How to import a car from Europe into the UK
Found that perfect classic in mainland Europe? Here’s our step-by-step guide to getting it from the Continent to your door – just in time for the summer
Importing a classic from Europe can make a lot of sense when fluctuating exchange rates and economic conditions are in your favour. Drier climates and some desirable country-specific models are also good reasons to go car hunting on the continent.
Once you’ve found that perfect classic, there are a number of ways to get it into the UK, from embarking on a cross-country road trip to simply shipping it over. But before you start clearing out the garage for your new acquisition, there are a number of financial considerations and procedural requirements to be aware of.
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Preparing a classic car for shipping
The method of shipping inevitably comes to down to time and cost. The most pleasant way to do it is to take a leisurely road trip back to the UK via the ferry between Calais and Dover.
However, depending on the vehicle and the nature of your trip, this is not always the most cost-effective method. You will need to arrange temporary insurance (specialist classic insurers such as Hagerty can do this), make sure the vehicle is roadworthy and pay any local taxes that apply.
Alternative options require the use of a shipping agent. Of these, air freight is the least common and most expensive option. It’s best used when you’re transporting a priceless classic and time is of the essence.
Shipping the car via a container is the next best thing, and far more cost-effective. Some shippers also allow you to put parts and spares inside your car, so it’s worth enquiring about this especially if the items are bulky or will need fitment once the vehicle lands in the UK. Dedicated containers can also be used, but in general shippers consolidate the containers and pack in two or three cars to minimise costs.
You also have the option of using RORO – roll-on roll-off – shipping. With this method your car is simply driven on to and off a cargo ship. Whichever method you choose, transport insurance is optional but highly recommended for peace of mind. It is usually around two per cent of the vehicle’s value; the percentage can decrease for very expensive cars.
The majority of reputable specialists offer a collection service from most locations around Europe, and unless you’re planning to drive the classic to the shipper yourself, this is the safest method to get your car to the departure point. Some shippers outsource the collection service to transport companies that may not specialise in classic cars, so be sure to enquire about this.
What insurance is needed?
Insurance limits vary between transport companies, so if your vehicle is very high value then make sure your specialist can cover the amount. Spending extra on a closed trailer is well worth the extra expense, too.
If the car has any peculiarities such as a unique starting procedure or maybe a mechanical issue, ensure you inform the shipper first. It is also advisable to have the car fully photographed and its condition recorded before it leaves the seller.
Unless you’re buying a project car, the vehicle should be in roadworthy condition if you intend to drive it on UK roads once it’s shipped over. Certain modifications may also be needed to make it legal for the UK, such as adjusting the headlight beams and converting the speedometer to mph from km/h.
Your car will need to travel with an empty fuel tank; most shippers will drain the excess petrol for you, generally at no cost – but don’t expect the fuel to be poured back in afterwards.
If you’re not going to be driving the car until it reaches the UK, you will not need to register it in Europe or pay any taxes or custom duties. What you will need is the original vehicle title, your passport and a bill of sale, which all need to be submitted to customs for clearance. The process can take up to a week.
Arriving in the UK
Once the car has landed in the UK it will need to be collected from the port and cleared by the local customs agents. Several steps must be followed, and most shippers will be happy to help. This process will cost about £475. Some steps need to be completed by you, so it’s still worth knowing the procedures.
1980 SILVER WRAITH II #LRL41535C – CALIFORNIA...
Finished in the most elegant Triple Black color layout, this pampered, never damaged specimen has been enjoyed by only 2 familes since its first Southern California delivery in December, 1981. It is among the last build, having been produced in December 1980. The ownership pedigree is complete, as are the tools & books. The automobile has been extremely well prepared by ourselves. Copies of the inFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | 1898 NORTHEAST 151 STREET, NORTH MIAMI, FLORIDA 33162£ POA
Mercedes 280 SE Coupé (1970).
