Is the ULEZ car scrappage scheme worth it?

scrappage schemes

Transport for London (TfL) is introducing a scrappage scheme that offers £2,000 if people take older polluting vehicles off the road. We’ve spoken to some experts who think this might be a mistake.

Why does TfL want cars off the road?

From August 2023, Greater London will be an Ultra Low Emissions Zone. This means pre-Euro 6 diesel cars (before 2015) and pre-Euro 4 petrol (before 2006) will have to pay a £12.50 daily charge. Rather than paying this, TfL would prefer people complied by driving less polluting cars – or didn’t drive at all.

Is it targeting the right people?

CAP HPI specialises in used car valuations. Its head of forecast strategy Dylan Setterfield tells us: “People who meet the criteria for scrappage support are not likely to be driving a car around in the first place. If they are and scrap their non-compliant car, £2,000 isn’t sufficient to buy a car that does meet the ULEZ criteria.”

It’s a good point. To take advantage of the ULEZ scrappage scheme, you need to be on a selection of benefits such as income support or job seeker’s allowance.

It’s not a lifestyle choice for those on lower incomes to drive old and polluting vehicles; they do so because there’s no alternative. It does rather feel as if the £2,000 is a rather crude bung to get them off the road.

Philip Nothard from consultant Cox Automotive adds: “It’s aimed at lower income people who aren’t big buyers of cars. Middle income earners are the key buyers and they’re getting no support at all. It doesn’t make sense.”

Targeting business

The £110m TfL has earmarked for the scrappage scheme is targeting sole traders, businesses with up to 10 employees, or charities with a registered address in London. This offers them a grant of between £5,000 and £9,500 to scrap or retrofit their van or minibus that doesn’t meet the ULEZ standards.

Setterfield says: “Then there are the people who live outside the zone but go in and out of it. In London they get no support. When TfL talks about retrofitting, I think people will struggle to find a retrofitter to bring a car up to ULEV compliance. With the cost-of-living pressures, it’s the wrong time to be doing this.”

He’s right. It does seem to be unfair that a tradesman who works in London but lives just outside can’t get the grant, when his possibly more expensive, less talented rival who lives a few miles away in Greater London can.

scrappage schemes
Birmingham has a clean air zone scrappage scheme. Those who work in the city get money off a car from Motorpoint. Seems sensible.

What about the cars it’s targeting?

There’s a shortage of used cars thanks to the pandemic and semi-conductor supply problems. It’s just those poorly emitting vehicles, that TfL wants to scrap, that are in short supply. The eight to 10-year old vehicles that it’s primarily aimed at are diesels made before 2015. CAP HPI says the prices for 10-year old cars have gone up 10% in the past 12 months.

Then there’s the fear that we might be losing historically significant vehicles. Wayne Scott from the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs says: “From a historic and heritage point of view, some really lovely historic vehicles are lost to schemes like this. During the last government scrappage scheme we saw people who didn’t know what a car’s value was financially or culturally.

“Then once a dealer submits a car for scrappage it can never be used again, even for parts. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.”

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