I have a rental car and I'm not sure whether I drove through the zone over the last few days. How can I know whether I'm obligated to pay the charge, and if I am but have not done so, then what will happen?

  • 1
    You say "days" so probably during normal hours, but note that the charge only applies from 7am to 10pm.
    – Dragonel
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 20:51
  • 2
    Note that some car rental companies, such as Zipcar, do cover the cost of the congestion charge for their customers. Be sure to check with your company to see if it's covered.
    – gparyani
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 0:57

4 Answers 4


In the UK, the road sign with a white 'C' in a red circle denotes a toll or charge for entering a particular area or crossing a bridge (the 'C' sign is not the only type, but is the most common -- in London, you may also need to pay the Ultra Low Emission Charge, signposted by signs saying 'ULEZ' in a circle, depending on the emissions certification of your car).

To establish whether you entered the congestion charge, ask yourself whether you drove past the relevant signs. Below are some examples to help you.

Entrances to the London congestion charge zone are marked clearly by road signs with a white 'C' in a red circle on a white background:

congestion charge sign

They usually paint the relevant lanes of the road as well, just before you are about to enter the zone:

road showing one lane painted with the 'C' sign

Navigation/direction signs also indicate if a particular turning/direction is about to enter the congestion charge zone:

road sign showing that turning left will enter the congestion charge zone

In the above image, the left turn (to Westminster) enters the congestion charge.

By the way, they do give you advance warning on many major routes

(usually, there is a blue background on such signs... not to be confused with the use of blue background to indicate motorway status):

warning sign for congestion charge

(notice also that it gives advice on how to avoid entering the zone)


map of Congestion Charge and ULEZ (the latter is due to expand soon) (NB: the Ultra Low Emission Zone is due to be expanded fairly soon, so this map will not remain completely accurate for long)

Paying the charge

Transport for London's charges and payment options can be seen at:



To get the cheapest available rate, you need to be pretty quick in paying (sorry, cannot remember the deadline), otherwise the price goes up.


Have the cameras recorded your plate?

If you've driven into the Congestion Charging zone there's no way to find out if your vehicle's number plate was recorded or not, other than wait to see if you get a letter or fine through the post.


If you are unsure, I would suggest paying the charge for the days you might have driven into the zone - given you are referring to the weekend, that means you might have until tonight (Wednesday) UK time to pay the charge without penalty. The alternative is a penalty charge significantly in excess.

  • 5
    Worth mentioning that as it’s a hire car the letter will go to the hire company. They will add on a significant admin charge to forward it onto the OP.
    – Darren
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 17:00
  • 3
    For all us non-Londoners, can you give rough numbers for what the charge is, and the penalty charge?
    – smci
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 19:11

This map shows the Congestion Charge zone.

If you have driven inside the zone the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system (ANPR) in force will most likely have identified the car you were driving.

The main page for TfL London's Congestion Charge can advise you on how to pay the charge.

These are the rules for when to pay:

1.11 Paying the Charge - payment card

1.11.1 You can purchase a CC Charge at any time during the 64 Working Days immediately before the Charging Day concerned and until midnight on the third charging day after the date of travel into the zone.

If you do not pay, you will be issued a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). Since you rented the car this notice will be addressed to the rental company which, in all likelihood, will subsequently pass the charge onto you.

  • If I wasn't aware of the charge until now as I don't often drive, and wasn't tracking my movements into the zone throughout the weekend, how can I find out whether I owe charges or not? Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 9:50
  • @JosephP. The TfL webpage for London CC posted provides a postcode lookup that shows whether you were in the charge zone or not. If you cannot be sure as to which areas you drove through exactly, and are then unable to use that facility, then I would say it comes down to your own risk assessment. Do you prefer to pay the charge 'just in case' or would you rather not pay it upfront and risk being hit with a higher charge later? I think it comes down to this.
    – Dave White
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 10:15
  • 6
    @JosephP. you may find that if you have an Android smartphone your Google Timeline helps you identify whether you were in the congestion zone, and on which days.
    – Miff
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 10:42
  • 1
    Also keep in mind that the rental company most likely will charge an administrative fee for passing the PCN on to you...
    – piet.t
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 11:47
  • 5
    @Joseph P. Traffic signs and road markings make it clear when you are approaching, entering, and leaving the charging zone. They are quite difficult to miss unless a driver is sufficiently familiar with London streets to be able to navigate without looking at them tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/congestion-charge/…
    – Traveller
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 13:22

If you have a look at the charging zone map you might be able to rule it out if you were nowhere near. If you were using a satnav, it should have warned you that you were approaching a toll road.

Please be aware that there is also a much wider Ultra Low Emission Zone that operates 24-7 in London. If you were driving a newish rental car that should not be a worry, but if the car is diesel powered it must be the latest Euro emissions standard.

If you decide or need to pay, be careful to pay on the genuine Transport for London website. It can happen that an internet search will rank a third-party site higher. It's not so much that they won't pay it (that's fraud), but they will make a surcharge for the service. It is just as easy for you to pay it directly.

There are other toll roads that have an automatic system too, such as the M25 Dartford bridge/tunnel crossing the River Thames.
  • 2
    May as well add that the genuine TFL website is tfl.gov.uk
    – thosphor
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 7:38
  • @thosphor there is a link on the first line of my post, it contains a button saying "Pay to drive in London." Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 7:51

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