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Imported motorbike insurance

Importing a motorbike can be a complicated process. Of course, you could go to a UK specialist importer to do the work for you, but this might cost a bit more.

Once you’ve imported the motorbike and paid the taxes, you still have to get it registered and insured. Here's what you need to know, and how we can help you get covered.

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Types of imported motorbikes

There are 2 main types of imported motorbikes:

1. Parallel imports

A parallel import is a vehicle that’s been brought into the UK from the EU. The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement allows motorbike imports under the same rules that applied when the UK was in the EU. So parallel imports don’t change.

They’re usually available through the manufacturer’s franchised dealer in the UK.

Although a parallel import should meet minimum UK standards, sometimes the specifications are slightly different. For example, the speedometer on the EU import may read km/h instead of mph.

Parallel imports should be EU-approved, but ask for a European Certificate of Conformity (CoC) from the manufacturer to prove this.

2. Grey imports

Unlike parallel imports, grey imports are brought in from outside the EU.

Historically, these were mainly from the US and Japan, where an EU/UK model didn't exist. Mostly bought by collectors or enthusiasts, these motorbikes could be anything from a classic motorcycle to a brand-new, limited-edition superbike.

Recently, a host of Chinese manufacturers are producing motorbikes cheaply and in great numbers. Even considering shipping and other costs, they can still look like a great deal, and are becoming more popular.

Grey import bikes aren't EU-approved. Before you can register and insure your motorbike you have to get your new ride approved to ensure it meets environmental and safety regulations.

If the motorbike is under 10 years old, it must be inspected under the Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval (MVSA) scheme.

Once the motorbike has its approval certificate (CoC or MVSA) and assuming all the other paperwork is in order, you can register it.

At this point you get your V5C certificate and you can get number plates made. Then you can finally buy your motorbike insurance before heading out on the road.

What's a Q-plate import?

The DVLA sometimes issues Q-plates where there's doubt in confirming the motorbike’s age or identity. Q-plated bikes could be either parallel or grey and have been proven to meet the necessary UK or EU road safety specifications.

The key difference is that they don’t have a complete document history. This is common with older or classic motorbikes. When it comes to Q-plate motorbike insurance, you can still compare quotes. But depending on your details and the motorbike itself, you might not see many insurers that will offer a quote.

How to get your imported bike insured

You can’t get import motorbike insurance until the motorbike's been registered in the UK. When you get a quote, we’ll show you all the insurers who will offer you cover based on yours and the bike's details.

Parallel import motorbikes are generally easier to insure than grey imports. That’s because they almost certainly conform to environmental and safety standards and the parts are relatively easy to source.

Grey imports are more of an issue for insurers. Being produced outside of the EU means that the parts aren't easily available. So in the event of a motorbike accident, they could be tricky to repair.

And, as many of these models are rare or collectable, the risk of them being stolen is higher too. This could also raise your insurance costs. With this in mind, it might be worth looking at your motorbike security options.

 

Once the motorbike is EU-approved, the documentation is then checked. If there are any gaps in the documentation, the DVLA issues the motorbike with a Q plate.

Q plates can be a difficult one for insurers, as the history of the vehicle is unclear.

It’s worth shopping around though, as there are specialist insurers that deal with Q plates.

If you’re struggling to get a quote, there are usually owners’ clubs for imported models. It’s worth getting in touch with them for advice on insurers, as they’ll have an idea of who can provide the best deals on cover.

How much does it cost to import a motorbike?

The cost of importing a motorbike varies according to its age and engine size, according to GOV.uk:

Age of motorbike Engine size VAT Import duty
Under 30 years
over 250cc
20%
6%
Under 30 years
under 250cc
20%
8%
Over 30 years
any
5%
None

Shipping costs from the USA, Japan or South Africa can be up to up to £1,200, but are often less.

How can I get cheaper insurance for an import?

