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Car import guide for the UK

Welcome to the easy guide to importing a car, whether its a Parallel or a Grey import... wait a minute, don't worry we will explain everything as well as showing you what to do to save you money, minimise challenges, also what to do when you get it onto British soil, MOT etc.
This page tells you what you need to do in order to bring a vehicle in to the UK, included is :-
The different between both types of import vehicles
Tips on mimising problems in the process
How to register a vehicle once back in the UK
The pros and cons of buying each type of import
Vehicle laws, costs and a general overview
There is also more information here:-

Imported car types

A detailed customer guide to the difference between a Grey & Parallel imports.
Where do I start when importing a car into the UK?
The easy part of importing a car is choosing what car you want, whether its a Nissan Skyline or Acura NSX Type R, the process is the same. As for the next part, this is usually considered as the hard part of the importing process. However with our easy import guide we make it childs play - we help you weigh up whether it is worth doing, by explaining the whole process.

Import options - main dealer overseas or specialist export dealer

When you start looking at overseas vehicles, you have two types to choose from :-

Parallel imports

We recommend you check the prices in Europe first, usually cars purchased and imported in the EU (European Union) excluding the UK are often far cheaper than Britain. For example, in Germany or the Netherlands, you could expect to save around 20% on the UK price. A list of main dealers in the EU is available from all major car manufacturers in the United Kingdom.
Cars available in the UK as well as on import.

Grey imports

Either you can source a car yourself from a country e.g. Japan or the US or you can search the UK for specialist importers who will carry out everything including exporting the car, transactions and converting it for use on UK roads.
Cars only available outside the EU.

The whole Car Import Process

Always try and use a main dealer and contact them by telephone if at all possible, this helps peace of mind, and gives you a port of call in the event of any problems.
The language barrier, unless you're importing from Ireland this is where the spoken tongue could be a problem. Just ensure they understand what you're after.
Once you're happy, check the following:
The exporter car company knows which country the car is being imported to.
The vehicle is exactly what you want, import cars can vary widely, always ensure all your import requirements and the specification is in black & white including the price, delivery date etc, this eliminates slip-ups and covers all eventualities when collecting your import vehicle.
The vehicle, if a parallel import must be a UK right-hand drive model with a UK setup e.g. MPH not KPH, and the headlights should be set for UK roads. If any or all of these points are still non-UK they could affect your insurance. The broker may even refuse to insure the auto.
Make sure you identify all hidden charges or excess payments before making the transaction.
Check to see if the exporter has proof of UK residency. 

Paying for your imported car and taking delivery

The next part of the process should only be carried out when you are completely happy to proceed, as you need to pay a deposit. This secures the car, however do not pay the complete price at this stage. Some import dealers may prefer or even insist on wire transfer or bankers draft in their chosen currency. Always ensure you receive written confirmation.
TIP: Pay with a credit card for your deposit, this adds peace of mind and safegards the process. This also gives you a case for your credit card company.
This is where the process varies, dependant on whether you have a parallel or a grey. You must decide whether to get a company to carry out the complete import or if you prefer to pick the vehicle up yourself overseas.

Collecting your imported car

Waiting for your import car to be delivered to the main dealer can take an age so be prepared for a few delays and long wait. It may take a matter months from ordering your import vehicle to delivery at the main dealer.
TIP: Check for last minute inflation on your cars price, if possible try and agree a price on the import car as soon as you have confirmed your order.
The day arrives ... your import car has arrived, before you set off to pick up your new car check you have :
Car insurance - with the correct cover for the country you are visiting
Proof of identity - Passport
Driving license - full UK license
When liaising, explain you are collecting the motor from abroad and that the vehicle will display temporary plates whilst shipping to the UK. Make sure you have been issued with a chassis number or at the least you know where it is situated and finally get evidence of Type Approval, and a Certificate of Conformity usually proving the import car meets with EU safety standards - this document is needed when registering the vehicle in the United Kingdom.
Now you should settle the outstanding bill and its time for a hearty handshake and final confirmation that the car has temporary export registration or transit plates in preparation for shipping.

Back in the United Kingdom

When you return, make sure you register and license your new import car ASAP. This should take around 14 days, however expect a calendar month at peak periods.
How to register an imported car and paying the VAT
Any vehicle registration office (VRO) will issue you with the necessary forms to register your import car. 
You need the V55/4 or V55/5 for used import vehicles.
When handing in this form you must also produce:
Import registration fee £38
Car tax
Car insurance
Foreign registration document
Evidence of date vehicle was imported (sales invoice)
Customs Excise import form
Type Approval certificate
British MOT test certificate if over 3 years
Newness declaration V267
Identity proof with address
Now you can happily drive your new motor on UK roads without fear of breaking the law.
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Northern Group of Motoring Writers NGMW

Northern Group Of Motoring Writers

Annabelle Quirk Vice Chairwoman
Ben D T Quirk Member