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Advice for Car Owners in the UK

For expats, owning or buying a car in the UK can pose new challenges, such as import restrictions, paperwork to register the car, or vehicle taxes. We have compiled a quick introduction to these topics, including some advice on buying, renting, and leasing a car in the UK.
When you register a vehicle in the UK, you may have to undergo an MOT test, but be sure not to forget to pay the road tax!
  • Tourists can take their car with them on a temporary visit to the UK for up to six months.
  • Used cars may also be brought along tax free, provided they meet a number of requirements.
  • Before registering an imported car in the UK, you will need to have it approved first.
  • Third-party insurance cover is mandatory in the UK, as are regular inspections and vehicle tax payments.
  • Leasing or renting a car is also an option, as are car sharing services in bigger cities.

Visiting the UK with a Car

If your stay will be of rather short duration, you can use your current car from an EU country for up to six months within a twelve-month period without having to register it in the UK. However, keep in mind that the burden of proof is yours (e.g. in the form of ferry receipts) 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 visit to the UK (i.e. less than six months), then you can also bring your car VAT- and duty-free, provided the following conditions apply:

  • You only drive the car for private use.
  • You will not lend or sell it within the UK.
  • You will export it within six months (possibly longer in case of students or assignees with a limited contract).

While not mandatory, it is recommended to fill out a customs relief form (C110) to avoid potential problems in case of police stops and vehicle checks later on.

Importing a Car into the UK

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, provided the following conditions apply:

  • VAT has already been paid in another EU country.
  • The car has been in use for over half a year.
  • It has over 6,000 km on its odometer.

You may also bring your car from a non-EU country duty- and tax-free when moving to the UK. Again, you have to have already owned the vehicle for at least six full months.

In any case, you always have to inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for any long-term import of a vehicle.

Registering a Car in the UK

No matter where you are from if you are importing a car to the UK for more than a visit, then you also have to register it with the British Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You will have to fulfill the requirements of a regular vehicle registration. Moreover, you need to go through some extra steps and include additional documents in your application.

Get Approval First

First off, you need the proper documentation to show that your car complies with British safety and environmental regulations. For cars registered in the EU, you have to get a European Certificate of Conformity (CoC), which includes a European type approval, from the manufacturer.

In case the car is a left-hand drive, you also need to get a Certificate of Mutual Recognition. If your car does not fulfill British requirements, such as lights made for left-hand driving, you can have the necessary alterations made. You will in fact need proof from your garage for the mutual recognition application.

In case your vehicle was not registered in the EU, then you need to get an Individual Approval Certificate (IAC). This process will involve an official inspection.   

The Actual Registration

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, in addition to those needed for a regular vehicle registration:

  • proof of type or individual approval with all related documents
  • all your registration papers from abroad
  • a document stating the date when the vehicle was purchased (e.g. an invoice from your car dealership)
  • an HMRC form, proving that you paid VAT and/or customs duty (if required)
  • a completed form V267, if the vehicle is new

You will be asked to provide the original documents instead of photocopies. Once you have completed the registration process and been sent your registration certificate (V5C), sometimes also referred to as your vehicle log book, you can take it, your valid driver's 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

You have to pay vehicle tax for every car registered in the UK. You can do this online or in person at a local Post Office branch. For a successful vehicle tax payment, you will need the following:

  • your vehicle registration certificate with your current address
  • a MOT test certificate, Goods Vehicle or Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) test, if applicable
  • the necessary tax money, according to the vehicle tax rates

Last but not least, don’t forget that you also need to have at least third-party insurance for your car!

Buying, Leasing, and Renting a Car in Britain

There are lots of car dealers for new vehicles in every local phone book all over the UK, 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 also 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 What Car? compare offers for car rentals or leases from various agencies all over the UK. Car sharing services such as DriveNow or Zipcar are also gaining in popularity in bigger cities, particularly London.


The following are some generally useful resources for drivers in the UK:


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

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