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Importing a Vehicle into the UK

There is a specific process to follow when importing a vehicle into the United Kingdom. Find out how to register imported vehicles and pay vehicle excise duty and VAT.


This section also explains how the Mutual Recognition scheme functions. Importing vehicles to remain forever into the UK must be type approved. This is to ensure they meet safety and environmental standards.

As a rule, a vehicle importer or shipper will handle most of the procedures when importing a vehicle into the UK.

But, this section covers the complete process including how and when to inform HMRC and pay VAT. There is a separate section on registering an imported vehicle to stay in the United Kingdom.

Note: Different rules apply for importing a vehicle into the UK for only a temporary period (not permanent).

Steps for Importing a Vehicle into the UK

An importer or a shipping company can complete the steps of vehicle importation for you. But, they will charge a fee for doing so. As soon as you bring a vehicle to stay in the United Kingdom you must:

  1. Inform HM Revenue and Customs within fourteen (14) days of the vehicle arriving in the United Kingdom.
  2. Pay any VAT and vehicle excise duty owing if HMRC tell you to do so.
  3. Get vehicle type approval to show that it meets safety and environmental standards.
  4. Register an imported vehicle and tax it with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The DVLA will provide you with a registration number so you can get a set of number plates made up.

Note: You need to have adequate vehicle insurance before driving it on the roads in the United Kingdom.

Using a vehicle on a public road before completing these steps can result in a prosecution. Exceptions apply when driving it to a pre-booked MOT check or to get a vehicle approval test.

These steps of importing a vehicle into the UK do not apply to commercial importers of new vehicles when using a secure registration scheme.

Visiting the UK with a Vehicle (temporary)

The rules for temporary vehicle registration will apply instead if ‘both’ of these meet your situation:

  • You do not usually live as a resident of the United Kingdom.
  • You are bringing a vehicle from abroad in to the United Kingdom for a period of less than six (6) months.

Bringing a Vehicle In or Out of Northern Ireland

You can move vehicles freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland providing the auto is registered in either country. Even so, you will need to notify the DVLA if there is a change of address for V5C registered keeper.

Importing Vehicles and Mutual Recognition Scheme in United Kingdom