*Updated August 2017*

Importing a classic car can be a complicated affair and depends on both your own circumstances and also that of the car. It’s also different when importing from within and outside of the EU.

There really is a lot of conflicting and confusing advice on forums / other sites. So in order to make sure I give you accurate advice I’ve done a lot of research and even called HRMC to confirm the somewhat confusing Import Duty and VAT position.

So I thought I’d write this article about the process for importing a classic car from the EU (European Union or Community), e.g. Italy, France, Germany and Spain, and also highlight the differences from outside of the EU; like USA and Australia. I’ve also written a generic blog on the UK registration side of importing a classic car, i.e. what to do once your lovely classic car hits UK soil – click here.

For the moment, I am going to assume that you are a private individual car owner who wants to import a classic car for non-business reasons and not for re-sale. Here are a few actions / considerations you’ll need to think about before embarking on bringing your dream car or motorbike back into the UK.

1.0 Research Classic Car Prices

Do your research, i.e. what type of classic car or motorbike are you looking at, how much do they sell for in their country and how much would it be worth in the UK. After all you don”t want to go through all this hassle if you could buy an equivalent vehicle for the same price – you must make sure their is a healthy difference to make it worth your while. When you’ve done enough research then see Section 2 and either 3 or 4 below based on where you are importing the car from, this is to work out the total cost of the car after importation.

2.0 Classic Car International Transportation

How are you going to get the car back, i.e. drive it back or arrange a transporter, or if you”re shipping your car from America then what carrier are you going to use. From the EU and as a very rough guide, a multi-car transporter will cost between £800 to £1000 per car from somewhere like Swizerland, Austria or Italy. This is going to be the most expensive part of bringing a car back into the UK – here are a couple of people you can call to work out a price:

Overland Transportation from EU Countries to UK:

Shipping from USA to UK:


3.0 Importing a Classic Car from the EU to the UK, e.g. from Italy, France, Spain or Germany

It”s a much simpler process to import a car from mainland Europe, e.g. Italy, Spain, France or Germany.

A representative from HRMC told me that “Single Market Rules” apply and it’s not a strict “import” as we are all considered one under EU law, so is more a “movement” of goods. So this is good news for the majority of us as:

a) No import Duty is liable – as it”s a movement of goods around the EU.

b) Also no VAT is liable – this is because VAT would have been paid in the country of origin on its original purchase.

The process steps to follow are:

a) Purchase of the car in the EU country of origin:

Make sure the car has a local MOT, e.g. a “revisione” for an Italian car (important if you plan of driving it back).

Make sure you insure the car – especially if you plan on driving it back home. You will need to use the car”s VIN number as you won”t have the new registration number until later in the process. Most classic insurance companies accept this identification and will issue a certificate.

In some EU countries you need to apply for temporary plates, e.g. in Italy the number plate is assigned to the driver and not the car – this is an additional cost and can set you back about 400EUR for signing the property document and 175EUR for the temporary plates. If the seller trusts you then you could use their plates to drive it home (if they don”t need them) and you could send them back in the post when you get to the UK.

Collect the original copy of the temporary registration document.

Collect the official declaration of sale with the sale price signed by you and the seller and a Notary.

Obtain a Certificate of Ownership.

b) Drive or Transport the Vehicle back to the UK.

c) Notify HRMC and organise the car’s MOT.

d) Register the vehicle with the DVLA – see my other article on this process – click here

Also, there are a couple of ancillary fees to add, namely a Customs Fee of about £50 and a DVLA registration fee of £55.

4.0 Importing a Classic Car from Outside of the EU to the UK, e.g. from USA, Africa, India or Australia

Logistically this is more complicated and also more expensive as it also involves the near certain liability of Import Duty and VAT. Classic cars coming in from outside of the EU will be subject to Customs Duty and VAT, as they are considered to be “new goods to the EU”.

I really recommend you contact an experienced importing company to help you with this process, however, the following will outline the steps you need to consider and will give you more knowledge on the subject.

a) Purchase the car in the country of origin – make sure you obtain key documentation, e.g. sale agreement, registration documentation.

b) Ship the vehicle back to the UK via a trusted shipping company.

c) Complete a C384 form to work out the amount of Customs Duty and VAT liable (for Private Motor Vehicle) for import purposes. You can download the C384 form via Her Majesty Revenue and Customs website = click here

d) Notify HRMC and organise the car”s MOT.

e) Register the vehicle with the DVLA – see my other article on this process – click here

4.1 Importing Cars Over 30 Years Old – 5% VAT Liability
Importing cars that are over 30 years old reduces VAT liability by 15%, as just 5% is charged against the cost of the car.  This could mean a significant amount of money difference on ‘modern classics’ e.g. if you purchase a 1986 Ferrari 328 GTS for $100k then you will save circa $15k on the cost of import. So when you’re looking at potential cars then be careful as just a one day difference in the registration date could be a significant extra cost.

