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Import Car Insurance

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Import car insurance – A quick guide

No question, an imported car is a real head-turner. Not only that but there’s something special about driving around in a car that’s unique. Dare we say it can even make you feel a bit ‘God-like’?

The thing that will deflate the ego a little though is the cost. Because due to its unique character, an imported car can prove to be extremely expensive and difficult to insure in a lot of cases. In fact, if your import car is a ‘grey import’ (as opposed to a ‘parallel import’) you could be struggling to find insurance for it in the first place, certainly where a mainstream lender is concerned.

Why imported cars are more expensive to insure?

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The reason import cars are so expensive to insure is that standard insurance companies are unsure about how much the parts will be to replace. Not only that, but they’re not even convinced it will be possible to get a hold of those parts in the first place. As a result, insurance companies have little to compare many imported cars with. This is especially the case if your imported car just happens to be a super-duper Japanese number, for instance, or even an enviable vintage US Mustang.

It could also be the case that the particular model of import car you have hasn’t been EU-approved (‘grey import’). This is particularly true where cars with a left-hand drive are concerned. A ‘parallel import,’ on the other hand, does pass EU car regulations and will have similar specifications to UK cars.

Another reason import cars are so expensive to insure is that they do look so good. And not just to you. Not surprisingly, it wouldn’t be the first time a stunning high-performance import car was stolen to order. Insurance companies are aware of this, of course, and will factor it into the cost of your import car insurance.


Once it’s established that your import car complies with UK regulations, you can insure it as you would any standard car here under the same broad insurance categories:

Third-Party – Will payout for another driver’s repairs and compensation in the event you caused the accident. Won’t cover your own cost of repairs.

Third-Party Fire & Theft – Covers legal and compensation costs, as well as repairs to other driver’s vehicles (but not your own). Will also pay out if your car goes on fire or is stolen.

Fully Comprehensive – The most thorough form of car insurance, this covers you in the event your car requires repairs or even needs to be replaced, as well as damage to other vehicles and their drivers and/or passengers. It also pays out for court costs and compensation.

Tips on getting cheap import car insurance

  • Always shop around. In the case of a ‘grey import’, this is especially important since you’ll be looking at specialist insurers and prices really will vary markedly.
  • Get in touch with other owners of specialist import cars and ask them where they insure their vehicles (chances are they’ll already have done the price research).
  • When not in use, make sure your imported car is as secure as possible. This means keeping it in a locked garage overnight rather than at the side of the road.
  • Fitting a special tracker system, immobiliser and alarm system will also make the insurance company happier.
  • The older you are and the more experienced a driver on the road, the less expensive your insurance premiums should work out.
  • It’s never a mistake as far as an insurance company is concerned, to take an Advanced Driving Test. Quite the contrary; you may well see a reduction in insurance costs.
  • The fewer motoring penalty points you have, the more reasonable your insurance will work out.
  • Keeping to an annual low mileage because you only drive the car on special occasions, – such as holidays and bank weekends – also cuts back on insurance costs, you’ll find.
  • Joining an Owners Club cut back on your insurance costs too.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when a car has a Q plate?

If an import car has been modified i.e. isn’t factory standard, then it will probably get a Q Plate. A car with an uncertain history and age may also be subject to the same status.

Will the AA and RAC inspect an import car?

Yes, provided it complies with UK specifications. They won’t look at US imports, however.

Do I still need an MOT if the car I’m importing was built before 1980?

The legal answer is ‘No’. But we would suggest the sensible answer – to protect yourself and other road users – would be to put your imported motor through a voluntary MOT in the UK.

What is the Notification of Vehicle Arrival (NOVA) scheme about?

Since 2013 import car owners must notify HMRC of the car’s arrival. This is because you are eligible to pay tax on it, as well as a VAT.

What is a Certificate of Conformity (COC) and how do I know if I need one?

This is a piece of paper signed by the car’s manufacturer, which states that the imported car meets EU regulations. Japanese and US car ‘grey imports’ will not have one of these certificates. You will need a COC if you intend to bring the car to the UK.

How easy is it to get parts for an import vehicle, such as a Japanese car, these days?

Most of the major Japanese car companies now import parts so it’s a lot easier than it’s ever been in the past.

What sort of items do they look at to make sure the import car qualifies as a parallel import?

This should be not just the fact that the car is a right-hand drive, but also that the headlights, speedometer and rear fog lights also comply with UK specifications.

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