Warning over potential car tax fines when driving in Europe this summer – how to avoid

Birmingham: Clean Air Zone signs seen across the city

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Across the UK, an increasing number of towns and cities are implementing a version of a CAZ in a bid to reduce air pollution rates. The largest and potentially most profitable is London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which charges £12.50 per day for non-compliant cars.

In addition to this, drivers in London will also need to pay the standard Congestion Charge rate of £15.

This can be particularly costly for drivers who cannot afford more environmentally friendly cars, such as electric vehicles or hybrid cars.

Birmingham and Bath also have Clean Air Zones in their city centres which charge drivers for driving in the zone to keep pollution levels to a minimum. 

France has introduced ‘clean air’ windscreen stickers as a legal requirement in some of its cities, to identify a vehicle’s emissions levels and to, in some cases, restrict access in order to improve air quality.

British drivers heading to France are advised by the RAC that driving without a French ‘clean air’ sticker, could make them culpable for an on-the-spot fine of up to £117.

The Crit’Air vignette costs just over three euros and is split up into six different categories.

There are currently low-emissions zones in cities including Paris, Grenoble and Strasbourg and there are plans to launch further zones in Lille and Saint Etienne.

Some cities are planning on banning cars based on their carbon output, in line with the Crit’Air categories.


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For example, Crit’Air vignettes 5 are banned in Grenoble, meaning that cars which produce more than 2.2 grams of carbon per kilometre are banned.

Germany also has a type of sticker to help differentiate between cars, with a much simpler system of red, yellow and green.

A red sticker is given for the most polluting vehicles and a green sticker, or the least polluting vehicles and they are a legal requirement for cars entering major cities which detail their emissions standard.

The ‘Umweltplakette’ (environmental plaque) costs around six euros for German cars, but can vary significantly for foreign vehicles depending on where and how you buy them.

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