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Imported car insurance: All you need to know

You might be importing your dream car, but ensuring that it’s road legal may not be so much of a delight.

An interior of a classic car

Let’s look at what you need to do to get your imported vehicle legal for UK roads, and how to keep the cost of car insurance down.


Is imported car insurance more expensive?

You should be able to get car insurance for imported cars.

Although if you’re importing it from further afield than Europe, it could be a little more complicated.

If you import a motor that’s not seen on the UK’s streets often, it might be more desirable to car thieves and therefore more expensive to insure.

In which case, you may want to think about ways to keep your car secure

If you’re in an accident, the car won’t necessarily be a simple repair.

Parts might need to be sourced from further afield and imported, which could be expensive.

Depending on the car, you might need specific expertise to do those repairs, which could also be pricey.

And then there’s the fact that imported cars often have high specs, meaning they can go faster.

Insurers can deem them to be more at risk of being in an accident than ‘standard’ cars.

This’ll all be reflected in your insurance costs.

And some insurers won’t want to take on the extra risk that’s posed by your car, and may decide not to cover you.

To be able to get insurance on a car that’s been imported, you’ll need to make sure you’ve registered it with the DVLA.

Don't forget to pay the tax and VAT on it, too, as well as getting an MOT done.

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What are the different types of imported car?

There are two types of imported car – a grey import and a parallel import.

Grey import

A grey import is a car imported from outside the EU. These are most likely cars from America and Japan.

For example, you can buy Japanese cars in the UK, such as Hondas and Toyotas, but the cars are manufactured within Europe.

Similarly, you can buy a Ford Mustang manufactured in the UK, so it’s not an import.

But if you import a left-hand-drive Mustang from America, that’ll be a grey import.

The native model might have a higher spec than the European equivalent.

If you’re getting a grey import, you’ll need to seek Individual Vehicle Approval. This will likely cost a couple of hundred pounds, at least.

Parallel import

A parallel import is a car that’s manufactured within Europe, but outside the UK.

These cars will be made to the same minimum standards that the UK has.

These should be easier to get car insurance for.


What information does the insurance company need?

You might be asked where your car has been imported from, and whether it has UK specifications.

You might also be asked for proof of your Individual Vehicle Approval, but other than that it should be a pretty smooth process.

Don’t forget that, like all other cars, it needs to have a valid MOT certificate.


Is it easy to insure a Japanese import car?

Japanese imports are popular partly because of the value they offer.

But while it should be straightforward to insure one of these vehicles, it’s likely to cost more than a more normal car insurance policy.

This is because they’re classed as grey imports and often come with higher specifications than cars built in the UK.

Insurers usually work on the basis that these cars are more likely to be involved in an accident, which can push up the price of your insurance.


How do I keep my insurance costs down?

There are a few things you can do that might keep your insurance costs down.

Have a look and see if there’s an owners’ club for the type of car you’re buying.

If there is, you might be able to get a tip on which insurers are particularly favourable to your make and model of car.

There are also some companies that specialise in performance car insurance and imports.

But don’t forget to follow the usual tips on how to keep your car insurance costs down.

Most importantly, make sure you shop around and compare prices.

The costs can vary widely even with ‘standard’ cars; when you have an imported car, the differences could be even bigger.

Other standard practices such as protecting your no-claims discount or opting for a voluntary excess might also help.


What is a vehicle identification number?

A vehicle identification number (VIN) provides a solution to the potential problem of insuring an imported car.

You need to find insurance before you can register a vehicle in the UK.

But insurance companies require a registration number before they’ll cover you – and you may not have one for your imported car yet.

A VIN is an ID number stamped on to the car’s chassis.

Some insurers offer VIN insurance (or chassis insurance), enabling you to take out cover on a car that hasn’t yet arrived from overseas.


Can I get temporary insurance for my imported car?

Some insurers might steer clear of imported vehicles altogether, so you might need to shop around for temporary car insurance.

There should be some insurers out there who’ll offer this type of cover though.

As with a more long-term insurance policy, you should expect to pay more for temporary insurance on an imported car than on cars manufactured in the UK.