Buying an imported car
Friday 16 July 2010
Some 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:
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
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
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.
More in-depth buying advice: