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Importing Used or Salvage Vehicles from the U.S. into the United Kingdom

By Mike Richards Updated: 08/09/2017 Posted: 11/04/2016

Home to one of the world’s largest used car markets, there has been growing interest among many to import used and salvage U.S. vehicles into the United Kingdom. To be sure, there’s strong demand and the potential to earn. However, getting a used car from the United States to the United Kingdom is easier said than done.

Below, we’re going to review everything you need to know about importing used and salvage vehicles from the United States into the United Kingdom. From selecting a car through an online used car auction to clearing your vehicle once it arrives in a British port, it’s all covered. So, if you want to know how to import used U.S. cars into the U.K, read on!

Purchasing Used Vehicles at U.S. Online Car Auctions

When you’re looking to get the best deal possible on a used vehicle in the United States, your best option is undoubtedly online used car auctions. Through websites that provide this service, some buyers are able to save up to 70 or even 80 percent on the total cost of a vehicle!

Online used car auctions work just like any other online auction in which you may have participated in the past. You simply set up an account and then make an initial deposit to establish your bidding power. By and large, the size of your deposit will represent 10% of what you can actually bid, e.g. a $100 deposit would allow you to bid up to $1,000 on used U.S. vehicles.

After your deposit has been made and your account set up, you can browse an extensive inventory of used cars and auctions across the country. In addition, you’ll be connected with an auction agent or broker, who can help you throughout the entire process. He or she can also connect you with auctions that cannot be publically displayed online. All told, you get the chance to save a significant amount of money, and you can check out an inventory of vehicles order of magnitude in excess of even the largest car dealerships.

Shipping a Used or Salvage U.S. Car to the United Kingdom

As a major trading partner of the United States, one should have an incredibly easy time finding a United States port for shipping used vehicles to the United Kingdom. The only real choice that you’ll have to make is your preferred shipping method.

You can, of course, opt for traditional container shipping, which offers the best level of protection for your used vehicle. However, there is another option that you may wish to consider, particularly if you’re looking to save on the cost of shipping. It’s called RORO shipping, short for “roll-on roll-off” shipping and which accurately describes the method for how your used car will be loaded onto and off the ship.

(Please note: If you elect to go with the RORO shipping option, then the vehicle must be in mechanically good condition in order to be rolled off of the ship and accepted into a British port.)

When choosing a port of arrival in the United Kingdom, you have their veritable pick of the litter, as there are quite a few to choose from! Ultimately, you should be able to select one that provides the greatest convenience for you once your used vehicle arrives in the United Kingdom.

To examine the number of options you have when it comes to choosing an arrival port for your used car in the United Kingdom, you can consult this website. It provides contact information for the various authorities that oversee the country’s various ports.

Clearing Your Used Vehicle Shipped to the U.K. Through U.S. Customs

When importing a used U.S. vehicle into the United Kingdom, you will first need to clear your vehicle through U.S. customs at your chosen port of departure. Thankfully, this process is incredibly straightforward, only necessitating that you submit your vehicle and the appropriate documentation at least 72 hours in advance of your ship date.

For documentation, you will need to provide U.S. customs with your vehicle’s Original Certificate of Title along with one of the following:

  • A Certified Copy of the Original Certificate of Title OR
  • Two (2) Complete Copies of the Original Certificate of Title

Once U.S. customs has your vehicle and the above documentation, they will conduct an inspection of the vehicle. In doing so, they will verify two things. First, they will check to make sure that there is nothing illegally stowed away inside of the car. Second, they will check the Vehicle Indentifcation Numbers (VINs) printed on the vehicle, ensuring that they’re the same as the numbers listed on your documentation.

Provided everything above checks out, your vehicle will be cleared by U.S. customs and then sent to be loaded onto the ship. Should you have any additional questions about clearing U.S. customs with your used vehicle, you can consult the website for U.S. Customs and Border Protection here.

Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through United Kingdom Customs

Importing a used vehicle from the United States and into the United Kingdom is incredibly easy, especially when it comes to clearing U.K. customs. You’ll only be required to provide the following documentation to customs authorities in the U.K. (in addition to paying the requisite customs duty and Value Added Tax, which we cover below):

  • The Vehicle’s Original Certificate of Title
  • The Original Bill of Landing
  • The Original Certificate of Origin
  • Dock Receipt

Upon arrival, the vehicle will also be inspected. Note that the vehicle must be clear of any items that are not a part of the actual vehicle. In addition, note that there are special requirements in place for used vehicles over 10-years old. If this will be the case for the vehicle that you’re importing, we recommend contacting the DVLA prior to shipping your vehicle from the United States.

Vehicles imported from the United States into the United Kingdom must be converted to right-hand drive. In addition, a certificate proving that the vehicle has been satisfactorily converted as such must be obtained from the Vehicle Certification Authority (VCA). For more information about achieving this vital certification for your imported used U.S. vehicle, please consult the VCA’s website here.

