Does ULEZ unfairly impact pensioners?

Is it fair that retirees are bearing the brunt of the charges?

It’s been about four months now since London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone was expanded, bringing 5 million more people into the scheme, and taking the total coverage to 1,500km and around 9 million people in the capital.

Around this time last year, Sadiq Khan said that nine in 10 households in outer London with a car were compliant, so there were very few non-compliant cars in the expansion.

But, it seems this wasn’t accurate: some boroughs estimate close to a third of households with cars were affected.

You see, the Mayor and TFL’s figure had come from the data collected by automatic number recognition cameras set up for the original LEZ, which targets HGVs. There aren’t many of them, and they’re mostly on main roads.

The actual figure was closer to 700,000 London households owning cars that aren’t ULEZ-compliant, revealed by the RAC. All these people will be liable for a daily charge of £12.50 or a penalty of £180 for driving anywhere in London if they keep those vehicles. There are about 1.9 million cars registered to households in outer London, so the idea that non-compliance could be nearer a third is very significant.

It’s possible that the current monitoring setup doesn’t filter out motorists coming into the zone from outside greater London. What’s more, it seems like it’s not accounting for local journeys. So how many trips to do a food shop, visit an elderly relative, attend hospital appointments or other commonplace journeys aren’t being considered?

Who’s affected by ULEZ?

Our team at Howden Kingston have been paying close attention to how our clients are affected by ULEZ. Located in Surrey but within the expanded ULEZ zone, Kingston residents are essentially on the outskirts of London. The borough also has a retired age population of 14%, with many owning older vehicles because they’re easier to drive and more familiar, or for sentimental reasons. And in some cases, they simply can’t afford the cost of a new motor.  

Izad Jamali-Poor, an Insurance Consultant at Howden Kingston said: “I’ve had several conversations both over the phone and in person about the cost-of-living crisis and the squeeze on everyone’s wallets. Combined with the rise in insurance prices, it has been very difficult. The ULEZ expansion has been like a cherry on top of these stresses, as it seems to have most affected low-income households and pensioners.

Older clients feel like they are being punished despite their personal risk history. They often express that older cars tend to be more reliable and less costly to them, with one client opting to pay ULEZ charges due to the expenses of another car, and simply choosing to drive less often making it the more viable option.”

Now, encouraging more people to choose alternative methods of travel over driving is one of the intended effects of ULEZ. After all, its aim is to reduce harmful emissions. However, of all types of people, surely retirees are more likely not to be able to walk or cycle?

Yes, public transport is an option, but local bus routes are being slashed left and right and there are frequent train and underground strikes. Where does that leave a 77-year-old with limited mobility, who needs to get to their doctor’s appointment? They’re reliant on a family member, friend or carer, or forced to pay the unaffordable ULEZ charge.

Which vehicles are affected by ULEZ?

To be compliant, and not have to pay the daily ULEZ charge, your vehicle has to meet certain emissions standards. For petrol cars, that means they need to have been registered after 2005 to meet the criteria, whereas diesel vehicles need to meet Euro 6 standards. This indicated they must register following September 2015. However, there are exceptions to this rule; petrol cars that meet the Euro 4 standard required have been available since 2001.

So generally speaking, diesel cars over a decade old, and petrol cars nearly 20 years old probably won’t be compliant (though it’s definitely worth double checking here, as it’s all about how much your motor emits).

But the number of cars aged 13 years old or over in Great Britain has increased nearly fivefold since 1994, a dramatic rise. There are now 6.55 million cars from before 2011 on the road today.

There’s a couple of explanations for this; people are driving less, so the lower mileages mean cars are lasting longer. There’s also the cost-pressure of purchasing a new car, with many cutting down on non-essential costs, and looking for cheaper deals. The average price of a used car sits at just over £16,000, and there are fewer cars priced under £10,000 available compared to three years ago.

And how do retirees fit into this picture? Well, only 11% of over 65’s bought a new car in the last two years, and only 14% bought a second-hand motor in this time period. Compare this to over a quarter (28%) of 35–44-year-olds who bought a new second-hand car. If over 65’s are less likely to upgrade their vehicle, whether buying new or second-hand, it’s more probable that their cars are older and therefore within the non-compliant ULEX category. That means, to drive within the zone just once a week amounts to £650 a year, or twice a week £1,300.

Izad continued: “For some of our clients, a lack of technological prowess has also left them feeling vulnerable about how they pay the charge. You either have to remember to go online and pay the ULEZ charge if you’ve entered the zone, or set up an auto-pay system. But this could make it harder to budget for some people.

“There’s also the risk of scam ULEZ websites, which have proliferated online and would be an easy trap for people to fall into, especially if they’re not online much and less familiar with the warning signs.”

How can over 65’s get lower insurance premiums?

Insurance premiums across the market have risen sharply in recent months, coming as a major price shock for many when their renewal date comes. Typically, car insurance is high for young people, due to their risk factor, and decreases as you age. But when you reach 70, your insurance can increase too. So, if you are retired, how can you save on your car insurance? After all, you’re on a fixed income in a rising market!

Firstly, you must declare any pre-existing conditions to your insurer, otherwise your policy could be void if you had to claim – and that could mean a major expense. Next, make sure you’ve got the right level of cover for your lifestyle and driving habits. For example, could you reduce your annual mileage, or opt for a different level of coverage than comprehensive? These could both bring down the price of your premiums.

Other suggestions could be a black box or telematics policy, a limited mileage policy, or a specific over 60s insurance policy. It’s well worth speaking to an expert, such as an insurance broker, who can compare the benefits of these policies with your specific circumstances to find one that’s tailored to you. They can also advise you on how to manage the cost of your premium, with options such as excess protection, NCB protection or paying by direct debit.

A lower-cost vehicle could also bring your insurance down, but as we’ve discussed already, not everyone will be able to afford this switch. If you are considering this option, make sure you look at the ULEZ vehicle scrappage scheme.

This scheme offers motorists with vehicles that don’t meet the standards the chance to get cash for their cars. Anyone living in a London borough, or in the City of London, with a car or motorcycle that isn’t ULEZ-compliant is eligible for the scheme that offers in exchange for a car either:

  • £2,000
  • £1,600 plus one adult-rate annual bus and tram pass
  • £1,200 plus two adult-rate annual bus and tram passes

There are also grace periods for disabled people whose vehicles are registered with the DVLA as having ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicle’ tax class benefit, and for people receiving certain disability benefits or those that meet the outlined medical criteria. Have a look at the exemptions here, which last until 2027.

Getting value for money with Howden

We’re acutely aware of how tough the insurance market is at the moment, and the prospect of renewing is unsettling amongst these major price jumps. Having the right cover, at a price that fits your budget is essential.

Our friendly, expert advisors are on-hand to help in your local branch. They’ll do the hard work of comparing cover and scouring the small print of various quotes to find a policy that suits you.

As we’re on a mission to not only help you save money on your insurance, but also on your shopping, energy bills and more, you can also click here to download a copy of our Money Saving eBook for FREE.

Simply search Howden Insurance to find your nearest branch, and pop in or give the team a call.

Sources: BBC News, RAC, TFL, Essex Live, Money Expert, Statista, NimbleFins

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