Finding the car of your dreams can be a thrilling experience. But that excitement may be short-lived if your precious car is on foreign soil and you need to find a way of safely getting it home.

However, all is not lost. Importing a classic car is not such a difficult task, there are just a few things you need to be aware of when you make your purchase.


1) Importing cars from outside the EU

The first thing to tackle once the car is in the UK is Customs and Excise. You’ll need the car’s registration document and any other papers relevant to its purchase. Once Customs and Excise are happy with your documentation, you may receive a bill for import duty.

If your vehicle is of significant historical interest, more than 30-years old, a one-of-a-kind car in original condition, with no substantial changes to its chassis, engine, transmission, steering, brakes, etc. or has a significant race/ownership history then you may be able to avoid duty and just incur the Classic and Historic rate of 5% VAT on the total cost of purchasing and importing your car.

If your classic car is coming from outside the EU, duty is rated at 10% on the price of the car and the shipping costs combined. 20% VAT is then payable on that total figure including the car’s purchase price and all of the transport and insurance expenses.

If your classic car is coming from outside the EU, duty is rated at 10% on the price of the car and the shipping costs combined if the vehicle is of non-EU manufacture. If it is of EU manufacture and the import is personal, the rate is only £50.00.

20% VAT is then payable on that total figure including the car’s purchase price and all of the transport and insurance expenses.

2) Purchasing cars within in the EU

If you’re looking at a car from within the EU, the 10% duty doesn’t apply, but you will have to pay VAT at 20% if VAT has not been paid in another EU country. As above, for classic cars over 30-years old or those with a rarity value or historical significance, the VAT rate is reduced to 5%.

Importing a classic car from the EU is fairly straightforward, all you require is the official paperwork from the country you’re buying in, as this will be needed by the DVLA to prove its make, model, age and spec. And for the MoT test, you’ll need to ensure your car is UK-compliant, especially when it comes to issues like front and rear lighting.

One thing you must remember – it’s illegal to use the vehicle in this country if it’s still registered overseas.

3) UK MoT and registration

Once your car is safely in the UK, you must make sure it’s legal to use on British roads. Any vehicles imported into the country must be registered and licensed as soon as possible after arrival.

Your classic car can’t be used or kept on public roads until licensing and registration have been completed. (There are high penalties for driving on overseas registration plates.) Your vehicle will need to have a current MoT certificate in order to be registered, and you’ll need the foreign registration document and any other papers you have for the vehicle such as the customs clearance form and a valid certificate of insurance. Once you complete your application, you should receive your new tax disc and a UK registration document shortly afterwards.

4) Valid insurance at every point

If you’re planning to drive the car from its purchase point in Europe to a UK port, you’re legally required to have insurance that covers you for that journey. The majority of classic car insurers will treat imported cars in the same way as those sold in the UK. The only difference that may apply is that a premium could be charged for left-hand drive high performance vehicles.

If your car is being shipped over, you will need to ensure that the shipping company offers enough insurance to cover your vehicle in the event of loss.

5) Methods of transportation

If you plan to use transportation to bring your vehicle back to the UK, you’ll need to decide whether to go via container shipment or a roll-on, roll-off process. If you’re planning roll-on, roll-off, the car needs to be in a drivable condition; however, this is the cheaper option.

Container shipping is usually more expensive, sometimes three or four times the amount of a multi-car transporter. Also, fully enclosed transporters are generally more costly, but they are often designed to cater for the highly specialised requirements of classic and rare cars.  One shipping company we are happy to recommend is Cosdel UK.

6) Look for a specialist logistics company

If you’re planning to import a classic car from further afield than the EU, it’s definitely worth looking for a specialist car company that can handle worldwide logistics.

An experienced car importer will know how to handle the bespoke needs of transporting luxury, classic and historic cars by land, sea and air. Usually they have a network of partners across the globe capable of moving vehicles in open or fully enclosed car transporters.

With a specialist company, you have the reassurance that they’ve done this before and can safely and securely move single or multiple vehicles at one time.

We can help you realise your dream

In short, don’t be put off by the logistics of buying a classic car in a foreign country. Toy Stor-age can help you realise your dream of driving your classic car on British soil.  We are specialists in luxury car storage and Worldwide transportation of classic and vintage cars and can also assist with shipping, MOT and UK registrations. If you would like further information on the services offered at Toy Stor-age, please call Matt on 07590 426246, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit


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