5 Tips For New Drivers In London

If there’s one thing I’m not sure I’ll ever pluck up the courage for, it’s driving in London. I CAN drive, but I moved to London over 20 years ago and could barely afford my rent let alone running a car and so haven’t driven since. London is a city renowned for its bustling streets, iconic landmarks, and of course, the notorious traffic. As one of the world’s busiest cities, new drivers could easily be overwhelmed by London’s unique labyrinth of roads and roundabouts. 

If you’re a new driver, it can feel like a high-stakes challenge trying to navigate the British capital’s streets.Pete says you need to have eyes in the back of your head to navigate it all. Plus, there are all sorts of London-specific charges and rules you need to be aware of to avoid unnecessary fines. 

And since it’s not so common to own your own car living in a big city, if you’re borrowing your friend’s car, you will want to make sure you’re appropriately insured too. You can check out some temporary car insurance tips in this article to make sure you have the cover you need. 

Anyway, let’s buckle up and prepare to conquer the capital’s roads. 

Check Whether You Have To Pay The Congestion Charge

The congestion charge is essentially a fee aimed at reducing traffic in central London during peak hours. With the congestion charge in place, new drivers may need to plan their trips carefully. 

The charging zone, which is well-marked with big, red “C” signs, includes central areas such as Mayfair, Westminster, and the City of London.

Keep in mind that the deadline for payment is midnight the third day after travel for the standard rate. You’ll pay £15 if you pay on the same day or £17.50 if you wait until the third day. You can pay the congestion charge fee online, via the official TfL website. If you forget to pay, you could be fined up to £160. 

But bear in mind that there are exemptions and discounts available; for instance, if you drive an electric vehicle, live within the charging zone, or are an accredited disabled badge holder, you could pay less or nothing at all.
Before hitting the road, take a moment to check if your journey will take you into the charging zone. Simply enter your destination into TfL’s online checker. By doing so, you can plan to pay the Congestion Charge or make alternative transport plans. 

Check Whether You Have To Pay The ULEZ

ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone and it covers large areas of London. By August 2023, it will expand to cover all London boroughs. It’s designed to limit vehicle emissions in London. 

If you’re driving within the ever-expanding ULEZ zone in a vehicle that doesn’t adhere to the required emissions standards, you’ll be hit with a £12.50 daily charge which you can pay online. As with the congestion charge, you’ve got until midnight on the third day after you’ve made your journey to pay up.

This applies even if your travels take you inside the zone for a brief stint. And this charge affects ULEZ residents as well, so knowledge is power when trying to avoid that pesky fee. 

But, if your car is parked in an ULEZ zone (say if you live there) and you’re not driving it that day, then you won’t need to pay the charge. 
You can check whether your car complies and whether you need to pay up here.

Look Out For Red Routes

Red routes play a crucial role in maintaining the smooth flow of traffic while ensuring road users’ safety in London.They make up about 5% of the total road length in London yet they carry more than 30% of the capital’s traffic. 

Red lines painted along the sides of major roads indicate the presence of red routes, which are carefully devised by the TfL and local authorities to restrict stopping, parking, and loading. For instance, double red lines indicate a strict no-stopping zone regardless of the time of day or purpose.

On the other hand, single red lines serve a similar purpose but are usually enforced only during specific times of the day. Recognising these nuances and being mindful of additional signage displaying permitted parking, loading, or unloading zones will keep you moving smoothly and in line with the law.
But failure to follow these rules can result in a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) amounting to £160. You can check whether your journey will take you through a red route using the handy map on the TfL website.

Consider Short-Term Car Insurance

While borrowing a car from a friend or family member might be your go-to choice for convenience in London, don’t neglect the importance of being appropriately covered. Enter short term car insurance – a smart and practical solution for protecting yourself or loved ones while maneuvering through central London’s busy roads.

You might have your own comprehensive policy and it might even have the Driving Other Cars (DOC) extension. But it’s important to understand its limitations. For starters, it often only applies in limited cases. Also, it often only includes third-party liability cover. This means that any damage to the vehicle you’re driving would still leave you with a hefty bill to pay.

Short-term car insurance, on the other hand, provides comprehensive protection for both the driver and the vehicle. Also, it’s flexible, allowing you to choose the cover time frame specific to your needs, whether that be for a few hours, or even a few weeks. You can find more tips here if you’re interested in short-term car insurance. 

Look Out For Payment Fraud

Although official payment websites like Transport for London (TfL) are diligent in protecting users, unsuspecting drivers can fall victim to malicious payment sites that charge drivers more than they need to pay and sometimes don’t deliver the service they’ve promised at all. 

To avoid fraudsters, begin by making payments exclusively through TfL’s official website. Keep in mind that search results might not always list the official website first, so drivers should be cautious of third-party websites pretending to offer additional services.

Such unofficial sites, not approved by TfL, often deceive users by asking for payment for non-existent services or charging fees that TfL would sometimes provide free of charge.Sometimes these websites do actually make the payment on the driver’s behalf.

But there have been cases where they haven’t, and the driver has ended up out of pocket and with a fine too. 

Other times, the site has charged people when a charge wouldn’t have applied at all – such as during a bank holiday, for example. 

Protect yourself from payment fraud by proactively verifying the authenticity of payment websites and monitoring payment confirmations diligently. 

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