Buying a used car

Buying a used car

Need a used car, a New cars well new to you or interested in a specific model?. This car guide outlines what to look for when buying a used car, trouble shooting if you will, it details points including excessive smoking to panels being out of alignment. You'll learn what to look for when choosing a car including tips on trouble spots, getting a used car bargain can be a problem, and forget the nightmare stories that surface when people have bought or nearly bought a used car.
Well our guide goes some way in advising where and what to do, and gives you some tips - starting with:-
What model to choose?
How much should I pay?
Problem areas?
Buy private or from a garage?
Are they trying to rip me off?
The list is endless, well this guide points out some things to look out for when buying a used car.

The chassis / body

Always check the panels are aligned, this is relatively simple to do, stand at one side of the car and line up a point say the front wing and follow the line down the car, if its relatively straight its good. Also check the gap between the doors and the panels on either side of the car make sure the gap is more or less the same. Its a good idea to check the sills for holes too. Rotten sill's will fail a cars MOT.

Engine smoke

Always start a used car and give it a rev, then step out of the car and check the colour of the emissions, generally blue smoke indicates burning oil or possibly overfilled with oil, excessive grey smoke indicates heavy engine wear, possibility of engine seizure. Steam rather than smoke, after the engine has been run after approximately 5 minutes indicates generally a problem with the head gasket. A vehicle with a damaged head isn't always noticable, in some cases the car will run perfectly other times, the auto won't run at all.

Engine bay check

Be sure to open the bonnet when looking at a used car, the amount of people who don't do this is staggering.
Look over the engine for any excessive oil, burn marks, wet areas, fluidy areas. e.g. coroded brake hoses etc

Checking for a ruptured head gasket

Remove the water cap, check the colour and the viscousness of the liquid inside the header tank or radiator.
If the water is gunky and creamy, this symbolises the head gasket has gone, do not start the car (on some occasions this symptom also occurs on cars with oil coolers that have leaked into the cooling system e.g. Golf GTI)
If the water is either water or coolant coloured (Green or Blue), Start the engine.
Then look into the tank for bubbles (this is safe as the water in radiator / tank will no longer be pressurised, if bubbles rise from the bottom in a steady stream, this generally indicates the head gasket has gone.
The oil in the sump may or may not have congealed with the water, dependant on what stage the damage is at.

Alfa 8C Competizione


Alfa 8C Competizione

The history

This exclusive Alfa supercar was a Gran Turismo limited edition car showcased in Paris.
This typical yet different Italian supercar was designed exclusively by Alfa Romeo, this car was the realisation of a similar concept car at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show star attraction. This auto genius mixes industrial, technical design expertise and knowledge from the Alfa Maserati Centre.

Alfa Romeo History

The Alfa Romeo Timeline

The company started in France with Alexandre Darracq who started a car manufacturing company in Portello, Milan which made single & two cylinder engines with car parts imported from Paris, France. Despite Alexandre best efforts and aspirations he didn't make it. In 1909 Darracq sold his Milan based auto factory to an Italian man.

Just after the buyout, Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili or ALFA emerged in the Italian market place. In 1915 Nicola Romeo a skilled automotive engineer bought the factory, Alfa was now known as "ALFA ROMEO-MILANO".

Driving tips & advice

Driving tips & advice

Winter Driving advice - Snow and Ice
As the UK comes to a stand-still due to snow, here is some advice for snow driving which should keep your car on the road under control.