UK customs have their own exchange rate for calculating VAT and Duty and it’s updated on a monthly basis – use this to work out the latest exchange rate – click here.

VAT is calculated as: $ Invoice + $ Shipping / Customs Exchange Rate + £Duty (if any) * 5% = £VAT

Note: yes Duty is added to this calculation as it is also subject to VAT too.

4.2 Importing Cars Under 30 Years Old – 20% VAT Liability.
As mentioned above – 20% VAT is charged and you’ll need to pay this when the car arrives into the UK.

UK customs have their own exchange rate for calculating VAT and Duty and it’s updated on a monthly basis – use this to work out the latest exchange rate – click here.

VAT is calculated as: $ Invoice + $ Shipping / Customs Exchange Rate + £Duty (if any) * 20% = £VAT

Note: Duty is added to this calculation as it is also subject to VAT too.

4.3 Importing Cars Originally Made in the EU – Any Age – £50 Duty Liability
If the car you’re purchasing was originally made in the EU then this will reduce your total Duty liability from 10% to just £50 admin fee. Again a significant saving if you’re planning to import cars from manufacturers such as Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar.

4.4 Importing Cars NOT Made in the EU – Under 50 Years Old – 10% Duty Liability
So if you’re looking at a non-EU manufactured car such as Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Cadillac then your total Duty liability will be the full 10%.

Duty is calculated as: $ Invoice Cost + $ Shipping Cost / Customs Exchange Rate * 10% = £ Duty.

Here”s a link to a handy online calculator to help you work out the costs – click here.

4.5 Shipping and Transportation Costs for Importing a Classic Car
This is one of the larger expenses – you can generally count on circa $1000 for shipping costs from a USA to a UK port (Tilbury / Southampton / Felixstowe) for a shared container (two cars in one container).  RORO (Roll On Roll Off) is cheaper but I wouldn’t recommend for a high value classic car. Also, remember you’ll need to get the car to a US port and that could increase the costs significantly. For example, it may cost circa $300 to securely transport a car a hundred miles or so to the nearest US port, but what if your car is in Texas and has 1,000 miles to get to a nearest port; well that could be another $1000 on top.

4.6 Classic Car Shipping Insurance
So your car has cost a few dollars and you want to make sure you don’t lose out if the worst happens like the ship goes down, or the car suffers damage in transit. Well you’ll need to think about insurance and that will roughly cost you 2% of the total cost of the car. So that Ferrari 328 GTS you’re thinking about for £100k will cost you $2,000 in insurance. Of course you could cut corners and leave this out – if you dare!

4.7 UK and USA Port Fees for Importing a Classic Car
USA port fees will be just over $200 and UK fees at £175 at the time of updating this blog (March 2017). So quite reasonable but make sure you include it as it all adds up.

4.8 Modifying the Car for UK Roads
Don’t forget you’ll need to get the headlights amended for UK roads and get the car MOT’d – depending on the exotic nature of the car this could cost you a few hundred pounds. I’d personally recommend you put £1000 by for this work and any other unexpected bills / parts you may need.

4.9 DVLA Registration Fee and MOT
You will need to get the car MOT’d first after the legal modifications to lights have been made – this will cost you circa £50 depending on your chosen MOT station. Once that is done you can then apply to the DVLA for registration to get the V5 logbook – this will cost you £55.

5.0 Example Costs for Importing a Classic Car from the USA

Okay so there was a lot to take in there – let’s look at a few examples for importing a classic car from the USA.
Example 1 – 1980 (Over 30 Years Old) Porsche 911 (EU Made) purchased for $80k = £73k total
Importing a Classic Car - Example 1
Example 2 – 1995 (Under 30 Years Old) Porsche 911 (EU Made) purchased for $80k = £83k total
Importing a Classic Car - Example 2
Example 3 – 2005 (Under 30 Years Old) Ford Mustang (Non-EU Made) purchased for $30k = £36k total
Importing a Classic Car - Example 3

6.0 Important Notes

– EU and Non-EU Manufactured Cars – If you are planning on importing an originally EU manufactured car to the UK from outside of the EU, e.g. you import a Porsche 911 from California, then the Customs Duty is waived (just £50 admin fee). However, UK customs will need to see evidence that the car was originally exported from the EU. In order to prove this, you can provide a copy export entry, the export invoice or the export bill of lading/airway bill. If none of these documents are available, you could also try to get hold of an official letter from the manufacturer which confirms that the car was fully manufactured in the EU. Please bear in mind that this needs to be ‘official’ and therefore needs to be on company-headed paper, and signed. If you can’t provide one of these pieces of evidence, then unfortunately you will have to pay import Duty and VAT, as if the car was newly entering the EU. UK customs will not except that a car has to be EU made just because the manufacturer is European!

