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The best guide: How to import a vehicle to the UK from day 1

All the information you need to import a vehicle to the UK.

Import a vehicle to the UK

Can I import a vehicle to the UK ?

Yes, you can do it. But there are a few steps that needs to be followed before you can import a vehicle to the UK.
You can pay an importer or shipping company to do the paperwork for you.

Here are the first steps to import a vehicle to the UK:

  • Tell HM Revenue and Customs: You have 14 days to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) after you bring a vehicle into the UK permanently. You cannot register the vehicle until you’ve done this.

How you tell HMRC will depend on if you’re importing it to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) or to Northern Ireland, and where you’re importing it from.
(If your vehicle has an engine of 48cc or less (7.2kw or less if it’s electric), you can register it without telling HMRC first.)

  • Pay VAT and duty (if HMRC tells you to): HMRC will tell you if you need to pay for VAT or duty after you inform them you imported a vehicle.

The VAT is charged on the total cost of the vehicle plus any accessories you bought with it, delivery and extra charges and duty.
Duty is charged on vehicles imported to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
(How you pay depends on where you’re importing the vehicle from)

  • Get vehicle approval: You need to get approval to show that your vehicle meets environmental and safety regulations. You’ll need proof of approval to register the vehicle.

You might not need approval for a vehicle that was first registered or manufactured more than 10 years ago (there are some exceptions).

If the vehicle’s not registered in the EU, you will need to apply for either:

  • Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA)
  • Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval (MSVA)

If the vehicle’s registered in the EU, you’ll need to get a European Certificate of Conformity from the manufacturer to show you have approval for an EU-registered vehicle.
If it’s a left-hand drive vehicle, you’ll also need a certificate of GB conversion Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA).

  • Register and tax the vehicle: You must register any vehicle you bring into the UK permanently. You cannot register it before you inform the HMRC, paid VAT and duty and get proof of Vehicle approval.
    You also tax the vehicle when you register it with DVLA – there’s a £55 fee.

Follow the instructions for registering a vehicle to fill in your forms and send supporting documents.
You must also send extra supporting documents for an imported vehicle.

DVLA might ask to inspect the vehicle.

How long it takes?

It can take up to 6 weeks for your registration certificate (V5C) to arrive.

You might need to get a number plate made up if, for example:

  • Your number plate has been lost, damaged or stolen
  • You’re importing a car to the UK
  • You’ve purchased a personalized registration number
  • You can only get a number plate made up from a registered number plate supplier.

Identity documents :

You can use the following to confirm your name and address:

  • Driving license
  • Utility, Council Tax or rates bill from the last 6 months
  • Bank or building society statement from the last 6 months
  • National identity card

The following will confirm your name only:

  • Passport – does not have to be issued in the UK
  • Bank or building society debit or credit card
  • Police warrant card
  • Armed forces identity card

Proving you can use the registration number:

You must bring one of the following to show you’re allowed to display the registration number:

  • Vehicle registration certificate (V5C or V5CNI)
  • Green ‘new keeper’ slip from the V5C or V5CNI
  • Certificate of entitlement (V750 or V750NI) to the number
  • Retention document (V778)
  • A renewal reminder for vehicle tax or SORN (V11 or V11NI)
  • Temporary registration certificate (V379 or V379NI)
  • A number plate authorization certificate (V948) with an official stamp from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • An electronic number plate authorization certificate (eV948 or eV948/2)
  • A letter of authorization from a fleet operator (including lease or hire company) quoting the document reference number from the registration certificate
  • If your fleet is in the new V5C on demand scheme (also called ‘V5C suppression’), a PDF of the vehicle’s details from the view vehicle record service
  • UK trailer registration certificate (VTRC)

Is it cheaper to import, self build or buy a new car?

When you want to buy a new car it’s a good idea to shop around for the best deals and some of those can be found abroad.

New car imports from abroad come in two categories, parallel and grey imports. Parallel imports are vehicles brought into the UK from a country within the EU while grey imports are imported from outside the EU, often from China, Japan, the USA or other emerging markets.

If you plan to buy a new car abroad and then import, you can often secure a discount of as much as 50% off the price of the same car in the UK. However, importing a car can be confusing for the inexperienced and will incur a number of extra costs.

And once you get your new car back to Britain, you may have to modify it depending on which country you decided to buy a new car from.

Modifications can include converting a left-hand drive to a right-hand drive, for example. Non-European vehicles imported to the UK will also need to undergo a safety standards test, and this will be an additional fee. The fees for Single Vehicle Approval run from £190 to £285.

Costs & Time Frame to import a vehicle to UK (From the USA):

To import a vehicle to the UK from the USA has an approximate cost of $650 USD with an estimated turnaround time of 14 – 28 days, depending on the model of the vehicle, the nearest departure port in the United States, and your final destination in the UK.

You might be interested in: The best guide: How to import a vehicle from the USA to Europe from day 1

Here is a rough breakdown of the process you’ll need to go through to import a vehicle to the UK

Before beginning the process of importing and registering a car in the UK, verify the key documentation you will need, as well as information on the mutual recognition policy that will affect those who wish to import a vehicle to the UK.

  • Once you’ve identified the standards your vehicle must meet, you’ll need the documentation to prove it, as well as evidence of compliance with emissions standards. Documentation includes: Original Title, Certificate of Origin, Bill of Lading, Doc Receipt.
  • Select an international car import company and preferred import method to transport your vehicle from the United States to the United Kingdom
  • Determine your vehicle’s departure and destination ports
  • Confirm the vehicle is clean and free of foreign soil.
  • If you wish to register your vehicle for road use in the UK, you’ll need to get the vehicle plated.

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