Alistair Benn
By Alistair Benn

The UK is a highly regulated motoring industry and with a bit of careful research you can sidestep the pitfalls and drive away in your dream car. Whether you are planning on importing your car yourself or importing from a professional importer, these are the facts you need to know about, to make sure you import your car safely.

The internet is a window to a world of carefully looked after pre-owned cars. In the UK you can find cars which have a higher specification than those available locally. Find a VAT Free car and a savvy importer will be able to reduce the purchase price by 20% for you. You no longer need to buy your car with your savings. The introduction of asset finance loans for imported cars from NIC Bank means you can buy your car with a deposit and repay your loan gradually with your local bank. So, no need to dip into your savings and no need to risk sending your hard earned money abroad.

Such a significant purchase needs to be done with care. For every success story, it seems there’s another negative story to counter it. The UK is a highly regulated motoring industry which offers several systems which allow you to verify the history, mileage, roadworthiness and ownership of any car before you commit to buying it. So with a bit of careful research you can sidestep the pitfalls and drive away in your dream car. Whether you are planning on importing your car yourself or importing from a professional importer, these are the facts you need to know about, to make sure you import your car safely.

Selecting a Reputable Dealer:

Beyond talking to friends about who they would recommend, you can use the internet to help you choose a legitimate professional importer.

  • Companies House: Always check for potential dealers on Companies House in London. This is a register of all limited and publicly listed companies in the UK.
  • Independent reviews: Social media can tell you is they are active and have a good marketing department. But for genuine consumer reviews look for their profile on independent review companies such as Trustpilot. Independent review companies only accept reviews from verified customers, so all reviews are genuine and have not been bought.

Top tips when selecting your car:

Follow this list of vital points and you are well on your way to finding a great car. Feel confident your dealer is doing his best by you, by checking he is taking care of all of these areas on your behalf.

  • Make sure you are buying a UK spec car. The specification is often higher than international variants. This gives you better value from the outset and a better residual price later on if you have taken good care of your car. International variants do appear on UK websites however, so cross check your specification before taking your purchase any further.
  • V5 Log book: Every car in the UK has to have a V5 log book. It confirms the who is the registered owner for the vehicle. You should ask to see the photos of the logbook and the service history booklet before you buy as these prove original ownership and care history. The logbook also confirms that the chassis numbers belong to the car you are buying.
  • MOT Certification: It is law in the UK that all cars over 3 years old pass an annual MOT check. This certifies them as being roadworthy. To pass the QISJ inspection (pre-export inspection) a UK car must have 3 months remaining on the current MOT certificate.
  • Quality Photos: A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is even better. You should make sure you have seen your car from all angles inside and out, in a good light, when the car is dry. Do not accept photos of a wet car.
  • Rule of thumb for mileage: The average annual mileage in the UK is 12,000 miles. So you can use this as a general gauge for acceptable mileage levels. Of course there will be fluctuations between cars, but if you find a deal that looks too good to be true, then beware and be sure to run an HPI check.
  • HPI checks; Mileage is verified via an HPI check. The national mileage register highlights any strange mileage entries to help buyers avoid odometer tampering. HPI also allow you to check the service history of your car to confirm it has been cared for responsibly.
  • Category C and D: Look carefully for these words in the description of any car you find on the internet. They mean the car has been damaged by an accident, fire, flood or theft. Category C (CAT C) or more severe damage than Category D (CAT D). When a vehicle is categorised like this, it means it could have been repaired but the insurer chose not to do so. If the vehicle is repaired properly, it can be owned and driven safely. However, it's important to check the vehicle's condition carefully before making an offer. A Cat C or D vehicle is usually worth much less than an identical vehicle that has never been written off. The asking price, and your offer, should reflect this.
  • Service History: Service history booklets will give you the reassurance that the car has been responsibly cared for by its previous owners.
  • Chassis number: You should also ask you dealer to confirm that all three chassis numbers match. He will not share the images with you, but he should also advise you not to buy a car which does not have matching chassis numbers as it is likely not to be safe.

Key Points When Agreeing Your Purchase

Take the time to agree the details up front with your vendor and you will reap the rewards later. Importers offer varying service levels, so be clear what is included in your final price to be sure you’re buying the service level you want. By studying the detail now, you will the steer clear from surprises later on.

  • What does my car come with? To make sure you have included all your add ons, ask you importer about all of the following: How many keys, car owner’s manual, a full set of matts, locking wheel nut, spare wheel included, how much tread is there on each tyre including the spare wheel. If missed out of your final negotiation, you can have some nasty surprises when you receive your car.
  • What service level am I paying for? Buying from a UK dealer who is not a professional importer usually means your quote includes just the purchase price for your car. For CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) you need to know your final price has included; collection and delivery to the port, preparation and inspection, shipping and insurance. If you are buying a freight forwarding service be sure to ask about transportation costs to port, shipping, insurance, QISJ inspections and possibly postage of your loose items.
  • Insure your car from door to door. Professional importers will insure your car from the moment they collect your car to the moment you receive it at the port. Be sure you have comprehensive insurance for the roads and that your marine insurance covers the value of your car not just its weight.

Once you have paid for your car

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a beautiful car. Just be sure all the paperwork and the gadgets arrive safely separate to your car.

  • Original paperwork: Make sure you receive the original paperwork for your car once it is one the water. When you have paid the full amount for your car, you are entitled to receive the bill of lading, original V5 log book, the original service history, QISJ certificate and the MOT certificates.
  • Make sure all your loose items will be removed from the car and posted securely to you. To avoid any losses in transit it is sensible to agree vulnerable items in the car such as head phones, remote controls and paperwork are posted to you via a tracked courier service such as DHL. The face of importing is changing. Whilst criminal gangs still operate, there are an increasing number of professional importers like MHH International who have set out to make importing a simple, effortless experience. They provide highly qualified staff to take care of your car every step of the way. From finding your car, through to delivering it to Nairobi, your work is done for you. So relax, and look forward to driving your new car sooner than you think.

Rowan Benn

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