IMPORTING A CAR: I want to import a car to the UK - what do I need to know?


First point. Unless you are buying a high ticket car, it is usually better to buy UK supplied via a broker than to attempt to import one yourself. See Week's best Deals in the News at www.honestjohn.co.uk.

a. Get the relevant Government booklets and forms. First phone the DVLA on 0870 240 0010 and ask for the pack on personal imports. This includes: the booklet 'How to Import a Vehicle Permanently into Great Britain'; Form V100, which explains registering and licensing procedures and gives a list of Vehicle Registration Offices; and Form V55/5, which is an application form to licence a vehicle in the UK for the first time. (Alternatively, write to DETR VSE1, Zone 2/01, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1 4DR, or visit the DETR website at: www.roads.detr.gov.uk). Then phone your local VAT enquiry line, listed under 'Customs & Excise' in the telephone directory, and ask for the 'VAT Notice 728 Pack' which includes form VAT 415, 'New Means of Transport – Notification of Acquisition'. (Please don't phone Customs & Excise on either 020 7864 3000 or 01304 224372, as these lines have become overwhelmed with enquiries.)

b. Decide which makes and models you are interested in and obtain the UK brochures for these cars. Then phone the manufacturers' UK customer helpline, asking for a current list of continental service dealers.

c. Choose the car and specification you want, then start phoning. When you find a receptive dealer, fax the exact specification of car you want and ask for a quote, to include temporary registration and export plates. The best countries to buy in are likely to be Holland, Belgium, Germany and France. Remember, if you buy in Europe, you will be buying a Europe-spec. car with RHD as an extra. Other things, such as a radio, tinted glass, alarm/immobiliser (and seven seats in an MPV), may be extras too.

d. Order your car from the dealer offering the best combination of price and delivery date. Delivery could easily be 6 to 8 months for a car such as a VW, Mercedes Benz or Alfa Romeo. You will be asked to pay a deposit of between 10 and 30 per cent on receipt of order, either by credit card, Switch or by international bank credit transfer. Make sure the dealer faxes, e-mails or posts you a receipt for this and a confirmation of your order.

e. Decide on whether you are going to gamble on Sterling rising or falling against the currency in which you will be buying the car. If you gamble on Sterling rising, leave your funds in a high-interest Sterling account. If you gamble on Sterling falling, open a Foreign Currency Call Account at your bank. This is a deposit account in a foreign currency offering interest based on the much lower base rates for the foreign currency.

f. Keep in touch with the dealer by phone, fax or e-mail to make sure your order is being processed. Within two months of the delivery date, start asking for a scheduled build date for your car.  

g. Once the dealer gives you a delivery date, ask him to arrange temporary insurance for you to drive the car back (this insurance will be Third Party only). A new EU rule now requires you to insure the car in the country of purchase. But if you want to arrange additional comprehensive insurance on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from the point of purchase back to the UK, speak to Footman James on 0121 561 4196. Then organise your flight out and ferry back, and arrange for a bank draft to pay for the car.

h. When you go to collect the car, inspect it carefully to make sure it complies with the specification you have ordered. Make sure the dealer gives you: a Certificate of Conformity to European Type Approval (a 'C of C'); a Registration Certificate naming you as the keeper; an insurance document to prove the car was insured in the country of origin (often combined with the temporary registration); and, of course, the dealer's invoice. Make sure you buy some petrol in the country of origin and keep the receipt. Keep any hotel and restaurant receipts. And keep the ferry ticket.

i. As soon as possible (this must be within seven days of arriving back in the UK with your new car), fill in the form 'New Means of Transport – Notification of Acquisition' (Appendix 'D') which came with VAT 728, and take it, together with completed form C55/5, the dealer's invoice, foreign registration document, the Certificate of Type Approval Conformity, your petrol receipts and any other foreign receipts to prove you have driven the car abroad, your ferry ticket and your UK insurance certificate based on the VIN number, to your nearest Vehicle Registration Office. On payment of a £25 first registration fee, and either six months' or twelve months' VED, the VRO will issue you with a registration number and a VED disc. The date of first registration will now be the date the car was first registered in the UK, provided this is within 14 days of the purchase date, or within 30 days of the purchase date if this immediately precedes a registration letter change. Your V5 registration document will then be sent to you from Swansea.

j. The VRO will send form NMT – Notification of Acquisition – on to Customs & Excise, who will then send you invoice VAT 413 for UK VAT at 17.5% of the cost of the car, which you have 30 days to settle. Once settled, you will receive a receipted VAT 413.

k. Order a set of plates. Phone the manufacturer's customer helpline to put the car on the manufacturer's UK data bank for warranty purposes and in case of any recalls. Though C&E only insist you keep the purchase invoice and the receipted VAT for 6 years as proof that VAT has been paid, it's advisable to keep all the documentation, including petrol receipts and ferry tickets, in a safe place with them to pass on to the new owner when you sell the car.

Imports from outside the EU
On 1 August 2000 the Government announced that it was to relax SVA quotas, which had previously restricted trade imports of non-EU Type Approved vehicles to a total of 50 a year for any one make and model. These quota restrictions were lifted as from 18 August 2000. By January 2001, personal import rules were tightened up so that only people who have lived overseas for more than a year and owned the car overseas for more than six months can bring it to the UK as a personal import which, if it is more than 3 years old, is not subject to a Single Vehicle Approval test. All other imports up to ten years old will be subject to the SVA test.


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