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.

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 import car insurance down.

An interior of a classic car


What is import car insurance?

As the name suggests, it’s car insurance that’s specifically designed for vehicles that weren’t manufactured in the UK or for sale in the UK.

On a day-to-day basis, as a product it is the same as standard car insurance, with the same benefits and conditions attached.

However, there are a few specific factors with imported cars that don’t apply to most UK vehicles. So insurers want to know a bit more information about your new car before giving you a quote.


Are imported cars more expensive to insure?

Yes, it’s usually more expensive to insure an imported car, for several reasons.

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. (Don’t forget to follow the basic car security tips to help prevent car theft.)

Then there’s the fact that 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. If your insurance provider thinks they might have to foot a bigger bill for potential repairs, they mighty charge you higher premiums.

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

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

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

This is all reflected in your costs when car insurance is calculated.


How do I get imported car insurance?

The process of getting insurance on an imported car is similar to how you’d normally insure a vehicle. But there are some specific key steps you should take first.

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

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

When you ask for a quote, 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.


What are the different types of imported car insurance?

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

Insuring a 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’s a grey import.

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

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

Insuring a parallel import

A parallel import is a car that’s been imported from within the EU. 

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

These should be easier to get car insurance for.


How easy is it to get Japanese import car insurance?

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

The good news is that you shouldn’t find it harder to insure a Japanese import than any other car.

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 could push up the price of your insurance.


How do I reduce the cost of import car insurance?

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 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.


Can I get temporary imported car insurance?

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 offer this type of cover though.

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


Does an imported car need a vehicle identification number?

Yes, it does.

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 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.


How do I import a car into the UK?

There are a number of steps you need to take when you’re importing a car.

You must notify the tax office within 14 days of an imported car arriving in the UK, and this might lead to a bill for duty or VAT

You also have to get confirmation that the vehicle meets emissions and safety standards.

If it’s a parallel import (made within the EU), it should automatically meet the same standards as exist in the UK. But if it’s a grey import, it might have been manufactured to a different standard.

You also need to register the car with the DVLA.

If you fail to complete these steps, you’re breaking the law.

Once you’re done, you can get on with insuring and taxing your new car in the same way you would a ‘normal’ vehicle.