This is probably one of the most stylish four-seats coupés ever made. Designed by Paul Bracq, head of design for Mercedes-Benz during the sixties and early seventies, the pillarless Coupé is now a true design icon. It is a very useable car, which offers a comfortable ride in silence and grace. This matching nrs example is a later version with the squared off and lowered Mercedes grille, and fittFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Temse, Belgium€ 95,000
Merlyn Mk6 (1964).
Colchester Racing Developments in Essex was a small-scale racing car manufacturer, which started in 1960 by building formula junior racecars. In 1961, they created the mid-engined Mk3 to compete with the Lotus 18. Based on this basic formula junior single-seater, they developed a sports/racing car called the Merlyn Mk4. The car had a multi-tubular spaceframe, Girling disc brakes and a fibreglass bFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Temse, Belgium€ 115,000
Mercedes 190 SL (1962)
The Mercedes 190 SL (R121) was introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show, as an attractive and more affordable alternative to the exclusive 300 SL Roadster. It was based on the small saloon W121, and shared the basic styling, engineering and fully independent suspension with its exclusive 300 SL brother. The engine was a 1,9 litre 4-cilinder unit, based on the 300 SL`s straigt six, and fitted withFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Temse, Belgium€ 149,500
Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 (1969).
The Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 was the ultimate saloon built by Mercedes Benz from 1968 to 1972. It featured the company`s powerful 6.3-litre M100 V8 from the luxurious 600 limousine installed in the normally six-cylinder powered Mercedes Benz 300 SEL. The result was a nearly 2-tonne saloon with performance similar to most dedicated sports cars and American muscle cars of the era. At the time of its relFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Temse, Belgium€ 99,500
Older well maintained restoration with flat head 6 and a 12 volt electrical system. The car has a factory Borg Wanrer overdrive that does not require a 6-volt solenoid to operate. This car is a great cruiser that will drive easliy at highway speeds. This amazing car runs and drives perfect!For Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | 1335 W. Hwy 76 Branson, Missouri 65616$ 19,000
MERCEDES 190SL 1961
Mercedes 190SL 1961,Papyrus white with sable black leather interior, 67,000 miles. Having spent most of it’s life in Greece this older restoration car remains in fantastic condition throughout. It has just come out of a private collection and benefits from a recent five thousand pound mechanical overhaul. Highly desirable, especially now that the 190SL is eligible for the Mille Miglia. StunningFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Pound Lane, Burley, Ringwood BH24 4EB, UK£ 109,995
ALFA ROMEO 1900 CSS `SUPER SPRINT MILLE MIGLIA...
Fantastic looking 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS ‘Super Sprint’. It was supplied to the Swedish Alfa Romeo importer Bonnier in Stockholm on the 21st December 1954. Mr Jo Bonnier was a Swedish F1 driver as well as being the Swedish Alfa importer. Only 854 Super Sprints ever went into production. In the past this car has benefitted from a thorough restoration with a keen eye to authenticity. After a fFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | ARNHEMSESTRAAT 47, 6971 AP BRUMMEN, THE NETHERLANDS€ 339
ALFA ROMEO 6C 1750 GT COMPRESSORE (1931)
We are proud to present one of Alfa`s most prized pre-war racing legends, the unique Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GT Compressore. Supplied from new to a Swedish Baron on the 10th September 1931. This car is the only 6C 1750 ever exported to Sweden and only one of a handful left today. This car comes with a fully and correctly documented history, including very old photographs. We can trace the car over theFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | ARNHEMSESTRAAT 47, 6971 AP BRUMMEN, THE NETHERLANDS€ 795
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA 1600 SS `SPRINT SPECIALE` FULLY...
This Alfa Romeo Giulia SS, a unique Bertone creation designed by Franco Scaglione, is probably one of the worlds most gorgeous Italian coupes ever made. The car we have on offer, the Giulia 1600 Sprint Special Tipo 101.21, is one of the last series produced. It has the most powerful engine, a 1570cc with front disc brakes. Of the 1366 cars built, only a few were fitted with disc brakes, which makeFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | ARNHEMSESTRAAT 47, 6971 AP BRUMMEN, THE NETHERLANDS€ 149,500
What taxes need to be paid?
