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Can I insure an imported car in the UK?

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If you're a car enthusiast in the UK, you may have considered importing a vehicle from overseas. Maybe it's a classic American muscle car, or a sleek Japanese sports car that catches your eye. Before you hit the import button, though, you may be wondering: can I get insurance for it?

You are not alone! According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), over 8,000 cars were imported into the UK in 2020. Whilst that may seem like a small number compared to the millions of cars registered in the UK each year, it's clear that there's a growing interest in importing cars from overseas.

What affects the cost of insurance?

  • A factor to consider is the value of the car. Imported ones may be rare or unique, which can make them more expensive to repair or replace. This can make insurance premiums higher than for domestic cars.
  • Another is spare parts availability. If the car is damaged, what will these parts cost? Will they be of decent quality? How quickly can they be got hold of? Remember, time is money and garage storage can be expensive (not to mention the cost of a courtesy car whilst you new body panel is stuck in Singapore).
  • The engine size is an important matter too; many cars bought from overseas are big, powerful beasts.

However, perhaps the most important factor in how much insurance will cost is: what type of import is it? grey or parallel?

What on earth are grey and parallel imports?

Grey imports are cars that were not originally intended for sale in the UK, but have been imported anyway. These vehicles may come from countries with different safety and emissions standards than the UK, and, as a result, they may not meet them. This means that grey imports may require modifications in order to be legally driven on UK roads, and might even prove to be impossible to upgrade economically.

Parallel imports, on the other hand, are cars that were designed for sale in another European Union (EU) country but have been imported into the UK. These cars should meet the same safety and emissions standards as UK cars, as they were designed for sale in an EU country. Also; spares should be much easier to get hold of; Europe is much closer to Britain than America or Japan.

The main difference between grey and parallel imports is the level of testing and certification required for the vehicles. Parallel imports should have undergone the same testing and certification processes as UK cars, whereas grey imports may not have undergone any testing or certification for the UK market.

This difference in testing and certification can have an impact on, not only the insurance cost, but also resale value of the cars. Parallel imports may be more attractive to buyers since they should meet the same safety and emissions standards as UK cars; but grey imports may be more difficult to sell since buyers may be hesitant to purchase a car that could well require future modifications to continue to be street legal on UK roads.

So, whether you're considering a grey or parallel import, it's important to do your research and make sure you understand the potential risks and costs involved. And if you're in doubt, it's always a good idea to consult with a specialist importer or a trusted mechanic to ensure that your imported car meets UK safety and emissions standards.

So, how do I insure my import?

The usual way is to go through a specialist insurance provider that deals specifically with imported cars. These providers may have a better understanding of the unique issues and risks involved with insuring an imported car, and may be able to offer more tailored coverage options. They may also be able to advise you on getting the vehicle modified up to UK standards.

So what does imported car insurance cost?

It's difficult to give a definitive answer. As with any type of car insurance, the cost will depend on a number of factors, including the value of the car, your driving history, and where you plan to store and drive it.

However, according to a survey by Compare the Market, imported cars can be at least 35% more expensive to insure than domestic ones with the same specifications. This is due in part to the higher cost of repairs and replacement parts for imported cars, as well as the fact that they may be considered higher risk, owing to their unique features and specifications.

Many insurers are wary of imported cars and won't touch them, which usually means less competition, and therefore higher premiums. After all, an American muscle car with a huge engine is more likely to be brought into the country than a small economy one!

How can you lower the cost of imported car insurance?

Well, just like with domestic car insurance, there are a few steps you can take to help lower your premiums. These include:

  • Maintaining a good driving record
  • Keeping your car in a secure location
  • Installing security features such as an alarm or immobiliser
  • Choosing a higher excess (the amount you pay out of pocket in case of a claim)
  • Joining a car club or community for your specific make and model of car, which may offer discounts on insurance.

In conclusion...

Getting insurance for an imported car in the UK may require a bit of extra research and effort, but it's usually possible. By working with a specialist insurance provider, or steering clear of "grey imports", you might find the cost is a lot less than you expect.

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