*Updated March 2021*

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.

The rules have changed since the UK left the European Union on the 1st January 2021 – we have updated this article with the information we know at this time.  Please remember we are not an official source of information, we’re petrolheads trying to help our community navigate through this process.

You must satisfy yourself that you have done all your own research and accessed official sources in your own country for further information. 

View all of Trade Classics Articles here!

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:
http://www.carseurope.net
http://www.move-a-car.com
http://www.kentvale.co.uk

Shipping from USA to UK:
http://www.shipmycar.co.uk
http://www.penbrokecartainer.com

http://www.shipoverseas.com

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

Update March 2021 – the following information is out of date, i.e. they were the rules for importing prior to the UK leaving the EU.  We will publish the new rules once they have been officially confirmed.  It is likely the rules mentioned in Section 4.0 below will apply.

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 to the UK, e.g. from the 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 to the UK will be subject to Customs Duty and VAT, as they are considered to be “new goods to the UK”.

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 


Emma Jones

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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Lance
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Lance

So basically my 1972 fiat 500 Abarth that I purchased from Italy but is in Spain with me now will cost me nothing when I ship it back to the UK by car transporter, is this correct.
Thanks
Lance

Andrew Day
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Andrew Day

In the article above under 4.0 you say that by downloading form C384 you can work out the duty payable, but form C384 only lets you apply to pay the duty, it is worked out by HMRC and I can see no guidance on what it might or might not be. So how can we know in advance if duty will be due before we commit to buying a car?

Alan
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Alan

Hi Emma,

I’m thinking of buying a classic car from Southern Ireland and importing into UK. What duties would I be liable for, the car is 41 years old..??

Many thanks
Alan

Dez Shirley
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Dez Shirley

Hi Emma, i am looking at importing a Classic Truck from Southern Ireland back to the UK. The truck was originally registered in the UK in 1977, then exported to Malta in the late 1980’s, then exported to Southern Ireland around 2005. Can you please tell me what the VAT / Import implications are please. Cheers Dez

Hassan Khansa
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Hassan Khansa

Hi
Very informing article

I need some information about dealing with cars imported from the USA to resell either in the UK or other European countries.

Thank you

Jamie hawthorn
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Jamie hawthorn

HI Emma, if i import motorbikes that are all over 30 years old under a EIRO/VAT number, i will pay 5% vat which I can reclaim. If i them sell them, do we have to add 5% vat, no vat or 20% vat?

David Frost
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David Frost

Hi Emma, very helpful, but I’m not entirely clear about the VAT on 50+ year old car. I am looking at a 1951 MG in the USA. It was originally built in the UK and exported to the US. If I imported it, would the VAT be 5% or would it just be the £50 duty liability?

Keith Dawson
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Keith Dawson

Are Motorcycles which are over 30 years old and imported from Japan Duty exempt and only 5% VAT?, if yes are they sold in UK at the same rate?

Martin Dell
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Martin Dell

Great article and super helpful – thanks!

Regin Jose
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Regin Jose

We would like import Classic car from Germany to UK ( Mercedes 190SL 1959/ Registered in Germany 1962) can you please let us know the formalities and duty/tax calculations.

Gene Hourihan
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Gene Hourihan

Hi Emma, your publication on importing vehicles to the UK is well written and I acknowledge your time and effort in preparing same. I live in Ireland and am considering advertising my EU manufactured 36 year old classic motorcycle for sale in the UK. Therefore I would like to learn how much VAT and duty a UK buyer would be liable for now that the UK is outside the EU.
Assume the sale value of the motorcycle is €20,000 and the shipping cost is €500 and using current customs exchange rate.
I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely yours
Gene Hourihan

Stanleytal
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Stanleytal
Clarkkib
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Clarkkib

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Adam - Trade Classics
Admin

Hello everyone – so post Brexit it’s a bit tricky to find out the current rules for moving cars between UK and EU, i.e. the VAT / Duty due. We assume it’s international rules but we are trying to validate this for you. We’re trying to speak to people in HMRC to find out but it’s proving tricky to a. get hold of them and b. get hold of someone that really knows. Lydia from our team is trying her best and spent many hours on hold to them now. But sit tight as she’ll hopefully have the answers in… Read more »

David Tayler
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David Tayler

Do I save any purchase tax on the price of a car in the US if I’m exporting it? Do their quoted sales prices already include that tax?

