Importing cars is a growing trend in the UK. Aside from being able to get 'souped up' and customised vehicles currently unavailable over here, they often come at a reduced price. Unfortunately, at least some of this cost saving will be needed to insure the car, as imported car insurance costs more, particularly if you haven't done your homework.
How Much Does It Cost?As with any car insurance, the cost will be based on your personal circumstance and the vehicle. Like standard insurance, vehicles fall into certain classifications. Not only are classifications based on a vehicles cost, power etc. but quote prices are also determined on where the car was imported from, and how far it deviates from the manufacturers UK specification. The increase in premium price would be determined effectively on how difficult and costly any repairs would be, and if the increase in specification causes a greater likelihood of a claim. You can expect to pay more from cars imported outside the EU, such as Japan or the US. Importing does of course have its benefits. Along with having access to a whole array of cars not available at all here, you can often pocket some savings, and effectively jump the long waiting list for some cars in the UK.
Types of Import
Understanding how imports are classified will help you to consider the risks and benefits of importing a car. Generally imports fall into one of two categories:
- Parallel imports Thanks to the EU, all cars have to meet the same minimum safety requirements, meaning it's much easier to find insurance. Since the boom of importing in the 1990s, UK dealers have been forced to reduce prices, but it's still possible to get a better deal overseas.
- Grey imports Any car bought outside the EU would be considered a grey import, due to not being bound to EU standards. Some of the issues you may experience with an imported vehicle include; inferior crash safety levels/occupant protection, recorded mileage not guaranteed, brake/suspension balance off, lower gear ratios, paint/seals/hoses problems due to UK climate, as well as problems reselling.
Due to the risk attached, some insurers will flat-out refuse cover, whilst other will offer it at a greatly increased premium. It's not really something you can consider if you're on a tight budget.
In terms of warranty you will be covered for an EU import, but not necessarily a grey import. The one thing to note though is that the warranty lifetime from the country of import, may be less than that on offer in the UK.
Cars bought from Japan and other 'grey' countries, have to undergo safety testing by the SVA (Single Vehicle Approval) scheme, before they can be legally driven in the UK. Obviously, if any further modification are required to make the vehicle road worthy, you will have to foot the bill. If you're looking for an import, it's possible to find ones built to specification for UK use and approved by the SVA scheme. Make sure you check that any dealers you're considering are registered as members of BIMTA (British Independent Motor Trade Association), and that they have 'Minister's Approval Certificate' (SVA approved) for the car.Image: © Christian Delbert | Dreamstime.com