Having a car in Britain: to buy one or to bring it from your home country?

Driving a car at night - pretty, young woman driving her modern car at night in a city (shallow DOF; color toned image)

Before coming to UK, drivers always ask us whether they should take their cars to the UK or look for them there. In this article we talk about both options, so you can choose one of them according to your personal and financial situation.

How can I bring my car from home?

You can enter the UK with your car if you’re not going to live here. You have it up to six months during a one-year period, either in one visit or several. If you’re going to be there for more than six months or you have become a resident, you are required to register the car and pay taxes on it.

At this link you will find information about temporary admission of the vehicle. If you choose to import it, you must pay the VAT (Value Added Tax / VAT). At this other link, you can see how to register your car when you become a resident or if you spend more than six months with the vehicle in the UK, and find information about the required documentation. Keep in mind that probably your car insurance will be more expensive, because the steering wheel is on the other side. The average insurance payout is 700 pounds a year. If you get the English card, it is cheaper.

You can read more about this on the following pages:

What are the steps that I should take to buy a car here?

Young couple buys a car

If you’re not convinced by the above explanation, perhaps you would prefer to buy a car in the UK and save money on paperwork. The cars are usually cheaper.

Here we list some tips that you can follow before buying a used car. Many used cars need to be repaired, so it never hurts to follow these tips and avoid some nasty surprises:

  1. You should buy a car that fits with your budget. Look at car ads on websites and magazines to see what the market’s like. Also think about the actual space you need (a mini, a 4 × 4, a two-seater…), and what you might have to spend on repairs if something goes wrong.
  2. You should buy the car from a professional. Preferably, a used car brand that you know. It will more expensive, but you will have more legal protection. The car must comply exactly with the description the seller gives you. Selling a car that is not ready for the road is illegal, so chances are everything works. If something goes wrong, you can ask the dealer to give you back the money or make the appropriate repair. You must choose the seller carefully. To do this, you can follow the advice of people you’re close to. You can look at these pages for a good seller: Auto Trader, Car Pages or Exchange & Mart.
  3. You could also buy from a person you trust. It will cost less, but in this case, you will have less protection.
  4. Take your time to decide. Make sure that the car is okay. The link below will help you know what to look for, especially in a used car: 10 top tips for checking a used car. If you don’t understand cars, bring someone who does.
  5. Before reaching any deal, verify the identity of the car at the DVLA website. It is important to ensure that it is not a stolen car. See also the MOT history online.
  6. Compare deals. Invest time in this task, as it can save you hundreds of pounds.
  7. When you will pay, make sure you get the invoice and the following documentation: V5C registration document, the car’s service history and proof of identity of the seller.

At these links you can find more tips before making a final decision:

And here are some of the websites you can check once you’ve decided to buy a car:

When you have decided to buy a car, you must keep the DVLA Car Information in mind. This search engine lets you know information about the car and helps you avoid scams. You can find more information on the UK government website. You need to enter the model and serial number, and the public database will indicate the year of the car, the engine, if it has passed the MOT, if all taxes have been paid, etc.

What requirements must the car meet?

Volkswagen Aftersales (Technicians)

Whether it is imported from your home country or purchased in the UK, all cars must:

  1. Have passed the MOT (Ministry of Transport Test / ITV). You will find more information at this UK government link: Getting an MOT. This test certifies that the vehicle complies with road safety and environmental standards and it lasts one year. The penalty for not passing the MOT can be up to 1,000 pounds. You can tell if a car has passed the British ITV at this link: Check the status MOT of a vehicle. You will find more information at this link. The MOT reviews the vehicle’s body and structure, emissions, fuel system, seats, belts, tires, wheels, windshields, license plate, lights, brakes and mirrors, among other things. Passing the MOT will cost you between 150 and 300 pounds, depending on the vehicle.
  2. Pay insurance. You’ll find more information on this point at this government link. The price is usually 700 pounds a year. If you do not have the British card, you’ll pay more. You can use these insurance comparators to get an idea and save as much as possible: Money Supermarket and Confused.
  3. The road tax. At UKister we have an article about this: Car Tax Disc, the road tax in the UK. Usually it costs about 150 pounds a year.
  4. Vehicle Tax Rate: The tax depends on the year of the car, engine size and how much it contaminates (ie the type of fuel you use). Here‘s more information. And at this link you can calculate the Vehicle Tax Rate.

Have any of you brought your car from your home country? Did anyone buy a car here? How was your experience?

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