Importing a car, pick up, motorcycle, school bus, caravan etc.

Site updated regularly - Page last updated October 2017

Importing a motor vehicle

Do you want to know about the different shipping options for your vehicle?
Click here to to find out more, as it is on a different page.

Many people have successfully imported vehicles of all shapes and sizes into the UK. From rolling chasis for complete restoration, to museum/show-ready classics and from a small scooter, through to a school bus or light aircraft. If you think that this could also be for you, then by using some of the information below, you could find that there are numerous procedures available, which could save you money. ukimports


Alongside genuine / reputable companies, there are some companies that offer car shipping services who claim that they can import your vehicle and save you money on: shipping costs and Import Duty & VAT. Some of these methods are classed as fraud, and if caught, come with severe penalties. Contact our experienced Imports Team for assistance and advice to keep it simple and hopefully to keep your costs down. ukimports


VAT registered trader/company or Private Import?

Being VAT registered makes a big difference when importing goods into the UK in general, as VAT will usually need to be paid whether you are VAT registered or not. However, being VAT registered does enable you to reclaim the VAT paid to Customs. This is the same when importing a motor vehicle. There is also one other difference, which relates registering your vehicle with the DVLA (on the NOVA system).

Don't worry, you do not have to be VAT registered! Vehicles which are being imported for Private / Personal use can only be imported with the Customs Form C384. This form carries a disclaimer stating: "... the vehicle is being imported for my personal use and not for resale by way of trade."
Any vehicles imported for resale, solely to make a profit, must be imported under a commercial import and the importer must hold an EORI number.

For a Private Importer to register a vehicle, they will require a letter from Customs. This letter is confirmation that Customs are satisfied that any Import Duty and / or VAT has been paid, and that it has been declared on the NOVA system. A Private Importer will NOT be able to register a vehicle for road-use without it.

VAT registered importers (or ones with an EORI number), will need to register the vehicle on the 'HMRC Online Services'. ukimports

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The vehicle was manufactured in the EU

Any goods manufactured in the EU, returning back to the EU, are generally exempt from Import Duty. However, depending on the circumstances surrounding the vehicle's departure from the EU, you may not qualify for this when importing your car.

Although its generally regarded as common knowledge that a car such as a Ferrari, for example, is Italian, and that Rolls Royce cars, is designed and built in Great Britain. Most people, including UK Customs, know this, and know that other makes are built in certain other European Countries. In fact, there's just too many to mention here.

Well, true as it may be, any motor vehicles which was manufactured in the EU can only qualify for Return Goods Relief (RGR), if the importer has obtained documentary evidence that the vehicle being imported was manufactured for the European market.
Vehicles manufactured for the export market (outside of the EU) are classified as 'New goods to the EU' and therefore must have Customs duty and / or VAT paid in full (unless other circumstances apply).

- Export evidence:

As far as UK Customs are concerned, if you are claiming relief from any import duty or VAT, then its down to you, the importer, to provide documentary evidence to show that the goods were exported from the EU.

The type of document that they are after is usually one of the following:

Copy export entry (C88/NES)
Export invoice
Export Bill of Lading/Airway Bill

If none of these are available from the vehicles manufacturer, you might want to try and obtain a letter or fax (on company headed paper), from them, declaring that all the parts for your particular vehicle, were both manufactured and assembled in the EU.

Unfortunately failure to provide this documentary evidence means that your vehicle will be liable to the full rate of import duty and / or VAT. ukimports

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Purchased a vehicle from the Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey etc.)?

To be able to register a vehicle with the DVLA, you will need to pay VAT to Customs.

We can help with this.

Even if the vehicle is outside your house in the UK, we can arrange for a 'Post-Arrival' declaration to be done, to assist you getting onto the NOVA system for registering with the DVLA. This process usually takes about a week to do.

Contact our Imports Team for further information on this. ukimports

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Pick-up Trucks - Is it a car or a commercial vehicle?

Nowadays it is not unusual for people to purchase pick-up trucks or vans for their own personal use, as opposed to commercial use.

However, due to the fact that these vehicles have the capability to be used for commercial use means that UK Customs classifies these under separate parts in their tariff, as follows:

1. 8704 "Motor vehicles for the transport of goods"
2. 8703 "Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons (other than those of heading 8702), including station wagons and racing car"

So, which one is yours going to be classified as?

Pick up Trucks:

(Tariff Notice 06/07)

Pick up trucks are generally classified under 8704 - Motor Vehicles for the transport of goods, which carries a Customs duty rate of 22%.

That said, Customs acknowledge that more and more pick up trucks are being imported by Private Individuals, they have therefore issued this Notice to allow any pick up trucks where the inner length at the floor of the area for transport of goods is no more than 50% of the length of the wheelbase of the vehicles, to be classified under 8703 - Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons (other than those of heading 8702), including station wagons and racing cars, which carries a Customs duty rate of 10%.

For Pick up trucks to qualify for classification under 8703 (as a car), proof must be provided by way of a copy of the vehicle specification sheet, showing clear measurements.

Click here to see an example of a specification sheet. ukimports

Please note: Regardless of load space, vehicles with two or more rear axles will be classified under 8704. ukimports

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Motor vehicles of Historical Interest

UK Customs has acknowledged that even motor vehicles can lay claim to being of historical interest. However, as you would expect, the criteria to qualify for this, are quite clear.