– Importing Cars Over 50 Years Old – If the car is over 50 years old, coming into the UK from outside of the EU, then you don”t pay any import Duty and pay VAT at a reduced rate of just 5% as it”s classed as ‘historical interest’ under the 9705 ‘Goods of Historical Interest’ clause.

– Importing Cars Over 30 Years Old – If the car is over 30 years and under 50, coming into the UK from outside of the EU, then it may be also be officially classed as ‘historical interest”, under special circumstances and like cars over 50 years old means that you don’t need to pay import Duty, and that you pay a reduced rate of VAT at only 5%. However, in order to qualify for this, you will need to complete the ‘Binding Tariff Information’, this is basically a request for reduced import tax which you need to obtain from HM Revenue and Customs. For example, it may be very rare, have been used for a particular purpose, or owned by a famous person etc. If you think that this may be the case, then you can write to customs and ask to be considered under the 9705. However, I can reliably tell you the chances of obtaining this cause is very slim based on peoples” past experiences written up online. My advice: don”t waste your time unless the car was owned by Elvis and pay the normal Duty / VAT.

Here’s a link to a guide on the UK Government”s website – click here.  And a link to HRMC’s guide on VAT and Duty – click here.

That’s it, a lot to take in and different rules based on where the car is being imported from, but hopefully will give you the necessary steps to follow to make sure there are no nasty surprises.

Please remember, once you have your car through customs process, you then need to contact the DVLA in order to understand the registration process for your imported classic car.  Please read my article ’How do I register an imported classic car in the UK‘ for more information on the process.


Emma Jones


This article was written and published by Emma Jones.  Emma works for Trade Classics as an in-house journalist and copywriter and has many years’ experience in the classic car sector.  Why not write a reply on this article below – she’d love to hear your thoughts on her thoughts!Also, don’t forget to check out the classic cars for sale here on Trade Classics.Google+

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49 Comments on "How Do I Import a Classic Car into the UK?"

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Rocco Gregori

Hi i am considering buying a barnfind 1971 vw from italy to uk, owner has lost logbook however – if i get the car to uk with purchase receipt, can i register in uk without current italian logbook? (libretto) thx


HI, I Want to buy a car in the Netherlands and drive it home. I have contacted two Classic Car Insurance companies who will not insure it till it is in the uk. What am I missing?

james harvey
Hi, Thank you for the above article. I am importing a Classic car from Sweden. My Swedish friend is bringing it over to the UK and it will be stored in my garage. It is right hand drive and has full Swedish papers, MOT etc. I’m just looking through the Registering process and it seems that the Classic car (1975) will need to be registered with the HMRC within 14 days, wait 48 hours for VAT clearance then send the V55/5 to the DVLA. However, i can’t see any mention on the DVLA links when to have the car MOT’d.… Read more »
steven Wilce

Hi James
You will need to insure and MOT the car before you apply for the V5 as you have to send off proof of insurance and a valid MOT certificate with the V55. Also you will need the Nova form from the HMRC stating that the taxes have been paid.
It sounds awkward but it is actually very straightforward if.


A great article, thanks. I’m hoping to import a 1970 jaguar to the UK from USA. It is a part complete project so is unlikely to receive an MOT within a year or so of being in the UK. Is this s problem or do I simply pay the D&V, take it home and wait until it is roadworthy before I MOT it and register it with the DVLA? Many thanks. Roderick

Keith Hazell

There is no time limit on how long you can have the car in the UK without registering, the only stipulation is on payment of tax. As the vehicle is being imported from outside of the EU then it would need to be customs cleared and taxes paid upon arrival. If you need assistance with shipping or customs clearance please feel free to contact me at keith.hazel@lvshipping.com

Mark Willis

I’ve found an old Renault in France , it’s been sat for years but there’s no reg documents or any paper work with it , how can I go about bringing it to the U.K.
thank you

Anthony Whitworth

If I buy a classic tractor (1963) so over 50 years old, from a non eu country, do I just pay the 5% on total including shipping? Thanks PS. Excellent article by the way! Tractor was manufactured originally in Germany.