Quick snow driving tips

When ever possible drive in 2nd gear or higher.
When skidding never brake, steer into the skid.
Check the latest weather reports - Check the MET forecast for more snow that may affect you, also do research into your route and check primarily if you can get to your destination with the current weather conditions.
Keep your Petrol tank full - In adverse weather especially snow you may be required to change routes, halt your journey or even turn back.
Store a breakdown kit in your car - When braving Britain's roads in Winter it's always a good idea to carry a few essential items including Torch, Blanket, Bulb Kit, Fuses, Chocolate, Water and the most important a Mobile Phone. Breakdown membership is also a good idea ideally with roadside assistance and recovery.
Keep your wits about you - A snow covered road isn't such a problem however a frozen snow covered road or black ice under the snow, makes for treacherous driving conditions. Where ever possible travel on gritted or salted roads, if this isn't possible have your route planned and drive within your limits, drive in 2nd or 3rd gear, the higher the better this aids traction. When driving up hill never slowdown or stop unless you are forced to, losing momentum on a snowy road can stop you dead in your tracks and you will have to reverse or leave your car. When going down a snow covered hill ideally use 1st gear this enables your car to use engine braking rather than locking the wheels and possibly skidding.
Recovering from a skid - If your car starts to skid you should never brake, no matter how tempting it is. When you start to lose control and skid, decelerate the best you can and steer the vehicle into the skid till the car regains grip. 
Always watch out for hidden ice known as Black Ice, this is a type of ice extremely slippy and almost invisible, your more likely to hit it before you see it, if you do hit Black Ice, stay calm and follow the instructions above.
Stuck in snow - The best way to get out of beging stranded insnow, is to not get stuck in the first place. In some cases this will be completely unavoidable, when you have started your engine avoid excessively revving your car when in gear this will dig you deeper and deeper into the snow instead remove most of the snow and ice with either a spade or your hands then try and find something that your car can gain traction from, ideally a piece of wood, carpet or gravel etc, place this behind or infront the wheels which drive the car and slowly drive forwards or backwards till you get traction.
Driving in snow isn't rocket science just be careful, don't speed and keep your eye on the road and also watch out for snow ploughs and gritters they don't seem to be affected and try and have fun, lets face it it's rare that the UK gets snow.

Latest Car Videos

Take a look at some of the coolest car videos and check out below our featured video 'How to pull out with style' other car videos featured is a 1013 bhp Mk2 Golf and many more...

Child Seat Law

Child seat law changes new legislation

No doubt you have seen the new changes with Child seat law, but how much do you really know?
What exactly does this entail?, and how will affect my driver and children? - read on to find out
The Law is about to change regarding Child seats, the biggest change in driving laws for over 20 years. This is being enforced from the 18th September 2006 - The hope is that it will save up to 2000 Children's lives a year.
Be one step ahead with the new seating laws, or you could face a fine upto £500 or a £30 on the spot fine. The new child restraint laws come in on Monday under a new European Directive.
All children travelling in a vehicle under the age of 12 will have to use some form of child car seat, unless they exceed 135cm (4ft 5in) tall.
However, this has not been documented enough, and people are awakening to find that they are obliged to purchase new car seats or booster cushions for their kids. The biggest problem is to get a child who is used to travelling without one, to start using them again.
What are the new guide lines?
I expect police to use common sense, not put out major dragnets... but to appear at the school gates from time to time to give people advice.
Stephen Ladyman - Road Safety Minister
Any child under 135cm (4ft 5in) tall, unless have had their 12th birthday must use a child seat or restraint appropriate for the child's weight.

Which type of seat should I use?

