How can I reduce the cost of insuring my imported car?

If you own an imported car, whether it falls under the parallel imports or grey-imports category, you’re probably wondering how to get a good deal on your car insurance. So here are some helpful hints on how to find car insurance for imported cars, including left-hand-drive car insurance.

If you own an imported car, whether it falls under the parallel imports or grey-imports category, you’re probably wondering how to get a good deal on your car insurance. So here are some helpful hints on how to find car insurance for imported cars, including left-hand-drive car insurance.

Kate Hughes
Car insurance expert
minute read
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Posted 29 NOVEMBER 2021

Is it more expensive to insure an imported car? 

We get it, you want something a bit more interesting as your personal motor. A bit more exotic perhaps. Something no one else on the street, or maybe even your town, has. And why not? 

But while they might be cheaper to buy, imported cars can be more expensive to insure than cars bought in the UK, because insurance providers find it harder to predict how much of a risk they pose. It’s more likely to be true of cars imported from outside the EU, where models don’t conform to EU standards. An imported car might need to go to a specialist garage for repairs, and parts might be tricky to find.

What are grey imports?

Grey-import vehicles usually come from outside the EU. They include certain high-spec Japanese and American cars, like the Nissan Figaro and Eunos Roadster. You may have to make some changes to your new vehicle to make sure it meets UK safety standards, like adjustments to the lights, before you can drive it. The more straightforward and mainstream the car, the cheaper the insurance tends to be. So cars like this usually require special, and therefore often more expensive, insurance cover.

What are parallel imports?

Parallel imports are cars from EU countries, usually from brands like Peugeot, Volkswagen and Ford. These don’t typically cost much more to insure than a similar model bought here in the UK. These cars will already meet UK safety standards.

What about personal imports?

Personal import is another term you’re likely to hear if you’re buying an imported car. This simply refers to a car you’ve imported yourself, rather than one obtained through a dealer. You’ll need to register your car if you import it yourself.

What about car insurance for left-hand drive cars?

It’s legal to use a left-hand-drive (LHD) car in the UK, but you need to make sure you have LHD car insurance. This shouldn’t be too hard to find, but it might cost more than insurance for a right-hand-drive car. To find a deal that suits you, shop around and compare insurance quotes. 

Owners’ clubs are also a great source of information and advice on everything from sourcing the car at the right price to finding a knowledgeable garage and navigating your way through paperwork.

How can I save money on insuring my imported car?

The good news is that the process for insuring an imported car is the same as it is for a vehicle bought in the UK. 

But before you start, your new car will need to be registered with the DVLA (Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency). It will need a vehicle identification number (VIN) and to pass the individual vehicle approval (IVA) test – arranged and managed by the DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency. VAT and tax is still applicable too. 

When it comes to reducing your imported car’s insurance, there’s a few things to consider – often the same or similar ones as for vehicles sourced in the UK. These include: 

  • Where you park your car overnight. This is especially important for luxury models or sports cars that are tempting to thieves. Taking extra precautions lowers the insurance provider’s risk and may lower your premiums as a result.
  • Choose a car with fewer after-market modifications. Even minor modifications can affect the cost of your insurance, making it more expensive for standard vehicles, let alone imported cars.
  • Consider paying a higher voluntary excess. Just make sure you can afford it if you make a claim. Also, don’t forget that if your car is a grey import, there may be a higher compulsory excess too.
  • Drive carefully to help build up and protect your no-claims discount

One of the easiest ways to see if you could save is by using Compare the Market’s online comparison service. Simply tell us a little bit about you, your car and the level of cover you’ll need, and we’ll do the rest.

Frequently asked questions

How do I insure an imported car?

When it comes to insuring imported cars, the process is much the same as insuring any other car.  

How do I import a car into the UK?

Thinking of importing a car? Then there’s a series of steps you’ll need to follow: 

  • Let HMRC know the car is here in the UK 
    This must happen within 14 days of it arriving. 
  • Pay any taxes due 
    HMRC may expect you to pay VAT and customs duty on the car.  
  • Get vehicle approval 
    This is to show that it meets UK environmental and safety standards. 
  • Register the car with the DVLA 
    The DVLA will then give you a registration number, so that you can get UK number plates.  

If you drive your car without completing these steps, you could be prosecuted (unless you’re taking it straight to the vehicle-approval test, or for an MOT).  

How much VAT and duty will I have to pay on my imported car?

The amount of VAT you’ll be charged on your imported car will depend on the value of the vehicle. If you bought accessories with the car, you may be charged for VAT on those, too, as well as the cost of delivery.  
You’ll also have to pay duty on the car if you’re importing it into the UK. How much you’ll have to pay will depend on what kind of car it is, and where you bought it.  

I want to import a car to the UK – what do I need to know?

If you’re thinking of importing a car to the UK, your first port of call should be the British Independent Motor Trade Association (BIMTA). This is the trade body representing the independent vehicle trade industry. Among other things, they’ll check the background and mileage on any car you buy. 

Importing cars to the UK – what to look out for

As well as higher insurance costs, there are other factors you need to be aware of when importing cars to the UK. 

  • You probably won’t get a manufacturer’s warranty
  • The car may lose value more, and be harder to sell 
  • The car might drive differently to its UK equivalent 
  • Servicing, repairing and maintaining the car may be harder. You might also find that parts are difficult to come by. 
  • You may find it’s more difficult to get car finance.  

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