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Most expensive low emission zones

Where could you be fined the most for driving a polluting vehicle?

Councils across the world are increasingly introducing no-drive zones to combat climate change and curb vehicle emissions. As such, low emission zones (LEZs) and congestion charges have appeared in major cities such as London, Paris and Madrid.

Cars stuck in traffic on a motorway

Some charge drivers a fee to use them and the majority ban vehicles above a certain emissions standard from using them at all.

Falling foul of these regulations can be easily done, especially in an unfamiliar city or country. If that happens to you, then you could be hit with a hefty fine.

But how do these penalties look around the world? If you’re looking to switch to a less polluting car, be sure to compare car insurance at Confused.com.


LEZs with the highest penalty charges 

A graphic showing the cities with this highest fines for those not complying with LEZ zones

1. Brussels - £291 / £397 / €350

The city seemingly taking the strictest stance when it comes to its low emission zone is the Belgian capital of Brussels. The entirety of the Brussels-Capital Region is deemed an LEZ and petrol and diesel vehicles must adhere to the Euro 2 and 5 emission standard respectively.

Euro 2 refers to vehicles registered since 1997 while Euro 5 refers to those registered since 2011.

Failure to comply with the rules means that you’ll be hit with a €350 fine or €150 for foreign drivers. If you’re just passing through, then you can buy up to eight day passes a year, at a cost of €35 each.

2. Antwerp & Ghent - £125 / $170 / €150

While they’re some way behind the capital in terms of penalty charges, two more Belgian cities come in second place.

Antwerp and Ghent both have minimum emission standards of Euro 5 for diesel vehicles and Euro 2 for petrol, and will charge you €150 for a first offence, rising to €250, and subsequently €350 for repeat offenders!

As with Brussels, day passes can be bought and the emissions rules are set to tighten over the coming years.

3. Amsterdam, the Hague, Utrecht, Arnhem and Barcelona - £83 / $113 / €100

A number of cities are tied in third place, each with penalty charges of €100 for failing to meet the rules in their low emission zones.

LEZs in the Netherlands fall under a national framework, with Amsterdam, the Hague, Utrecht and Arnhem being some of the major cities to use them.

Barcelona also has a €100 penalty fee, with only cars with a minimum emissions standard of Euro 4 for diesel cars, Euro 3 for petrol, and Euro 2 for motorbikes.


LEZs with the lowest penalty charges

A graphic showing the cities with the lowest fines for those not complying with LEZ zones

1. Beijing - £12 / $16 / €14

Beijing is one of the most populated cities in the world and one well known for producing high levels of emissions.

The city introduced an LEZ back in 2009, which has since been expanded, although the penalty fee for driving in the zone is just RMB¥100, which equates to around £12.

2. Norway - £25 / $33 / €29

Three cities in Norway use low emission zones: Oslo, Bergen and Kristiansand. In each of these cities, all vehicles have to pay a charge to enter the zone, but more polluting cars have to pay more.

Failure to pay the toll results in a fine of 300 NOK in each city, which works out at around £25.

3. Madrid - £37 / $51 / €45

Madrid currently has three low emission zones, each of which comes with a penalty charge of €45, which doubles to €90 if not paid on time.

The city’s ZBE (Zona de Bajas Emisiones) will slowly increase to cover the entire municipality, while the old Madrid Central zone has recently been replaced with two new zones, the ZBEDEP Distrito Centro and ZBEDEP Plaza Elíptica.


Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, comments: 

"In order to combat climate change and improve air quality, many countries have introduced low emission zones in city centre areas. Such low emission zones require drivers to pay a fare for driving polluting vehicles within the area. If the fare is not paid, drivers can face expensive consequences in the form of penalty fines. Such LEZ charges can range from as little as £12 in Beijing, up to as much as £291 in some global cities, such as Brussels.

"Whilst paying low emission fares can prevent such fines, there are some changes motorists can make to avoid low emission zone charges. Some drivers may be ready to make the switch to EVs, but otherwise there are still some vehicles which are deemed to be more fuel efficient or have lower emissions. Investing in one of these cars can help to protect the environment while the increased levels of efficiency can also aid in saving you money at the fuel station.

"If you are considering switching to a more environmentally friendly car, be sure to compare car insurance premiums to find the best deal.”