Import Duties and Taxes for U.S. Vehicles Imported into the United Kingdom

When importing a vehicle from the United States into the United Kingdom, there are a number of customs duties and taxes that will need to be paid. Most notably, all used passenger vehicles imported into the United Kingdom, regardless of engine type or size, are subject to a 10% tariff.

This tariff does receive a bump, though, if the weight of the vehicle exceeds 5 tons. For all vehicles (like trucks or busses) that weigh more than 5 tons and less than 20 tons, the import tariff is currently set to 22%. This tariff increases for vehicles that weigh in excess of 20 tons. For more information about this, you can consult that link that we provide below.

In addition to the above tariff, any vehicle (new or used) imported into the United Kingdom from the United States will be subject to a Value Added Tax (VAT). Currently, the VAT is set to 20%, again regardless of engine size or type.

Once the vehicle has been imported into the United Kingdom, it will also be subject to an annual vehicle tax. This tax is calculated based upon the emissions of the vehicle. To find out the size of the vehicle tax that your used car imported from the United States will be subject to, you can consult this table put together by the British government.

Should you have any further questions regarding the import tariffs and taxes that vehicles imported from the United States into the United Kingdom are subject to, you can consult this website.

How to Register an Imported Used Car in the United Kingdom

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) handles all vehicle registrations in the United Kingdom. After importing your used U.S. vehicle into the U.K. you will need to visit a local branch of the DVLA to complete the registration of the vehicle.

Before doing so, however, you will need to secure insurance for the vehicle. If you need help finding an insurer for cars in the United Kingdom, you can consult this website, which is administered by the British Insurance Brokers’ Association.

With the vehicle insured, you can go about the process of registering your vehicle. To do so, you will need to provide the following documentation to a local DVLA branch:

  • Form V55/5 (Completed)
  • Proof of U.K Recognized Insurance
  • The Vehicle’s Original U.S. Certificate of Title
  • Certificate of Conformity (Proof that Vehicle Meets U.K. Enviornmental and Safety Standards)
  • All Customs Forms
  • Original Bill of Landing
  • Documentation to Confirm Your U.K. Residency

In addition to the above documentation, you will also need to pay a one-time vehicle registration fee of £55. Also, you will need to make a payment for your vehicle tax, which you can learn more about in our section covering customs duties and taxes.

Should you have any further questions about registering your car with the DVLA, or if you need assistance finding a local branch, you can consult their official website right here. In addition, you may find this lawyer’s guide to registering a used vehicle in the United Kingdom quite handy.

The Used Car Market in the United Kingdom

Broadly speaking, as the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe move to enact more stringent environmental laws, there has been increased interest among consumers in smaller more fuel-efficient vehicles. In fact, according to statistics compiled by the International Trade Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce, this move toward smaller and lighter vehicles has been particularly acute in the British new and used auto markets.

Speaking of the used car market in the United Kingdom specifically, things have been strong. In fact, according to the same statistics referenced above, the U.K. used car market for 2012 was actually valued at around $62 billion USD, and absolutely staggering figure.

Still, one needs to account for the fact that the United Kingdom is one of the top 10 auto manufacturing countries in the world. Because of this, one can encounter some resistance when seeking to sell imported used vehicles in the British used car market. However, provided you’re selling the right vehicles at the right price, things can work out swimmingly.

When seeking to enter this market as an importer, though, be sure to keep abreast of all the latest news in the United Kingdom. Earlier in 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave its place in the European Union, and the ramifications of this vote – particularly in how they relate to used-vehicle imports from the United States – are yet to be known. Will the United States and Britain continue to enjoy their “special relationship”, or will Britain’s trade policies become prohibitively protectionist? Only time will tell…

The Most Popular Used Vehicles in the United Kingdom

Those importing used cars from the United States and into the United Kingdom should be particularly encouraged to learn that Ford remains a popular auto maker with the British buyer. As of this writing, the Ford Fiesta is poised to be the best-selling car in the British auto market for 2016, with nearly 100,000 registrations for this vehicle completed with the DVLA so far. This is nearly double the amount of registrations for the Ford Focus, which is so far the third-most popular vehicle with British auto buyers for the year.

As with the rest of Europe, Volkswagen also enjoys strong sales statistics inside the United Kingdom. Running a close fourth behind the Ford Focus is the Volkswagen Golf, which is prized for its slight frame and fuel efficiency. So far in 2016, there have been just shy of 55,000 registrations for this vehicle inside of the United Kingdom. The Volkswagen Polo also enjoys strong sales, with approximately 44,000 registrations for this vehicle completed during 2016 so far.

Rounding out the top 10, you’ll also find three vehicles worth noting. First, the MINI continues to enjoy strong popularity with the British, coming in at 8th place in the top 10. In addition, two luxury automobiles, the Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A3 round out the top 10. All told, the vehicles that are popular in the United Kingdom are readily available on the U.S. second-hand market, so the prospects here are strong.

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