Aside from the type of motorbike or import you choose, there are some ways you could bring your prices down when getting a quote. Here are some ways you could save:

  • Choose a higher excess
  • Give an accurate mileage
  • Consider a multi-bike policy
  • Improve security and storage
  • Consider advanced riding qualifications
  • Choosing a higher excess - Excess is the amount you agree to pay in the event of a claim. You could reduce your motorbike insurance costs by agreeing to a higher excess, as it means the insurer pays less. But you have to be able to pay this in the event of a claim or accident, so make sure it's a realistic amount you're comfortable with.
  • Give an accurate mileage - Accurately predicting your annual mileage could make a difference to your policy costs.
  • Consider multi bike policy - If you have more than one motorbike you might be able to reduce costs with a multi bike insurance policy. Insurers naturally gain financially the more policies, so can pass this on a savings incentive to customers.
  • Improve security and storage. Theft is the biggest problem for motorbike owners. According to the Metropolitan Police, 9,000 motorcycles, mopeds and scooters were stolen in the last year in London alone. The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) also reports that motorbikes are 11 times more likely to be stolen than cars. This makes up 25% of all motor vehicle theft in 2021. Storing your bike in a secure locked garage is the ideal place to keep it. It should keep your motorcycle safer and reduce your insurance costs.

    Other security could also help. Fit an insurance-approved lock and alarm, immobiliser or other security device and tell your insurance provider about it. This all reduces the risk of theft, and the insurance company having to pay out, which means cheaper prices.
  • Consider advanced riding qualifications - Complete an approved advanced riding course. Along with cheaper quotes, it also improves your riding skills. Courses from organisations such as the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the British Motorcycle Federation are recognised by insurers.

How to buy and register an imported motorbike

It might seem like a huge task to bring a motorcycle across from overseas. But so long as you have the right paperwork, it shouldn't be too much of a bother:

  • Find a motorbike you like and buy it. Make sure that the seller is reputable, and that it has all the right documentation. If you're able to inspect the motorbike via video call, that could help too.
  • Arrange for the motorbike to be shipped to you. There are several companies that specialise in shipping imported motorbikes, and know how to package and safely transport them overseas.
  • Make sure the motorbike has a V5 equivalent. For example, in the US it's called a US Title. This document is necessary for export and it's unlikely that the motorbike can leave the country without it.
  • Tell HMRC that you've bought a vehicle into the country. How you do this depends on whether or not you're a VAT-registered business. You have 14 days from when the motorcycle arrives in the UK, and you can't register the motorbike until you do this.
  • Pay any VAT and duty that's owed.
  • Get vehicle approval. If the motorbike is over 10 years old, you might only need to get an MOT.
  • Register your motorcycle with the DVLA and get your V5 document.
  • Once all other paperwork is sorted, you can then get a motorbike insurance policy.

For more information, visit GOV.UK.

Do I need a NOVA form?

If you're a VAT registered business you should complete a notification of vehicle arrivals (NOVA) form.

If you aren't VAT registered, or are a private individual, HMRC should complete a NOVA for you. You just send them an import declaration by email.

If you're using a specialist importer, check that they've completed the NOVA for you.

Running an imported motorbike

While the initial price of an import motorbike may seem appealing, remember you also have to budget for the cost of importing the bike.

Also, general running costs could be higher. Parts can be difficult to source and expensive to obtain. Servicing a vehicle with specific parts could require specialist knowledge, which could also bump up the cost.

What our motorbike insurance expert says

''Growth in Chinese manufacturing has made imports more affordable and popular in recent years, especially for grey imports. Importing can be a great way to get a rare or different model on the UK roads.''

''If you’re ready to get insured, we could help you get covered today depending on the history and type of import you have.''

Louise Thomas, Motor Insurance Expert at Confused.com
Motor Insurance Expert Confused.com logo

The risks of imported motorbikes

Fraudsters are always looking for ways to part you from your money. Import motorcycles can be one way they do this.

  • If you’re buying in the UK but not from a franchised dealer, research the seller before buying.
  • Keep a look out for anyone who wants you to pay for the motorbike before it’s landed in the UK. You shouldn’t part with your cash unless you’ve seen the motorbike first.

Maintenance and warranty:

  • Check the warranty – UK dealers should honour the warranty if the motorbike’s imported from within the EU. But every country has different warranty periods, so the cover could vary.
  • Imported models are designed to match the climate of the country they were manufactured in. For example, a model that’s designed in Japan may use seals or paintwork that aren't designed for the UK’s rainy climate.

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