We recommend you weigh your child and consult the folowing guide their are many online shops selling a range of child seats, child restraints and child booster seats to suit the recent child seat law.
The Child seat law is as follows :
up to 13kg (2st 1lb) - a rear-facing baby seat
9kg to 18kg (1st 6lb - 2st 12lb) - a forward-facing child seat
15kg to 25kg (2st 5lb - 3st 13lb) - a booster seat
22kg (3st 6lb) or over - modern booster, booster cushion, or seat designed for larger children
Booster seats
A booster seat is similar to a booster cushion, however it has a back, and also sometimes has a level of protection for a child's head, giving support in a side impact situation.
The government strongly suggests that you try the seats before you buy them, as it is imperative that the Child seat fits perfectly in your car.
Are any children not affected by the new Child seat laws?
Any children over 12 yrs old or taller than 135cm tall, may use adult seat belts. The Department for Transport still recommend children should continue to use booster seats or cushions until they are taller than 150cm (4ft 11in).
How do the new laws affect the existing child restraint laws?
Until now children aged 3 to 11 have been obliged to sit in child seats or use an appropriate seat or cushion. The Law states now 'There is no exception - all children have to use a Child Seat or restraints including boosters.
Children aged 12 and not taller than 135cm, cannot travel in the front without a child seat or cushion, there are no exceptions.
Children less than three yrs old cannot travel without a child seat, regardless of front or back passengers, with the exception in the rear of a taxi
It is now illegal to use a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat fitted with an airbag
Whats the flexibility with the new law, is there any?
There are two cases where a child aged between 3 and 12 years old may travel in the rear of a car using not more than one adult seat belt:
The occasional short journey made for specific reasons: Unexpected necessity (not regular school runs, however the odd exception is fine example mother delayed at work)
Two children already using restraints in the rear seat, therefore leaving no room for a third. (In this case it would often be safer for the child to travel in the front using a booster seat.
Taxi Law concerning child seats
Children less than 3 yrs old may travel in the rear of taxi cars without an additional child seat or booster cushion, as stated above:-
In older cars fitted with no rear seat belts - children aged between 3 and 12 may travel in the rear seat, the Department for Transport disapproves and states this is not safe for children.
All Emergency vehicles - ambulances & police cars, are exempt from all child seat laws.

The Car Guide

Car guides


The car pages, everything you'll ever need about cars, history, fastest motors even the priciest.
AC Cobra blog
AC Cobra History
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Alfa Romeo History
8c Competizione
Ascari History
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BMW History
BMW blog
Bentley blog 
Bentley History
Cadillac blog
A timeline of French Citroen cars achievements Maserati projects etc
Citroen blog
Citroen History
2 CV
SM Sport Maserati
A guide to the history and cars including Enzo, and the F40 & 550
Ferrari blog
Ferrari History
A guide to American born car manufacturer Ford GT40 & RS 200
Ford News 
Ford History 
GT 40
RS Timeline 
Sierra RS Cosworth
Escort RS Cosworth
A documented history of American Holden cars
Holden blog
Holden History
From the humble beginnings of Japan born Honda
Honda History 
Civic EK9 Type R
Swallow Sidecars through SS cars to Ford and XJ220 Jaguar
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The life of Ferrucio and his super cars to combat Ferrari<
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A guide to the British born maker and tuner Colin Chapman Lotus
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USA based sedan manufacturer, famed for the Navigator 
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Lincoln History
A rare british sportscar, with superpower
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Marcos History
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Maserati History
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Mazda History
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Pontiac blog
Guide to Stuttgart's finest Porsche including the 911 and 959
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One of fastest car manufacturers Saleen in the world S7
Saleen blog - coming soon 
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Mot Checklist & Pre MOT Test checks

MOT guide

MOT test time can be a challenging time unless your car is under the government set limit for new vehicles of 3 year or is exempt from the test, however Planet Auto has eased your challenges and solved the problem of a surprise bill with this simple checklist you can carry out yourself - giving you the chance to fix and replace any parts and or issues that will deem an MOT inspector to query your Pass. 

Exempt vehicles

A list of vehicles completely exempt from MOT test, for a period of time or completely - 

  • Cars under 3 years old from new
  • Cars, vans and motorcycles made before 1960
  • Tractors
  • Goods vehicles powered by electricity.

Buses, Lorries and Trailers require something called an Annual test.

