyway - the Brera isn't the lightest or spriteliest Alfa, truth be told. Still, its looks will have heads spinning.

But, you'll never guess what. The Brera isn't particularly reliable, either. Still, like all the cars here, make the right checks, get friendly with your local mechanic and keep back some buffer funds and there's no reason you couldn't be scything through the city in a V6 Alfa for buttons.


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Rory White

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