Last updated May 21, 2021
In order to import a car there are a number of steps that you must follow. The guidance covering cars coming from the EU into the UK has recently changed and you have to be sure that you have finished every part of the process before getting behind the wheel of a newly imported vehicle.
It is possible to have an importer or shipping company complete these steps for you. However, it’s important to still be aware of the steps if you choose to import a car, as ultimately it is your responsibility to make sure it is ready to drive.
The first step to importing a car from overseas is informing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs that you have imported a car from overseas. This has to be done within two weeks of the car arriving in the UK and you can do this through the Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) service.
HMRC will tell you if you must pay any duty or VAT on your vehicle when you inform them of its arrival. Duty is charged on vehicles imported to England, Wales or Scotland from outside the UK. However, in Northern Ireland this applies to cars from outside the UK and the EU.
HMRC will tell you how much you have to pay, if there are any fees and these rates will depend on the type of vehicle itself and where it was imported from. Any charges are based on the total cost of the vehicle as well as any accessories purchased and the delivery costs, alongside other potential charges.
You must pay any VAT or duty before you can release your car from customs or register it. There are a few variations of when duty or VAT will be applied if you live in England, Wales or Scotland, which are detailed here. If you are in Northern Ireland, VAT is usually only charged on vehicles that are new. This applies to any car that has been driven less than 6000 kilometres or has been in use for less than six months.
If you are VAT registered, you need to account for any VAT you’ve paid on your next VAT return. Then, you can register the car as soon as it arrives in the UK. If you’re not registered for VAT or you’re an individual, you must pay HMRC directly before you can register your car.
Once your car is in the UK, you’ve informed HMRC and you’ve paid any appropriate fees, you need to make sure your car is approved and meets the safety and environmental standards for driving in the UK. You will need proof of this approval to register your car.
If the car is registered in the EU, then you can get a European Certificate of Conformity from the manufacturer to show you have approval for an EU registered vehicle. If your car is not registered, then you should apply for Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA).
When every other step has been completed, you can register your car with the DVLA. You will need to send supporting documents, including:
Following this, the DVLA will provide you with a registration number and you can obtain UK number plates for your imported car.
The final step involves getting insurance before driving, as you could face prosecution without it. The only exception to this rule is if you’re driving to an MOT or approval test. Once this final step is complete, your imported car is ready for the road!
When you’ve completed these processes, you can move freely around Great Britain and Northern Ireland – just be sure to inform the DVLA of any address changes.