Buying an imported carSome cars for sale have been imported from abroad. They can be special models not officially sold here, or a car bought overseas to save money.

There are three kinds of imports:

Grey imports | parallel imports | Personal imports

Grey imports

A grey import is a car brought into the UK from overseas. They won’t have been officially imported by a car manufacturer or main dealer, and are often sold through specialist import companies.

They’re often enthusiast cars, such as a Subaru Impreza or a Ford Mustang, but can equally be saloons, hatchbacks or MPVs that represent a saving over officially-supplied cars.

• They often represent good value-for-money
• Used cars from warmer climates are less likely to suffer from rust
• Japanese imports often have more equipment than UK cars
• Rare and desirable models are available

• Some are left-hand drive only
• Cars imported from outside Europe need to undergo tests to ensure their roadworthiness, but a good importer will ensure this has been done
• It can be very hard to find out a grey import’s service history
• They’re often sold without a warranty and it can be difficult to obtain replacement parts
• Insurance can be more expensive than an equivalent UK car
• The instrumentation may read in kilometres per hour, and radios may not work
• The owner’s manual, vehicle stickers and sat-nav could be in a foreign language
• The engine may be optimised for types of fuel not sold at UK petrol stations

Parallel imports

A parallel import is a car bought in another EU country, with a specification identical or very close to its UK equivalent.

• Can be cheaper
• May be possible to beat UK waiting lists

• Imported cars often have a lower resale value
• The warranty may be less comprehensive
• Potential savings are affected by the exchange rate

Personal imports

Buying a car that’s been imported personally, rather than through a professional importer, is almost as straightforward as buying a regular car from a private seller. The car is likely to have been registered with the DVLA and checked for its roadworthiness, but extra care should be taken when examining the car’s history and condition.

If you import a car, it must be registered with the DVLA and certified fit for use on British roads.

Where to buy in import

Grey imports are often sold at specialist dealerships, commonly stocking high performance Japanese cars and luxury American cars and 4×4s.

Buyers are protected by the same laws as buyers of any other car, but you should take even more care about checking the vehicle’s history and condition.

How Auto Trader can help:
Vehicle Check
Car valuation

More in-depth buying advice:

How to choose the right car:
Buying a used car | Buying a new car | Setting your budget
Comparing new and used cars | Choosing the right car
Buying an imported car | Buying a classic car

How to buy a car:
Contacting the seller | Inspecting a used car | Test driving a car
Haggling with sellers | Doing the paperwork

How to pay for your car:
Understanding car loans and finance | Checking your credit rating
Returning a car