Buying an Import Car from USA to UK: What You Need to Know
If you don’t want to overpay for a new vehicle fresh out of the dealership, buying a used car might save you some money – and there are few better places to import your car from than the United States. Along with France and Germany, the USA is the world’s leading car exporter, especially when it comes to used cars since Americans’ change cars far more frequently than Europeans do.
Buying an imported car from the US will give you newer and often lower-mileage models than when searching the European aftermarket – but what’s the catch in getting it to the UK?
Here’s all that you need to know about buying an import car from USA in the UK:
Verify your car’s history using VIN
The first thing you should always do when looking for a used vehicle is to check its full history using the car’s VIN. The VIN number is most often located on the driver’s side dashboard, visible from the outside. If the number is not there, don’t worry – some models feature their VIN on the driver side door frame from the inside. Alternatively, if you really can’t find it, you can check the VIN number under the hood on the front of the engine block or front end of the frame (in older cars).
With the VIN number in hand, you can quickly check the vehicle’s full accident and ownership history for free online, as well as the reported mileage at different points in time. It’s the number 1 method for confirming whether the car’s description is true or not.
Confirm compliance with emission standards – getting vehicle approval
When importing from the United States, keep in mind that Americans use different emission standards than those used in the European Union and the UK. Before you’re allowed to drive an imported vehicle, it must pass a vehicle approval test. There are a few exemptions from this, especially for vehicles manufactured over 10 years ago – you can check the full list of exemptions at gov.uk.
There are two ways of getting your vehicle approved – the Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval (MSVA) for 2, 3, and small 4-wheeled vehicles, as well as Individual Vehicle Approval for all the rest. First, you’ll need your VIN to generate a vehicle history report. Then, drive to a designated location for a detailed car inspection.
To register for an inspection, fill the proper application form and submit it to the DVSA.
How expensive is it to import a car from the USA to the UK?
Importing cars from the US isn’t as expensive as you might think – on average, it should cost you around £500 to ship your car, with delivery time ranging from two weeks to a month. That’s not the only cost involved with importing a car from the USA, unfortunately – you might also have to pay duty and VAT, which are respectively 10% and 20%.
Keep in mind that temporary imports usually don’t require you to pay VAT or the vehicle tax. You can also skip these taxes if you’re relocating to the UK on the basis of a residency transfer. However, if you previously already got a refund on VAT or other taxes, or bought the vehicle duty or tax free, you will have to pay them when importing.
Registering and taxing your new or used vehicle
If you’re permanently bringing a car to the UK, you’ll have to register it. The process is similar to vehicles bought in the UK – you’ll have to contact the DVLA and pay a £55 fee, as well as provide some extra documents for the imported vehicle. This usually includes the proof of your vehicle’s approval (which you’ll get after it passes the inspection), form V267 in case you’re buying a new car, vehicle collection date evidence (an invoice is enough), and the original foreign registration certificate.
In case you don’t have the original foreign registration certificate, don’t worry – there are alternatives you can provide to the DVLA for registration. Any proof of the manufacture date should be enough, even a letter from the manufacturer. Remember not to send any photocopies or your application will be denied – only original copies.