How to import a passenger vehicle into the UK

Importing a car into the UK? You can either do it yourself or ask an importer or shipping company to do it for you. Gavin Braithwaite-Smith investigates.


Have you ever considered importing a vehicle into the UK? There are certain steps you must complete as soon as the car arrives in the UK, and you can pay an importer or shipping company to do it on your behalf. Alternatively, you can import the car yourself. Here is our basic guide to help you through it.


1. Inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)


You have 14 days to tell HMRC after you import a car into the UK permanently, and youíll be unable to register the vehicle with the DVLA until this is completed. The only exception to this rule is if your vehicle has an engine below 49cc (or 7.2kW, if itís electric), but youíll be fined £5 for every day youíre late telling HMRC about any other imported vehicle.


If youíre importing a vehicle from within the European Union, you can use the online Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) service. To do so, you must have an HMRC online account, otherwise known as a Government Gateway account. If the vehicle is arriving from a country outside the EU, and youíre not a VAT-registered company, you can inform HMRC by completing customs forms when the car enters the UK. The forms are available from the shipping company or customs officers, who will require the foreign registration along with documents you have for the vehicle.


2. Paying VAT and duty


Youíll be notified by HMRC if you have to pay VAT and duty, which are charged on the total cost of the vehicle, plus any accessories fitted and shipping charges. The rates vary and depend on the type of vehicle and where it was imported from. You can claim relief from VAT and duty if youíre moving to the UK, or returning a previously exported car to the country.


If youíre buying a used car, you wonít have to pay VAT if it has already been paid in the European Union, if the vehicle has been in use for more than six months, and it has done more than 6,000kms (3,728 miles). Please note that the car must meet all three of the criteria listed to be exempt from VAT.


3. Getting vehicle approval


Unless your car was first manufactured or registered more than 10 years ago, it will require vehicle approval to show that it meets UK environmental and safety regulations. There are other exemptions, mostly concerning commercial vehicles, but itís worth noting that cars or minibuses with more than eight passenger seats are also exempt from vehicle approval. 


If the vehicle was registered in the EU, youíll need a Certificate of Conformity (CoC) to ensure the car meets a minimum set of regulatory, technical and safety requirements. You can apply for a CoC using the carís VIN number, and most manufacturers will post a copy directly to you at no cost. However, if the vehicle has already been issued with a CoC, you might be charged for a duplicate certificate. For example, Honda will charge you £75, while Volkswagen asks for 71.40 Euros (around £64).


You will also need to obtain a certificate of Mutual Recognition, which requires you to make a number of declarations about the suitability of the vehicle for use on UK roads, along with any alterations or modifications. The form will ask for the make, model and VIN number of the imported vehicle, where it came from, along with a confirmation that the headlights and speedometer have been adjusted for use on UK roads, and that a rear fog light has been fitted. The current fee is £100 and this needs to be sent with the application form, along with any relevant receipts and documentation, such as the cost of converting the speedometer from kph to mph. 


If the vehicleís not registered in the EU, you will need to seek Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) via the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). In most cases, a basic IVA will suffice, which involves a visual inspection and other tests to ensure that the vehicle meets necessary standards. Online you can find a 312-page guide that sets out how the DVSA examiners will inspect your vehicle to ensure it meets the necessary standards. The guide was updated on 1 September 2018, when new environmental and safety standards were introduced.


4. Registering and taxing the vehicle


When you register the vehicle with the DVLA, you will be asked to tax it at the current rates, along with the payment of a £55 first registration fee. Choose either a ënew vehicle import packí or ëused vehicle import packí and send the relevant forms to the DVLA. The following documents must also be included with your registration:


• Proof of vehicle approval

• Form V267 (if the vehicle is new)

• Evidence showing the date the vehicle was collected

• The original foreign registration certificate


If the registration certificate is unavailable, the DVLA might accept a letter from the manufacturer or the relevant ownersí club. 


It can take up to six weeks for the registration certificate (V5C) and youíll need it to get new number plates for the car. It goes without saying that youíll require valid car insurance when you collect your vehicle and import it into the UK. A vehicle can be used with foreign number plates without registering or taxing it if youíre visiting the UK, the car is registered and taxed in its own country and you only use the vehicle for up to six months in total over a period of a year.


If in doubt, ask a shipping agent or specialist importer to do it for you. The additional cost might outweigh the potential headaches.

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