Imported Cars

Imported CarsThe number of motor vehicles produced in the UK has been falling in recent years, from 1.8 million in 2007 to 1.6 million in 2013 according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Approximately 85 percent of vehicles sold in the UK are imported. At the same time, 77 percent of vehicles manufactured in the UK are exported and many components of imported vehicles are made in the UK. There are specific rules related to importing a car into the UK and driving an imported vehicle. Residents of the UK are not permitted to drive a car on public roads if it has been registered with an authority outside of the UK. This restriction is not applicable for drivers who work in another EU member state who are using an EU-registered company car on a temporary basis in the UK. It is also waved when leasing an EU-registered car for temporary use in the UK. In order to drive an imported car in the UK, a number of steps must be taken in order to comply with applicable laws and regulations.

Types of Imported Cars

Parallel imports are cars that have been purchased in the UK from a car dealership or broker. Parallel imports are typically vehicles purchased from another country in Europe. This type of important is typically easier to process than a grey import, which is a car that has been imported from Japan. Parallel imports typically have the same specifications and components as cars sold in the UK, unlike some grey imports. As a result, insurance premiums might be higher for grey imports and parallel imports tend to be more affordable. A car can also be personally imported, which means the car owner imports the vehicle from another country on their own. This might occur if the owner is relocating to the UK or if they simply are buying a vehicle from another country. A personal import requires a number of additional steps to ensure the right documentation has been obtained, that any applicable charges are paid, and that the vehicle is properly licensed and registered for use in the UK.

Imported Car Regulations

An imported vehicle must meet the Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations and the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations in order to be legally operated on UK roads. The Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations sets requirements that govern the construction, equipment and maintenance of vehicles, including dimensions, brakes, wheels and related components such as tyres, steering gears, fuel related components, protective systems such as seat belts, and other elements that contribute to the safe operation of a motor vehicle. The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations outlines requirements for lamps and reflectors, as well as markings, reflectors and other devices that assist with visibility.

Unless an imported vehicle is exempt from requirements of these regulations, a car must meet environmental and safety regulations set out in UK law and regulations. In order to ensure an imported vehicle can be legally operated, a vehicle owner must obtain a copy of the European Certificate of Conformity or vehicle approval certificate from the manufacturer or importer. A certificate of Mutual Recognition is needed if the car was approved and registered in the European Union. This type of certificate applies to imported left-hand-drive cars first registered within the UK. These documents will provide evidence that the imported vehicle is compliant with any applicable vehicle regulations.

Importing a Car into the UK

In addition to obtaining documentation that certifies that the vehicle is road worthy for use in the UK, a number of steps must be taken to import a car. Without carrying out these steps, an imported car cannot be operated on public roads.

Owners must pay any applicable VAT, duty and tax on the vehicle. As a first step, car owners should contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in order to determine any applicable VAT, duty and/or vehicle tax. Charges may be waived if the vehicle is intended for temporary use in the UK and the driver is a non-UK EU resident. Contacting HMRC is only required if the imported car has an engine of over 48 cubic centimetres or is electrically propelled using more than 7.2 kilowatts or approximately 9.65 horsepower. If the imported car meets these specifications, a Notice of Vehicle Arrivals form must be submitted within 14 days of importing the vehicle. HMRC will inform the car owner of any applicable charges, which is typically applied on the vehicle, accessories and delivery or incidental fees. VAT is not charged for second-hand cars when the VAT was paid in another EU member state. VAT and duty may also not be applicable on cars imported from outside the EU if the owner is moving to the UK after having spent 12 or more months outside of the EU and the importer has owned the car for at least six months outside of the UK. VAT and duty might also be waived for cars previously exported out of the EU and on cars registered to non-EU residents for temporary and private use.

Car owners must also ensure that the car is insured with an insurance provider recognised in the UK. Whether the vehicle is used for personal or commercial use, the car must also be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) or the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Northern Ireland. Registration is required when the car is being imported permanently. When registering a vehicle, owners must submit proof of Mutual Recognition or vehicle type approval or proof of exemption, the V267 Declaration that the Vehicle is New form if the car is new, foreign registration documents and related papers, evidence showing that the vehicle was collected (e.g., an invoice from the shipping company), and HMRC forms providing that applicable VAT or duty was paid. Vehicle tax will be applied when the car is formally registered in the UK.

Additional Information

For more information about importing a car into the UK, visit A valuable resource is the DVLA's vehicle import pack, which is available from