Buying cars from abroad

Making a purchase from an overseas car dealership

Buying cars from abroad


Why buy a car from abroad?

8 minute read

Whether you’re keen to upgrade your existing car or looking to add another luxury motor to your classic car collection, you’ll want to secure the best possible price. There’s no escaping the fact that car prices vary considerably across international markets, and many in Britain choose to purchase a car from abroad because they can secure a lower price for the same vehicle outside the UK. Car enthusiasts and collectors also choose to shop abroad because there are many cars that aren’t readily available in the UK, either because they were first released abroad or are only available in a select few countries and thus can only be acquired by looking elsewhere

Let’s take a closer look at the process of importing cars into the UK.


How to buy a car from abroad

There is a wide range of online dealerships, auction houses and specialists that you can use to purchase cars from overseas. If you decide to buy a car via an online auction, ensure that the seller provides you with all the documents that you’ll need to register your car in the UK, in addition to the car’s original documents.

The amount that you pay for your car will, of course, depend on the model of car that you choose. You will also need to make an international money transfer, and the way in which you go about doing this will also have a bearing on the final cost. By using our dedicated team of foreign exchange specialists, you'll have the confidence that you're getting value for money when making international payments.


How to import a car from abroad

The easiest way to import a car into the UK is to hire a vehicle importer to ship the car into your country. Specialist car importers can take care of most of the paperwork on your behalf, and they can even help you modify, test and register your vehicle. Container shipping is the most popular choice when it comes to importing cars with high price points, as it is the most secure option.

Your car may require certain modifications to ensure that it is deemed legal to drive on UK roads once you have safely transported your car back to the UK. This includes adapting your headlamps if you have a left-hand drive and ensuring that the speedometer includes both mph and kmph readings.

You will also need to get approval for your vehicle. This means either acquiring a European Certificate of Conformity from the manufacturer to demonstrate that you have approval for an EU-registered vehicle, or, if your car has not been registered in the EU, applying for Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA). You must inform HMRC of the vehicle within 14 days of it arriving in the UK and pay any VAT and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) that HMRC may require. You will then need to register your vehicle with the DVLA (there’s a £55 fee) and buy motor insurance.


What you should know before importing a car from Japan to the UK

There are many benefits to importing cars from Japan. Japanese cars, particularly those of the used variety, are very affordable and usually arrive in good condition. They are also right-hand drive vehicles, which makes them ideal for driving on British roads.

Whilst this is so, you’ll also want to factor in all of the costs that are involved when you decide to import a car from Japan to the UK. In addition to the price of the car itself, you’ll also want to take account of the following:

If, having factored in the above costs, you decide that importing a car from Japan makes the most sense from a financial standpoint, it’s time to make your order. We would advise paying for a pre-shipment inspection, as this will allow you to check that all is well with your new car.

It is very important that you declare your car once it arrives and pay VAT and duty. Japanese cars are built under different technical regulations, and those that are under 10 years old must pass an IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) before they can legally be driven in the UK. Using a Japanese car on a public road without having first met these requirements could result in you being prosecuted.

Bear in mind that process of importing cars from Japan can take a fair while; it usually takes a couple of weeks for your car to ship to the UK, and the total turnaround time is often in the region of 6-10 weeks.


What you should know before importing a car from the United States to the UK

America is the world’s biggest car exporter, and it is an ideal marketplace for those on the hunt for used cars with low mileage. For those looking to import a car from the United States to the UK, you’ll need to take account of the same costs that you would when importing from Japan, i.e. shipping costs (average shipping costs start at around $1,000, or £800-£850), 10% import duty, 20% VAT and import specialist fees.

The United States is renowned for its classic cars, and you can make considerable savings when you buy classic cars from America: your VAT liability is reduced from 20% to just 5% when you import cars that are older than 30 years from outside of the European Union. If, for example, you wanted to purchase 1989 Ferrari Testarossa (Type F110) from an American online dealer for $145,000 (approximately £120,000), you could make a saving of $21,750 (approximately £18,000) on the cost of import.

Bear in mind that the left-hand drive (LHD) system is the standard in America. Finally, shipping times will vary depending on whether or not your ship is due to leave from a port on the west coast or the east coast.


What you should keep in mind before importing a car

Before you decide to buy a car from overseas, it is worth bearing in mind that there are several potential drawbacks. Insurance premiums are often more expensive when buying from overseas, and there are serious problems with cars that have had their reported mileage illegally reduced being imported into the UK. Servicing and repair can become far harder if specific parts need to be imported from America or Japan, and there is a good chance that your imported vehicle will depreciate at a faster rate than cars originally designated for the UK market.

It can also be difficult to borrow money to finance your purchase. Using our suite of foreign exchange tools, we can help you to reduce the cost of the payment that you’d like to make for a new or used car from abroad, helping ensure that you receive value for money on your international payments.


How we can help with your foreign car purchase

You can enjoy access to competitive exchange rates with a Moneycorp account. This can help you save hundreds of pounds when making international payments for vehicle purchases. We also offer lower fees than high street banks on all your transactions, allowing you to save up to £30 on each transfer. This is particularly cost-effective if you plan to pay in multiple transfers or make regular instalments.

In the case that you are financing your purchase with regular payments, we allow you to lock in a prevailing exchange rate for up to two years with our forward contracts. This ensures that you receive the same rate for all your overseas payments, regardless of any volatility that might occur in the currency exchange markets.



Open an account to start transferring today

Making the most of your Moneycorp account

Make a payment

Make a payment

No matter how big the transfer, we are ready to send your global payment.

Find out more
Buying luxury goods abroad

Buying luxury goods abroad

Whether you're after a yacht, a car, a watch or an antique, enjoy great rates and low fees with Moneycorp.

Find out more
Buying antiques abroad

Buying antiques abroad

Utilise our foreign exchange tools to secure your purchases, transport your antiques and bring them home.

Find out more

Refer a friend and you will both get £75.

Tell your friends about Moneycorp and you’ll both receive £75 when they exchange £2,500 within 3 months. T&Cs apply.

Refer a friend and you will both get £75.