11 Pre checks

ALWAYS REMEMBER - Before taking your car for an MOT it is always best to have a good look at the simple parts you may need to check in the test procedure, this pre M. O. T. checklist enables you to do this with the greatest of ease - this type of self pre check list is needed more so, due to the Ministry of Transport introducing charges for a re-test, except in certain test cases, a detailed list of the exceptions can be found on the:-


Official Government MOT site


MOT Checklist

Remember switch off your engine before looking under the bonnet, and if your working in the engine disconnect your battery too and above all - Always Take Care.
Save yourself some money with this quick Pre MOT checklist and have fun seeing what's what :)
This guide should give you enough of an insite into what is entailed in a Ministry of Transport Test and what to check, repair or replace in order to pass it. The majority of the pre MOT checklist items are easy to carry out , however always take care when checking these pre test check points.

Electrical car lighting checks

This includes all the following in working order:-
Headlights - Low beam & High beam
Brake lights
Side repeaters
No. plate lights
Drivers side Fog light
Hazard warning lights or emergency lights
Left and right, front and rear indicators
Rear number plate light

Interior checks

This includes the following:-
Car seatbelts with no tears or slices working buckles & fasteners.
Seat runners & mountings free from rust structurally sound and in correct working order, with no play.
Car mirrors, windscreen, windshield and wipers/washers free from cracks and fitted correctly.
Remember --- Stone chips are acceptable

Doors, locks and handles checks

All car doors should shut correctly, meaning their should be no rattles, and the doors shut completely flush and be completely secure.

External car bodywork & chassis checks

This includes sills, sharp edges e.g. cracked bumpers with protruding edges, the car has to be structurally sound therefore free from corrosion where structure is integral to the vehicle.

Engine bay & Engine component checks for the

Inspection including fuel & brake lines free from rust and fluid.

Exhaust system including CAT if required

The exhaust system including downpipe, manifold & rear silencer have to be sealed correctly, no rattles or excessive emissions, the emission acceptance Level is 14, anything under this is acceptable.

Tyre checks

All tyres need to be of the legal tread 1.6m depth across 2 3rds of the complete tire and have no splits, gashes, bulges or illegal repairs e.g. tire wall repairs - including the spare wheel.
The Wheels & bearings need to be in working order with no play.

Suspension checks for the test

All shock absorbers, mountings, boots, bushes need to be free from corrosion and all dampers have to be free from leaks.

Steering checks

The car steering should be smooth this includes the flow and the steering rack if there is any play in the rack this constitutes an MOT Fail, in addition all steering boots, joints & rack have to be in working order with no excessive play.

Foot brake & Handbrake checks

Both the footbrake and handbrake have to be in perfect working order and have to be free from leaks, with no spongyness.
The brakes themselves should be in good condition this includes the brake pipes being in working order with no perishing / no leaks and both rear cables to the handbrake fitted correctly with no overhanging cables.
The vehicle also should not pull either way when braking or respond with irregular movement e.g. snatching.
Hope the checklist has been some help, feel free to print the guide or post the address on your site, in return we will post a link to your website on ours.
Always try and get a word of mouth recommendation for your MOT test. Going to a UK garage recommended by family or friend can save you a huge amount of hassle and more importantly money.

A few tips to help your Pre test checks go a little smoother

These MOT checks are relatively simple, if you have a smalll knowledge of cars, the best way is for two people to carry out the pre test checks. In the case of testing the car's electrics, the best way to tackle this is - One operate the car electrics e.g. indicators, brakes etc, the other look to see whether they work satisfactorily.

Here are the latest ammendments to the UK MOT Test including 2012, 2014 and 2015 


Electronic parking brake

The Electronic parking brake EPB controls now included in test, an EBP must be present and not modified or incorrectly repaired, meaning as to adversely affect the roadworthiness of a vehicle or improperly modified in order to seriously weaken any Electronic parking brake components.
(The statement 'inappropriately repaired or modified' is applicable to to a wide range of new vehicle MOT applications i.e. systems and components)
NOTE: Any vehicle will fail the test if an Electronic Parking Brake (EBP) warning light is illuminated to display any malfunction.

Electronic Stability Control (EBC)

Anti-lock brakes (ABS) has now been extended to include Electronic Stability Control when fitted.  The MOT tester will check there is a working and in operable condition an ESC malfunction warning light together non modified wiring, this includes a missing component.

