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Insuring an imported car in the UK

A question you're asked when looking for car insurance is, “is your car imported?” But how do you define an imported car, and how does it affect your premium?

The most basic definition of an imported car is one built in a different country for a non UK market. Imports are then divided into two further categories: parallel imports and grey imports. Parallel imports are built in EU countries to EU standards. Grey imports are cars built for non-EU countries.

Parallel Imports

Parallel imports, and cars built for the UK, meet standards set by the European Whole Vehicle Type Approval. This sets minimum standards for things like emissions, steering, crash protection, lighting, and brakes. Whether you buy your car from Germany, Spain or the UK, it will meet the same safety standards. A Fiat bought directly from Italy and built for the Italian market would have the same components, safety and manufacturing standards as one built for the UK market. Extras like blue tooth, sunroofs and trim may be different, and the vehicle's warranty may be shorter than one from a UK dealer.

Grey Imports

Grey imports come from outside the EU, often from Japan, and are not necessarily manufactured to European standards. They need a “Minister's Approval Certificate” for use on roads in the UK, showing they meet the requirements of the Single Vehicle Approval Scheme. The SVA ensures grey imports meet UK safety and environmental standards through testing and modifications. The Mazda Eunos, the Japanese version of the MX-5, is a popular grey import.

How does this affect insurance?
Insuring imported cars, particularly grey imports, may be more expensive than insuring a non-import. As parallel imports are built to EU standards most insurers will provide cover. Some insurers, however, don't cover grey imports for several reasons. The cars may have higher performance specifications to European cars. This indicates a higher risk of accidents and higher premiums. In addition, safety features such as crash safety and occupant protection may be inferior to EU vehicles. It can be difficult to get spare parts and run diagnostics. The car's history can be hard to trace with logs being in a different language, and mileage may be inaccurate. Another issue is that cars built for a different climate may not fare well in the British one.

How to reduce insurance risks

(1) Advanced driving qualifications are looked on favourably by insurers.
(2) Inform your insurance company of all modifications your car has. Some raise premiums, but others can make the car safer and reduce them.
(3) Join an owners club or online forum. Proven car enthusiasts tend to take better care of their vehicles leading to lower premiums.
Other risk reduction methods are good practice for parallel imports, grey imports and UK cars:

(a) Store your car in a garage.
(b) Fit a good alarm system.
(c) Limit your mileage.
(d) Choose a sensible model over a high performance one.
(e) Elect to pay a higher excess.

Ultimately, the best way to reduce risk and reduce premiums is to drive sensibly and carefully.

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