Buyers looking further afield for their next car, often overseas, are part of a growing trend in the car market.
Imported cars are often cheaper than UK models, and in many cases are built to a higher specification.
As the demand for imported cars has risen, the importing process has improved greatly, particularly when bringing cars from Japan into the UK.
However, while you may be tempted to snap up a reliable runaround or a sporty coupe from overseas, it might be difficult to find affordable imported car insurance for these vehicles.
Does it cost more to insure an imported car?
Car insurance policies for imported cars tend to be higher in price than policies for conventional UK-bought cars. There are a few reasons for this increase in premiums:
- It can be harder and more expensive to source spare parts for imported cars, which makes these vehicles more costly to repair in the event of a claim
- Imported cars are often built to a higher specification than conventional cars. Because they can be driven faster, the likelihood of accidents is higher
- An imported vehicle might not be constructed to the same standards as a European model. The car could be a left-hand drive, for example. Any difference in the way the vehicle is constructed can have an impact on price
Does the type of imported car affect the cost of insurance?
Yes, the cost of imported car insurance depends on the category into which your vehicle falls.
There are two types of imported vehicle – ‘grey’ imports and ‘parallel’ imports.
Grey imports are cars built outside the EU and which do not conform to European standards. Japanese imports, for example, often fall into the grey import category.
Some insurers will not offer cover for grey imports, or will only do so at an inflated price to reflect the extra costs involved in sourcing, transporting and installing any spare parts.
Grey imports may be of a higher performance specification than their European equivalents, especially when it comes to features such as power, output, weight or suspension, and they may also have different electronic systems.
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, it can be easier to find an insurance policy for a parallel import at an affordable price.
How do I insure an imported car?
The process is the same as for conventional car insurance, but you may be asked a series of more detailed questions about the car before being offered a quote.
Before being insured, the car also needs to have a vehicle identification number, pass the individual vehicle approval test (see below) and be registered with the DVLA. You’ll need to pay VAT and tax the vehicle too.
How can I reduce the insurance for an imported car?
Tempting as it may be to opt for a sports car, these will always cost more to insure than their more sensible counterparts.
The same applies when it comes to choosing a car with modifications. Insurance companies will usually charge more for cover if your vehicle has been modified.
Make sure your imported car is as secure as it can be by parking it on a well-lit driveway overnight. Consider also adding safety features such as an alarm or an immobiliser, as an insurer may reward you with lower premiums.
Paying a higher excess can reduce premiums too. 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.
Longer term, driving carefully and sensibly and building up a clean record will also translate into a no-claims discount when you come to buy your cover in future.
Does an imported car need a vehicle identification number (VIN)?
Before you can be offered insurance, the imported car must have a vehicle identification number (VIN) and have passed the individual vehicle approval (IVA) test. Otherwise it is illegal to drive it on UK roads.
All vehicles registered in the UK must have a unique, stamped-in VIN – usually on the chassis – and registration number. If yours doesn’t have one, you should apply to the DVLA.
The IVA is a standard check on the vehicle by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). There are several ways to prove your vehicle meets IVA standards. The Government website provides more information on how to apply and the fees to pay.
Are Japanese import cars cheap to insure?
Questions are often asked about Japanese vehicles because it is one of the world’s largest and most efficient car producers, and these economies of scale allow prices to be kept low.
But as grey imports they also tend to fall into the category of higher-performance specs.
Statistically, this increases the likelihood of the driver having an accident, which can have a knock-on effect on car insurance, resulting in higher premiums.
Compare car insurance quotes for an imported car
Owners’ clubs can be a mine of information for imported cars and members should have an idea of which insurers offer cheaper insurance premiums.
It’s also worth researching specialist insurers that offer policies that are specifically designed for vehicles from overseas. But don’t automatically assume these will be cheapest.
You can compare car insurance quotes for over 110 leading brands and receive a quote in less than five minutes with MoneySuperMarket.