Warning lights

The MOT test now has the addition of various warning light, which had previously been exempt all new lights need to operate correctly, and not be modified;
Headlight main beam warning light
Electronic power steering (EPS) (PAS) warning light
Brake fluid level warning light
Seat belt pre-tensioner warning light

Suspension & steering

The new test includes a steering lock check where fitted as standard. 
Missing, or split/damaged dust covers on any steering and or suspension ball-joints will result in MOT test failure
The Power steering fluid reservoir level must be adequately topped in other words above the min level marked on the fluid reservoir.

Vehicle Lighting

Any products / modifications on the light source or lens that significantly diminish the light's intensity or change the colour of the native lighting setup will become a result in failure – these apply to front/rear lamps, number plate lamps, brake lamps, rear fog and signal indicators,
High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps are now included in the VOSA MOT test.
Any car fitted with HID lamps has to have working and non modified levelling and or working cleaning systems, the car etc will fail if the system id in opperative or otherwise obviously defective.
Incorrectly aimed headlamp bulbs if not seated correctly will resulting in an incorrect / dazzling beam pattern will be failed.

Electrical wiring and battery

An insecure or leaking car battery is now cause for failure.
Insecure or bare wiring, likely to cause a short will result in failure.

Trailer / caravan electrical socket

All trailers and caravans will be required to have a basic security/damage check of all 7-pin sockets installed, any 13-pin sockets will be tested and checked including full electrical connectivity and incorrectly connected or inoperative circuits will result in failure.


Any tyre pressure monitoring systems fitted to vehicles 1st registered after 1 January 2012 must be working in accordance with the vehicles manufacturer and not indicating a malfunction.

Supplementary safety restraints

If any airbag fitted as original equipment maunfactured (OEM) is obviously missing or defective the vehicle will fail.
A seatbelt pre-tensioner fitted as OEM, missing or deployed will be a reason for failure.
Fitted as standard seatbelt load limiters that are missing or folding webbing type limiters that have deployed will result in failure.
Any vehicle will also fail if a Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) malfunction indicator lamp shows an SRS malfunction.

Speedometer / Speedo / Oddometer 

Any car without a speedometer not fitted, incomplete, inoperative, has any dial glass broken/missing or lack of illumination will result in failure.


The driver seat must be possible to secure the seat fore and aft in no less than 2 different seating positions, electrically adjusted seats the motors must move the seat fore and aft.


An unopenable rear door from outside is a failure. All doors should be easily opened, locks, hinges etc are now inspected. 


Modifications or inappropriate reapirs to the towbar assembly will be a reason for failure.


A missing catalytic convertor fitted as original equipment, missing or modified will be a reason for failure.
In addition from February 2014 the Exhaust check will include a check for a Diesel Particulate Filter(DPF) , if one had been fitted, then removed this will result in an MOT test failure.

Fuel system

Damaged, corroded or chafed fuel pipes will result in failure.

Number plates (Registration plate) 

All plates must conform UK registration laws meaning no modified plates, fonts, spacing, backing material etc.

2013 MOT Test new additions 

No warning lights on your dashboard, no exceptions

TIP : You do not need two fog lights only the drivers side!!!
TIP : You only need your interior mirror and drivers mirror.
TIP : You do not need door locks which are visible for a Test.
TIP : Look for leaking lines & liquids around these areas.
TIP : It will be noticable if the exhaust is blowing, due to a higher tone.
TIP : A tell tale sign of a bearing on its way out is a whirr from the wheel when cornering usually only in one direction. 
TIP : A good way to test the shocks is the bounce test if you push the car down on one corner, and it returns the shock is generally ok.
TIP : The best way to find excessive play on a steering rack, is to turn the steering wheel when stationary, if the steering wheel turns, but the wheels DON'T, you have a worn steering rack.


Car Import Guide for the UK

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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