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The first question to ask yourself is why are you considering buying a car from another country in Europe?

Have you spotted a make/model that isn’t available to buy in the UK? Is the car you are interested in cheaper to buy overseas and have it shipped over, than to actually buy it in the UK? Does the car have modifications that aren’t generally available in the UK market? Or perhaps you are a collector and you have your eye on a vintage classic that you want here in the UK?

Whatever your reasons for buying a car abroad, there are some important things to consider and check before signing on the dotted line.

Check the Car Specification Carefully

A vehicle from Europe has to meet our standards, however the vast majority can be legalised via the Certificate Of Conformity route. Modifications will have to be made but once completed we send confirmation that the vehicle complies with the VCA in Brighton and they issue the approval Certificate allowing us to then register the vehicle.

This may not, however, be the most economical method to allow registration as is some cases, particularly those with high C02 emissions, it proves cheaper to secure legalisation through the IVA test scheme as the Road fund license will be charged at the standard rate for a vehicle with emissions between 201 and 225 i.e. band “K”.

Before you purchase the car, it is wise to read through the full car specification carefully, as although you will likely be purchasing the car that is built to the same high standards as you would expect if manufactured in the UK, sometimes an EU specification doesn’t always match the UK spec for the same make and model car, for example a sunroof may come as standard in Germany, but not in the UK.

Ensure Your Car is Covered by Minimum 1 Year Warranty

If you are buying a new car from an EU member country, it will have a one year minimum manufacturers pan-European warranty, but some now offer 2 or 3 year warranties. It is wise to check the conditions of the warranty on the vehicle you are intending on purchasing because sometimes the warranty is invalid if the car isn’t imported through an authorised dealer.

Run some Checks on the Dealer

You can locate authorised dealers by looking at Dealer Locator’s on the manufacturer’s websites. Most will give you the option of selecting the country you are looking to buy a car from and this will then provide you with a shortlist of authorised dealers. From here, we suggest running a company check on ones of interest and looking at their individual websites to get an idea on current pricing and offers.

Keep an Eye on Exchange Rates

Unfortunately the Euro exchange rate is pretty low right now, so what would have been a great deal a few months ago, may not be quite so appealing now. The exchange rate may change by the time you pay the balance, so it may be wise to put the cash in a bank account in the country you are buying the car from, at the time of order, then you know you will not be caught out if the euro falls further.

Register for a Government Gateway Account

When you import a vehicle from the EU you will need to inform the HMRC by using the Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) service and to do this you will need to set up a Government Gateway account. An activation code will usually arrive within 7 days, and expires after 28 days so if you don’t activate it soon enough you will have to request another activation code.

Registering your Car in the UK

The UK car registration process can be quite complex with many forms to complete and evidence to produce. All cars registered in the UK must have a unique, stamped-in vehicle verification number and registration number which is usually stamped on the chassis of the vehicle. You will also need to tax and insure your car once it arrives in the UK.

If you would like further information or need some assistance importing your car into the UK, Specialised Shipping Services offer a complete import service, including shipping, paperwork, IVA Tests, Customs clearance and UK registration. For further information, please visit or call 0118 933 2334.

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