First, within 14 days of the car’s arrival you should inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that it’s here. Do this via the online Notification of Vehicles Arrivals (NOVA) tool. A paper notification option is also available, but this method will take a lot longer. Stray over the 14-day limit, and you’ll be penalised daily.
The relevant taxes and VAT owed will then be calculated. If your car was built outside of the EU, the duty will be 10% of the total price and you’ll pay 20% VAT on top.
If the car is over 30 years old, is largely standard and won’t be used daily, duty can be waived and VAT is reduced to five percent. Many high-end classics are imported via the UK because this is currently the EU’s lowest import duty.
How to register your imported car
Once the payment’s been made, HMRC will provide online confirmation that the vehicle can be registered with the DVLA. For this process you must complete the following and send it through to the DVLA:
• Fill out a V55/5 application form.
• Pay the vehicle tax as specified by HMRC.
• Supply an original non-UK registration document (this will not be returned to you). If this document is unavailable you will need a letter with a dating certificate from the manufacturer.
• Obtain a Certificate of insurance using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
• Get a fresh MoT certificate. Some cars may also need to have some modifications carried out – such as fitting amber indicator lights – before they’re allowed to be driven in the UK.
• Photocopies of your name and address are required – a UK driving licence or passport for the name, and a current utility bill for the address, will suffice. If you’re importing the car through a business you will be required to provide proof of your business address.
• Evidence of Type Approval. This can be in the form of a Certificate of Conformity (for rhd vehicles), Mutual Recognition Certificate (lhd vehicles require this as well) or evidence of previous UK registration (V5C form). If none of these forms is available or if the vehicle was registered outside of the EU, then an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test will need to be carried out.
• Vehicle Approval may not be required if your car was first registered or manufactured more than 10 years ago.
• The first registration fee may need to be paid. This amounts to £55 and can be paid only via cheque or postal order to the DVLA. An online payment system would have made it all too easy...
Getting your car home
Once this has all been completed, the car will need to be insured, taxed and fitted with UK number plates. Most shippers often have warehouses where they can store your vehicle until you’re ready to collect it, and they can even deliver the car straight to your door – for a fee.
The many forms, weeks of waiting and associated costs will soon fade into the background once you’re finally in possession of your prized classic. Just make sure to follow the steps required and pick a reputable shipping agent.
Classic Cars for Sale
Finished in the most elegant Triple Black color layout, this pampered, never damaged specimen has been enjoyed by only 2 familes since its first Southern California delivery in December, 1981. It is among the last build, having been produced in December 1980. The ownership pedigree is complete, as are the tools & books. The automobile has been extremely well prepared by ourselves. Copies of the in
This is probably one of the most stylish four-seats coupés ever made. Designed by Paul Bracq, head of design for Mercedes-Benz during the sixties and early seventies, the pillarless Coupé is now a true design icon. It is a very useable car, which offers a comfortable ride in silence and grace. This matching nrs example is a later version with the squared off and lowered Mercedes grille, and fitt
Colchester Racing Developments in Essex was a small-scale racing car manufacturer, which started in 1960 by building formula junior racecars. In 1961, they created the mid-engined Mk3 to compete with the Lotus 18. Based on this basic formula junior single-seater, they developed a sports/racing car called the Merlyn Mk4. The car had a multi-tubular spaceframe, Girling disc brakes and a fibreglass b
The Mercedes 190 SL (R121) was introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show, as an attractive and more affordable alternative to the exclusive 300 SL Roadster. It was based on the small saloon W121, and shared the basic styling, engineering and fully independent suspension with its exclusive 300 SL brother. The engine was a 1,9 litre 4-cilinder unit, based on the 300 SL`s straigt six, and fitted with