Importing Cars: Everything You Need To Know About Import Cars

import car

Want to know more about importing cars? You have come to the right place!

There are plenty of cars in the UK already but manufacturers don’t sell their entire range to us. If there’s a special car that has a place in your heart but it’s not available domestically, you might have to enter the import market to get it.

Importing a car isn’t straightforward. That’s why we have put together this ultimate guide to importing cars. We’ll explain how to import a car, where to find import car dealers and what costs are involved.

What Are Import Cars?

import car doing doughnuts

Car imports are when a vehicle manufactured for sale in one country is brought into another to be driven there. Commonly, people import cars due to a lack of availability but if you own a car and are moving to another country you may wish to take it with you. In this case, you will need to import your own vehicle.

Fluctuations in exchange rates can sometimes mean importing cars from around the world is better value than buying domestically.

When importing a car, it’s important to follow the rules of both the country it is leaving and where it is going. Only when the imported car meets all of the regulations will it be legal to import.

Cars can be imported to the United Kingdom from pretty much any country in the world, although following Brexit, it is now much more complicated to import from within the EU.

Getting Your Import Car Insured

importing cars

Car insurance is important, and whenever your import arrives in the UK you must get it insured. Not every insurance company offers import car cover but many out there do.

Depending on your import, you may have to shop around to find the right cover to suit you. It must also be said that import insurance is often more expensive than domestic car insurance.

Typically, people import foreign cars for performance and the more powerful your car is the more expensive the coverage will cost, just like domestic insurance. Premiums increase again if importing from outside Europe.

An important note: some insurance providers won’t cover your import if it wasn’t created for use within the European Union.

How To Import A Car

car shipment

If the car of your dreams is abroad, you’ll need to follow the correct guidelines to import it correctly. For that reason, it’s important to find an importing company that you can trust.

The safest way to ensure your import will arrive in one piece is to use a British Independent Motor Trade Association (BIMTA) dealer.

There are three common methods of importing cars; by sea, by air and by land. You will have to choose the best method depending on the distance between you and your import.

For instance, a car in Spain may be perfectly fine to import on land if you accept adding extra miles to the engine. Otherwise, the costs of having an import shipped or flown over must be covered.

You must inform HM Revenue and Customs of your intent to import a car. The Notification of Vehicle Arrivals service will take interest in your import and inform you if there is any additional VAT or duty to pay.

Overcoming Customs When Importing Cars

how to import cars

Cars could easily be imported to the UK from the European Union before Brexit. This was known as parallel importing and, as long as the imported car matched British service, safety and emissions standards, they were easy to import.

As the European Union set similar minimum standards for all vehicles marketed within the continent, this was often not a problem.

These days, EU imports are under the same trade restrictions as all other goods. That means they must go through customs, which adds a fee as well as some extra hoops to jump through.

How To Import A Car From Japan

car importing


While the EU has been on our doorstep for decades, Japanese import cars have been the go-to for UK drivers.

The main reason for this is the fact that cars from the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) are right-hand drive, just like ours. It makes them an ideal car for import but they are built under different safety and fuel emissions regulations.

Because of the way they are built, it’s common for Japanese imports to require modifications before they are allowed to drive on British roads. Once those hurdles have been overcome, Japanese cars make great imports to the UK.

How Much Is It To Import A Car From Japan?

cargo ship at docks

There are a lot of miles to cover between Japan and the United Kingdom, so transportation costs soon add up. The costs when bringing JDM import cars to the UK by sea include a shipping charge, plus insurance, UK port fees, UK customs fees and import duty.

You will also have to retrofit modifications to ensure your vehicle meets UK safety and emissions standards.

A registration fee with the DVLA is required and an MOT test must be passed. Standard fees like insurance and road tax will also apply.

European Car Imports

importing cars

While cars from the continent don’t come with right-hand drive, they are ideal for importing because they often already comply with UK driving regulations.

Cars imported from the European Union must come with a European Certificate of Conformity to prove they meet safety and emissions standards. This can help save on modification costs when importing cars from other continents.

Import cars from Germany are common, despite how many German-made cars are already sold domestically. The upside of importing directly from Germany is getting model variations that are otherwise unavailable to UK customers.

California Import Cars


Japan and Germany are common import locations for UK drivers but another that flies under the radar is the USA. For instance, California plays host to an amazing range of custom cars, lowriders and muscle cars.

Perhaps it’s the weather or amazing roads, but car culture is booming on the West Coast of the United States. Fans of American cars have been importing classic cars like Mustangs and Corvettes to the UK for decades.

There are plenty of cars that head in the other direction too. Petrolheads, or gearheads as they are known Stateside, import cars to American shores to show off their latest rides.

The USA has its own car manufacturers but many of the most respected and desired are here in Europe.

How Much Does It Cost To Import A Car From The USA?

cargo ship at docks

When importing a car from a foreign market the upkeep costs must also be considered. Dealing with import car parts you may require you to track them down yourself or bid on auction sites from around the world.

You might be able to go through your Ford dealer for Ford parts but more obscure vehicles can require time and money to find parts for. Considering many choose to import from the USA for its classic cars, those parts can be even harder to come by.

Exporting Your Car

car transporter

If you are moving to another country it’s worth bearing in mind the processes involved in exporting your car. For instance, exporting cars to the USA is similar to importing them to the UK. Imported cars must meet US standards or else be modified appropriately.

You must consider the costs of transport while ensuring that your car’s undercarriage is free from foreign soil. Your vehicle must be registered for road use with the relevant motoring authority, in the United States it is the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

How FairSquare Can Help

FairSquare logo

While importing cars isn’t a service here at FairSquare, we do have plenty of hassle-free car options available on finance. You won’t have to worry about customs fees, or even delivery fees when you buy a car through our service. We deliver our cars right to your door at no extra charge.

In the time it takes you to make a coffee you can undergo our soft credit check, pick out your favourite new car and complete the purchase. All from the comfort of your own home, there’s no need to visit a dealership.

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Legal disclaimer: FairSquare Europe Limited is a company incorporated in England & Wales (Reg No: 08023305). and having its Registered office address at 3 Brindley Place, Birmingham, B1 2JB. FairSquare Europe Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for credit-related regulated activities, Firm Reference Number 715086

We act as a credit broker not a lender. Fairsquare shall act independently in sourcing credit from our panel of funders.

As a credit intermediary, we maintain a panel of Lenders who are reputable and experienced in the motor finance industry and consumer credit sector and offer products and services to suit a variety of credit strengths.

FairSquare is committed to ensuring that applications for credit to finance your car are placed with the most appropriate funder for a transaction. As we act as a credit broker, we will receive a fixed commission for introducing you to a finance provider, any such amount a lender pays us will not affect the interest rate you pay under your finance agreement, all of which are set by the lender concerned.

Finance is subject to status. Applicants must be 18 or over.