Hi Emma
I have a restored 1957 jaguar mk8 in New Zealand and would like to ship it to the UK and sell it.
Is this possible and what would be the vat and duty liability?

Keith Hazell

Hi David, as a general rule vehicles over 30 years old will usually be accepted as being of “historic interest” and would only be liable to VAT @ 5% with no Duty payable. Please feel free to contact me for assistance keith.hazell@lvshipping.com


Hi Emma, Great article… But I would like to know – I bought a 1985 BMW M635 CSI In the UK 10 years ago, and brought it to Australia, where I have been living. If I Imported the car back to the UK, would there be any UK VAT or duties payable?

Kulraj Salh

Hi Richard,

If you look at the important notes section 6.0, there is a chance that since the M635 CSi was a rare car, it might be deemed as having historical interest and so a reduced VAT of 5%. Worth taking a look at.

steven Wilce

I have imported loads of cars and they always put the Duty at 5% if its over 30 years old. just use a decent clearing agent and they will sort it for you

Just so you all know my experience of using Autobox Logistics Ltd Essex which is carshippingmadesimple website part of Cargo Marketing Ltd. I drove to their shipping associate warehouse in Houston end of Jan 2018. They said it would be in Southampton in a month. After chasing and chasing it turned up in Felixstowe three months later. I was not happy and persuaded them to transport by truck to me in Devon at a subsided cost. I paid half, another £250 to swallow. It was left in the rain at Felixstowe and water had got in soaking carpet and seats… Read more »

hi I am thinking of purchasing a mga 1956 which has been imported into the UK from Australia.The owner now wants to export it back to Australia because the cost of keeping and registering it in the UK is too much. It has been advertised here in Australia at a very low price,?. Comments please.


Hi Graham
I have had a similar experience with a jaguar advertised in Australia but now in UK. Owner was unaware of 50%? Import duty and wanted to ship the car back. Also advertised here at low price.
Wonder if it is a scam?


Hi Emma
I want to Import a classic car from outside of the EU to the UK NOT Made in the EU!
Soviet Gaz 21 1964.How much I’ll pay vat and duty??
And do I need to proof somehow that this car is no longer in production??


I have just imported a 1967 Jaguar E-Type from the USA to the UK, how do I get the vehicle history? I have the VIN number and was wondering if there was anyone who could advise me on where I will be able to obtain this information from?


great write up cheers

Jonathan Kay

Contact Jaguar heritage in the UK, who for £45 will send you a heritage certificate for your car, giving the date of manufacture, the destination country and city, along with the numbers for the chassis, engine and gearbox.
If you check in the USA try Carfax who should have an online facitlity to show the history of your car in the USA.

Ian Smith

Hi Emma
I have the chance to purchase a 1953 split screen Morris Minor in South Africa, although this car is in good condition there is no registration documents, is this going to be a problem if i was to export it for sale in the UK.
If it is a viable proposition can you recommend anyone that can help with all the paperwork in the UK and post it for sale

Steve swanson

Hi, great article…I have a couple of questions…..I am in USA, would like to give my all original 67 camaro to my daughter, UK/USA dual citizenship…..will there be any vat if the car is free? The engine is original, if I would install a 2002 ls 5.3 engine for reliability and drivability, would that change the 50 year old status? Would it be better if I own the car til it gets to UK?, Or if the transfer takes place before we load it on the boat? Thanks!

Ian Bainbridge
Thanks for a helpful article. I recently imported as a first timer, a Mercedes Pagoda from California. Apparently there is an additional cost risk that isn’t mentioned in the article. US customs inspect a small percentage of cars being inspected and costs are charged to the purchaser. This can be an also mean you miss the intended ship. It’s a gamble you can’t be sure of but to be safe allow a contingency fund ~ maybe 1200 GBP. I was lucky and got through. Less importantly unlucky on delays, despite using a big recommended carrier, my car was apparently overlooked… Read more »

We have purchased a Mustang in the USA from a mother of a friend of ours. The friend is in the motor trade and has renovated the vehicle at our cost. it will not be long before it is ready for shipping.What must be taken into account when informing the customs. The vehicle has not been modified in respect of changes to ability but as you can imagine on a 1965 car things have been replaced like new wheels, the electrics have need updating, and headlights changed for our roads. it has also been re sprayed.


Im looking to buy a car bro Itlay and I want to ensure its not stolen/ damaged etc How do I check?


Hello Emma,
Are these rules the same for importing a car from Bahrain in the middle east?

