Join now
Log in Join

Need expat info for United Kingdom?

Join InterNations to meet other expats where you live and read more articles like Advice for Car Owners in the UK with relevant information for expats.

Jan-Peter van Tijk

Living in the UK, from the Netherlands

"I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming."

Therese Yeboah

Living in the UK, from Ghana

"For me, the InterNations events are the best part. I attend almost every get-together and always get to know lots of friendly fellow expats."

InterNations - a community of trust

Transport & Driving

Advice for Car Owners in the UK

For expats, owning or buying a car in the UK poses new challenges, such as import restrictions, vehicle registration, or vehicle taxes. We have compiled a quick introduction to these topics, including some advice on buying, renting and leasing for future car owners.

Importing a Car to the UK

If your stay will be of rather short duration, you can use your old car from an EU country for up to six months within a 12-month period without registering it. Keep in mind though that the burden of proof is yours and that your vehicle needs to be registered and taxed in your home country. As soon as you become a UK resident, it is time to register and properly tax your vehicle in the UK.

If you come from a non-EU country for a short-term stay in the UK, though, you should contact HMRC as soon as your car arrives in the UK. British customs authorities will decide on a case-by-case basis if you are permitted to use your car for six months or less.  

If you intend to stay for longer than twelve months, you are considered a UK resident and may import used cars for your personal use without having to pay any import duties or VAT. But if you bring your car as an expat from a non-EU country, you may have to pay customs duties for the vehicle. You also always have to inform HMRC unless it is a temporary import from another EU country.

Registering a Car in the UK

In any case, no matter where you are from, you must register your car with the DVLA. You will have to fulfill the requirements of a regular vehicle registration. Moreover, you need to include additional documents. First off, apply for the Mutual Recognition Scheme or for a type approval for your car. The former is meant for vehicles which were first registered in another EU country and is considered suitable for use in Britain (if your car does not fulfill the requirements, you can make the necessary alterations). You can also get an approval for the type of vehicle you drive, instead of having your individual car approved. Contact the Vehicle Certification Agency for more detailed information.

If your car passes all these technical requirements, you can finally register it with the DVLA. For this purpose, you should have the following documents at hand:

You will be asked to provide the original documents instead of photocopies. Once you have completed the registration process, you can take your VRC, your valid driving license, and your passport to an official supplier of British number plates and get a set of UK number plates for your car.

Paying Vehicle Tax

As you may have gathered from the paragraphs above, you have to pay vehicle tax for every car registered in the UK. For this purpose, you have to apply for a tax disc.  In some cases, you can even do this online, or you need to show up in person at a local Post Office branch that issues such tax discs. For a successful vehicle tax application, you will need:

Within about five working days, you should receive a small tax disc, which you should display prominently on the passenger side of your windscreen. Make sure the disc is easy to spot. Parked cars without a valid tax disc can be clamped, impounded, or even destroyed.

Buying, Leasing, and Renting in Britain

There are lots of car dealers for new vehicles in every local phone book all over Great Britain, offering almost every make and model you can think of. Moreover, any reliable and trustworthy dealer will also register your brand-new car for you, so you don’t have to deal with the DVLA.

Used cars are easy to find by going through classified ads in the local or regional paper as well as on countless online marketplaces. However, if you buy a used car, you also have to take care of the registration yourself or sign a registration form together with the dealer. Furthermore, you may risk becoming the victim of fraud. To avoid being ripped off, go through the DVLA’s official checklist before actually buying the car. 

Last but not least, renting or leasing a car is a good alternative if you only need it for special occasions. In fact, you can save a lot of money this way. Internet search engines such as Car Rentals UK or Lease Cars Direct UK compare offers for car rentals or leases from various agencies all over Britain.

Further Resources


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine