Getting insurance for imported vehicles

In recent years, there's been a growing trend among car-buyers to look further afield for their next set of wheels and buy from overseas.

There a number of reasons for this trend: imported cars are often cheaper than UK models, and in many cases, built to a higher specification.

As the demand for imported cars has risen, this has led to improvements in the importing process - and particularly when it comes to bringing cars into the UK from Japan.

Save time and money on your car insurance

However, while you may be tempted to snap up a reliable run-around, or a sporty little number, which has been imported from overseas, you need to be aware that it can be hard to find affordable imported car insurance cover for these vehicles.

For this reason, it's even more important to do your research and shop around when looking for imported car insurance quotes. Here we take a look at how to find the right imported car insurance policy at the right price.

How much will I pay for imported car insurance?

Car insurance for imported cars tends to be higher in price than car insurance for conventional UK-bought cars.

First off, the more expensive premiums may reflect the fact that it can be harder and more expensive to source spare parts for imported cars - making these vehicles more costly to repair in the event of a claim. In addition, as these cars can often be built to a higher specification than conventional cars, there is also an increased likelihood of an accident.

Further, costs may be higher where an imported vehicle has not been constructed to the same standards as a European model; for example, the car could be a left-hand drive.

While many insurers will insure left-hand drive vehicles at the same rate as right-hand vehicles, any difference in the way the vehicle is constructed can potentially have an impact on price; the key is to check this when looking for cover.

What are the different types of imported car?

When it comes to buying a car from overseas, the key thing to understand is that the cost of imported car insurance depends on the category into which your vehicle falls.

According to the AA, there are two types of imported vehicle: grey imports and parallel imports.

Grey imports
So-called “grey imports” are cars which are built outside the EU and which do not conform to European standards. Japanese imports, for example, fall into the “grey import” category.

If you buy one of these models you may struggle to get motor insurance, as some firms simply will not offer cover - or will only do so at an inflated price.

Where an insurer offers cover at a higher price, it usually reflect the extra costs involved in sourcing and transporting spare parts for these vehicles, as and when required.

It's also worth noting that grey imports may be of a higher performance specification than their European equivalents when it comes to features such as power, output, weight, suspension and electronic systems; Japanese imports in particular tend to fall into this category of having a higher-performance spec. As this increases the likelihood of the driver having an accident, this can have a knock-on effect on imported car insurance premiums, and result in higher costs.

Crucially, if an insurer is willing to offer imported car insurance, the firm will require you to undergo a process of testing under the Single Vehicle Approval scheme; this needs to happen before your motor is legal to drive on UK roads.

In addition, your insurer will also ask a series of detailed questions about the car before it will offer to provide you with an imported car insurance quote - so be prepared for this too.

Parallel imports
Parallel imports are vehicles manufactured inside the EU.

Finding cover for a car imported from Europe tends to be simpler than finding cover for a grey import, as parallel import vehicles have to meet the same minimum standards as UK vehicles. As a result, insurers are usually more willing and open to offering cover for these cars - making it easier to find a policy for a parallel import at an affordable price.

What steps can you take to keep down the cost of imported car insurance?

Given that imported car insurance can cost more than conventional cover, it's important to find ways to keep a lid on costs. Here are a few tips to help you find cheap imported car insurance quotes:

  • Tempting as it may be to opt for a sports car, you need to think carefully, as these models will always cost more to insure than their more sensible counterparts.
  • The same applies when it comes to choosing a car with modifications, as insurers will usually charge more for cover if your vehicle has been modified in any way. The message is simple: choose a car that has not been modified, and you'll pay less for your cover.
  • Make sure your imported car is as secure as it possibly can be by parking it on a driveway - or better still, locking it in a garage - overnight. Also look into adding safety features such as an alarm or an immobiliser, as an insurer will reward these additional safety measures with lower premiums.
  • Consider paying a higher excess; this is the chunk you pay towards any claim. But make sure you don't increase this so much that it then becomes unaffordable should you have to make a claim.
  • One of the best ways to keep costs down is by driving carefully and sensibly and building up a clean record, as this will translate into a no-claims discount when you come to buy your cover in future.

Find cheap imported car insurance quotes

When looking for cheap cover for your imported car, it's worth researching the specialist insurers which offer policies that are specifically designed for vehicles from overseas. But don't automatically assume these will be cheapest.

You also need to scour the whole market to find the right imported car insurance policy for you; this means seeking out the right level of cover at the right place.

The best way to do this is by logging onto a price comparison site such as MoneySupermarket where you can compare prices and policies from a wide range of insurers - and choose the policy you want to purchase at the press of a button.

Save time and money on your car insurance

†82% of shoppers obtained a quote in 5 minutes or less. Source eDigitalResearch December 2012.