Kulraj Salh

Hi Ashley, yes these rules apply. You’ll see section 4 explains the rules for imports outside of the EU.

John Legrove

Hi Emma, I have seen a car in Texas on ebay that I would like to buy. Its a 1956 model so its 62 years old. It will be tax and MOT exempt here but of course the lights would need making legal. My question really is: will I have any import tax to pay?
Cheers, John


Hi Emma, excellent article, very well done indeed. Is this guide applicable to motorcycles as well? Cheers.


Hi Mike, we believe it does.. yes.


Hi, I’m looking at importing a VW Golf 1978, I’m trying to decipher import/VAT charges that this will be liable for. It’s 40 years old born in Germany, I’m a bit confused as to whether it qualifies because it is “at least 30 years old and of a model or type which is no longer in production” but obviously the Golf is still being made today. Any help would be appreciated!


The rules above apply. So section 2 if importing from Europe or 3 rest of the world. All the best.

Sharon bible

We have a Sierra xr4i 28 years old, we brought it in tenerife where we have lived for 24years, it’s motd and is tax exempt, but all papers are in our name, it came from tenerife in a container with our other belongings, not sure what to do next, could you please help me

Kulraj Salh

Hi Sharon, take a look at the guide on registering your car here: https://www.tradeclassics.com/how-do-i-register-an-imported-classic-car-in-the-uk/


I want to import a classic car from outside the EU and resale it after
how can i do this,what is the procedure?


I have imported a 1930 Caddilac from USA, I am vat registered, I paid zero duty but 5% vat. If & when I sell is this vehicle plus 20% vat ? Thanks


Excellent article thank you. I note in your introduction that you make an assumption “you are a private individual car owner who wants to import a classic car for non-business reasons and not for re-sale” . Can you advise what restrictions are placed on a sale following importation?


Can you advise me on insurance for my classic car during my driving it to the uk from italy. I calculate that the trip will take 1 week

Mike Etherington

Good check list. For cars from the US to the UK, Import Car also lists the various steps, including registering and has a lot of useful links to specialists at each stage.


hi Emma
Just read the article, BRILL and I’m taking from a Logistics / Customs Clearance point of view. The number of calls when importing cars from clients “why am I paying Duty / VAT” . Why Do I have to fill all these forms in. Great Article.


Thanks for your feedback Sian… appreciate it 🙂


Hi,Ive just bought on a merc 190D 1992 in germany,it has a TUV till 2018 and is in very good working order only covered 45000 km .The dealer will deliver to me, however how could I get a uk reg for the car so I can drive back to the uk and insure?


Hi Tony… you’ll have to follow the steps in this article. You can only get a UK number after you’ve imported it and got it MOT’d.


Hi Ive just bought a non running and needing work Ford 300e from Portugal ive bought it modify. Do I need to get an MOT to register it ? As it is it would need more work to MOT as standard. Thanks


Yes I believe you do… the steps are to get an MOT then you can apply for a V5 cheers


Thank you so much for your article Emma, fantastic and incredibly thorough.
I have recently bought a 1967 Lancia Fulvia from Bologna,Italy and had it transported back to the uk through a private transporter firm.
The car failed its MOT in the UK but I am presently having the works carried out.
I have not as yet informed the DVLA as I’m waiting for the car to be up and running.
Should I have done this already?
Also will I be liable for the import duty, this was not clear to me as the cars over 50 years of age?
Thank you, Gulliver


Hi Gulliver,

You have two people to notify;

1. HRMC within 14 days of the vehicle arriving into the UK. Here’s a link https://www.gov.uk/importing-vehicles-into-the-uk/telling-hmrc

2. DVLA only after you have got the car through an MOT to apply for a V5 registration document.

Regarding the Duty question; the car was made in the EU and is over 30 years old so you should just have the £50 Admin fee to pay. HMRC will confirm this position with you when you contact them.


Guy Crotty

Thanks for this article Emma. We are currently driving our South African registered, 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser up through Africa with the intention of importing it into the U.K. when we’re done. As a result your article is very useful.

One question, you mention the positive VAT implications for cars over 30 yrs old. Is that from year of manufacture or year of registration?

Thanks a bunch

Hi Guy, No problem – glad we could help. We’ve just phone HMRC to check and it’s the manufacture date. However their statement in VAT Notice 702 Section 11.4 “at least 30 years old and of a model or type which is no longer in production” does not specify this, but as they have verbally confirmed the manufacture date then you should go with that. Of course the title documentation may not have that date on as that paperwork usually has just the registration date. So if you need that date to save 15% in duty then you’ll need to… Read more »