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Living in the UK
Owning a Vehicle in the UK
Driving in the UK is about more than being on the left side of the road — though this may indeed take some getting used to for many expats. Traveling by car lets you explore the countryside at your leisure, but it also means facing strict speeding laws and bureaucracy. Our guide on driving in the UK can help!
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It is illegal to drive without car insurance in the United Kingdom, which makes sense as it is ill-advised to drive anywhere without it — accidents can occur no matter how careful you are!
To shop around, best get insurance quotes for free online and see which coverage suits you best. The Automobile Association (AA) is a company that is well known throughout the United Kingdom as it also acts as a motor club and provides roadside service. There are also insurance companies tailored to specific demographics, such as Sheila’s Wheels for female drivers.
Taking Your Car across the Channel
There are several things to look out for if you are planning on importing your car into Britain so that it does not to become an unnecessarily stressful and expensive endeavor.
Should you be bringing your car to the UK from an EU member state, you normally won’t have to declare it when going through customs. If your car is registered in a country outside the EU, you should contact HMRC before or as soon as your car arrives in the UK.
British customs authorities can then decide if the car is exempt from import duties. This exemption generally applies to used cars admitted for personal use. However, the decision is subject to the discretion of customs officers. With the steering wheel being on the right in the UK, importing a car requires specific documentation, and also some alterations. You can find more details on this process in our article for car owners in the UK.
If your stay is of short duration, you can simply import your car without registering it in the UK — you can use it for six months within a twelve-month period. However, the burden of proof lies with you and it is therefore a good idea to keep the original ferry ticket used to transport your car across the Channel, for example.
If you need to use the car for more than six months or if you are a resident in the UK yourself, you do have to register the car and pay UK taxes after all.
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Registering Your Car in the UK
Regardless of where you are from, if you want to use your car on a permanent basis, simply getting it to the UK is not enough. The vehicle must adhere to specific standards and then be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Before registering with the DVLA, you need to get your vehicle approved according to UK standards. For right-hand drive vehicles (steering wheel on the right), you need a European Certificate of Conformity. For left-hand drive vehicles (steering wheel on the left), you need both the European Certificate of Conformity as well as the certificate of Mutual Recognition. If your vehicle has not been registered in the EU and has no European approval, you need an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA). For the latter, you need to get a Vehicle Identification Number before seeking the approval.
To register your car at last, please bring the following documents in their original form to your local DVLA office:
- the completed application form(s): V55/4 for new vehicles, V55/5 for used vehicles (order online)
- an identity document (e.g. a valid passport)
- a photocopy of your license
- general documents relating to your vehicle
- proof of your current address (e.g. a utility bill or recent bank statement)
- certificate or declaration of newness (if the vehicle is indeed new)
- proof of British motor insurance (third-party insurance is the legal minimum!)
- a current MOT certificate (if the vehicle is more than three years old)
- a registration fee of 55 GBP
- payment of vehicle tax
Additionally, for imported vehicles:
- the original foreign registration certificate
- either a European Certificate of Conformity (possibly with a certificate of Mutual Recognition), or an IVA
- form V267 (for new vehicles only)
- evidence showing when the vehicle was collected (e.g. an invoice from the supplier)
An MOT is a specific automobile test from the Ministry of Transport. Find out more by contacting the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.