Any motor vehicle over 30 years old is automatically eligible for import duty relief and a reduced rate of VAT. Now, if your vehicle is newer, it doesn't necessarily mean your vehicle cannot obtain these same low rates. But, you have to write to Customs to apply for a BTI (Binding Tariff Information), explaining your reasons. Perhaps its rare, or may have been owned by a famous person, or won a famous race etc.

Customs have a page on their website from which the text below is taken:

"In order for vehicles (and ‘original authentic’ as opposed to ‘modern replica’ parts) to be considered as eligible for historic collectors status, you’ll have to provide information dating the year of manufacture. You must also state whether any substantial changes have been made to the vehicle as modernised or modified vehicles are excluded.

Repairing and restoring is allowed, and broken or worn-out parts, accessories and units can be replaced, provided that the vehicle is preserved and maintained in the historically correct condition."

Please contact us if you require more information. ukimports

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Temporary Importation of a Motor Vehicle

If you want to import your motor vehicle on a temporary basis, you can. And there are various schemes available to you. The most common one for motor vehicles, is one that allows a vehicle to be imported, and used, for a six-month period (although this can be extended), you can use your vehicle on the UK roads, without paying any import duty and / or VAT.

This example, above, is just one of many ways of temporarily importing a motor vehicle. To find out how it would work for your particular circumstances, please contact us. ukimports

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Relief from VAT on Caravans

Motor Vehicles, Trailers and Caravans are generally liable to VAT when imported into the UK. However, Caravans can be VAT free, if it is either:

- more than 7.0 metres long; or

- more than 2.3 metres wide

Note that these measurements exclude towing bars and any similar apparatus used solely for the purpose of attaching the caravan to a vehicle.

To ensure that there is no confusion as to what exactly a Caravan is, HM Revenue and Customs have issued the following definition:

‘any structure designed or adapted for human habitation that is capable of being
moved from one place to another (whether being towed or by being transported on a motor vehicle so designed or adapted).’ (1960 Act) and, if a twin unit caravan is composed of not more than two sections separately constructed and designed to be assembled on site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices’ (1968 Act). You can read more about this on the HMRC website: Click here ukimports

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Moving to the UK and bringing your motor vehicle with you (from outside the EU)

If you are deciding to make a permanent move to the UK, you can. But once again, you have to fulfil certain criteria to bring your motor vehicle with you without incurring any import duty and / or VAT.

For this you will need to apply before actually moving to UK. This can be done online, on the HMRC website, by completing the ToR1 form. ukimports

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Roll-on, Roll-off (RORO) vs Shared-Container

One of the shipping options available to anyone importing a motor vehicle, is the option NOT to have your vehicle placed in a seafreight container but instead, travel on a Roll-on/Roll-off (ferry-type) service. This could possibly be an option for many reasons, and one of these could simply be that it could be cheaper. However, even if you don't want to pay out for your vehicle to travel in a Container on its own, there is sometimes the option of a 'shared' Container service. Contact our Imports team, if you would like some more information on the options available and to request a shipping quote. ukimports

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Registration with the DVLA / IVA

The following is taken from the Department for Transport website:

What Customs forms do I need?

The DVLA will only issue UK registration documents on vehicles imported from outside the EU, with one of the following Customs forms:

C&E 386 - This form is used to be issued by HM Customs for a vehicle of any age personally imported from outside the EU upon payment of any/all import duties and taxes. Since the introduction of NOVA, HMRC will now send you a letter. ukimports

C&E 388 - This form used to be issued by HM Customs for a Customs restricted vehicle of any age personally imported from outside the EU, upon payment of any/all duties and taxes. As with the C386, above, since the introductions of NOVA, HMRC will now send you a letter. ukimports

C&E 389 - This form used to be the self-declaration form which was be used by VAT registered traders for commercial imports from outside the EU. This form is no longer used, as commercial traders now register their own vehicles on the HMRC Online services. ukimports

These forms are either issued by UK Customs or the importer, and will show the DVLA that the appropriate taxes have or will be paid.

For more information on this, please contact us. ukimports

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IVA Test (or MSVA for Motorcycles)

Once a vehicle is imported, it must pass an IVA test.

The following is taken from the Department for Transport website:

What is the Individual Vehicle Approval Scheme?

Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) is a UK national scheme and the most likely route for those manufacturing or importing single vehicles or very small numbers. IVA does not normally require CoP requirements (unless in conjunction with the N1 enhancements scheme outlined below) as it is based on inspection of each vehicle, although most bodybuilders and converters will work with manufacturers to ensure there is no warranty compromise. ukimports

Please contact your local garage who should be able to carry out the necessary adjustments before booking your vehicle in with one of the IVA test centres.

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Notification of Vehicle Arrival (NOVA)

From 15 April 2013, new or used land vehicles brought permanently into the UK from abroad must be notified to HMRC within 14 days of arrival and any VAT due paid or ‘secured’. A new online system called Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) supports this change.

Information and guidance about NOVA and paying VAT on vehicles arriving from abroad is available on the HMRC website at
(will be shown in a pop-up window).

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Further reading:

The Department for Transport has put together booklet PI5, titled: "How to import your vehicle permanently into Great Britain". This booklet is a guide to the technical requirements that need to be met before vehicles can be registered and licensed for use on roads in Great Britain. ukimports

Click here to view the PI5 Booklet, or

Click here for a link to the Department for Transport website
(will be shown in a pop-up window)

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Related Links

  • Finding Duty and VAT rates
  • Frequently Asked Questions