Fortune Murahwa
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Fortune Murahwa

Hi, I am importing a 1964 Unimog vehicle from Zimbabwe via Walvis Bay on RORO ship. What will be the duty on this and will this be eligible foe the 5 % VAT if it is to be used on a farm as an agricultural vehicle ?

nsm
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nsm

Hi
You seem to suggest that ALL cars over 30 years old qualify for 5% vat. Is that the case as I can’t seem to find that info anywhere else. The gov website looks like it’s assessed on an individual basis?? I am importing a 68 Jensen interceptor from Germany does that qualify for 5% and £59 duty?

Kevin Ashcroft
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Kevin Ashcroft

Hi Does the rate of 5% VAT apply to importing a 30plus year old motorcycle from Italy to UK after Brexit ? Thanks

Kulraj Salh
Admin

I’m afraid it’s all a bit up in the air, the Gov website says “needs to be updated post Brexit” and we haven’t managed to get a clear answer from any transport companies either.

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Haroldmaf

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Sonny
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Sonny

Hi Emma thanks for your detailed insight on this topic.

I have 2 questions, firstly if I car is 40+ years old in the UK it doesn’t require an MOT so if I was to bring a car of that age over here from the states would I not have to get an MOT?

Secondly if I was to modify a 40+ year old car by installing a moden engine would that still keep the car as classic status ie no road tax, no MOT?

Attila Leksz
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Attila Leksz

Hi Emma

I am planning to import a restored VW Caddy from Hungary (EU) with my friend. I am wondering what costs we will have and what procedure I have to get through. The car is from 1984 (1.6 diesel) and it has its papers, at the moment it is registered in Hungary.
It would be great if you can help us with some guidence.

Many thanks

Attila

igor
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igor

Hello Emma,please help,how to register citren HY van in uk,i buy this car in uk ,but with france paper,
what to do?thank u

Tony Backway
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Tony Backway

Hi.
In fronce after January 2021 will i need to pay import tax on a second hand car from the uk.
If it’s all ready been paid.
Thanks.

Kulraj Salh
Admin

Still TBC, they are trying to make a deal happen as we speak!

Jonathan Hunt
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Jonathan Hunt

Hi Emma
I’m looking at buying a 1969 Vw Karmann Ghia from the USA. The owner doesn’t have a title but would include a bill of sale and previous owners contact details. Would this be allowed to leave the USA ? Enter the UK

Many thanks

Jon

Kulraj Salh
Admin

Hi, if you don’t have the title/registration document from the country the car is being imported from, then you’ll definitely have to get a letter from the manufacturer that details where the car was made etc. I’m not sure on the procedure for VW, this is something you’ll need to look up. Best, Kulraj

James
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James

Hi Emma,
I am looking at buying a 1974 Kawasaki from Italy and bringing it back to the UK? Is there time to get it back here and registered before 1st January (only 4 weeks with Christmas in the middle) and if it can’t be done by then what are the tax implications?

Gary Shooter
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Gary Shooter

Hi Emma does southen ireland come under eu rules thanks gary

Paul
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Paul

Hi, out of interest is a knock down kit (CKD) constructed vehicle considered built from the country of assembly or country of parts manufacture? Does it depend on other factors such as how many parts were sourced locally? Take VWs, BMWs etc assembled in South Africa for example. Are they of EU origin?
Thanks
Paul

Paul
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Paul

Hi, ‘Under current laws, VAT between EU countries is currently waived’ is quoted in the sister article ‘Under current laws, VAT between EU countries is currently waived’ linked above at the top of this article. I’ve read this article twice and I see no reference to VAT being waived between EU countries. Have I missed something or is this a glaring omission in this article?

Lim
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Lim

Any one can give me advice. Bought a car outside europe. Want to bring it in uk .keep it for 1 month or 2 and sell it to somone who want to ship it to Kazakhstan .how this works . thanky

Igor Kolodotschko
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Igor Kolodotschko

Emma importing a classic Riley 1953 RMF. Swedish number plate now but still has UK original logbook and numberplate. Can I just drive or tail the car back to UK?
Regards
Igor

Igor Kolodotschko
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Igor Kolodotschko

Does Sweden come under EEC like Germany, France, Italy etc

Mike
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Mike

Hi Very interesting article. If I want to buy cars from USA and sell in the UK, do I have to register for VAT. Can I claim the VAT and should I charge for VAT when selling the car

John Wallace
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John Wallace

Emma.
I have bought at auction a 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Cabriolet from an owner in Spain.
Naturally, I believe this to be a genuine vehicle, and that there is a genuine seller (via Catawiki).
Clearly, I need:-
The Registraiton Document,
Spanish equivalent of an MOT,
Proof that import duty to Spain/EU was paid when it came in.

Emma, what else should I request?

John Wallace
07770 410 010
wallacelondon1@btinternet.com

Manuel Sanchez
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Manuel Sanchez

Excelent article, thaks for sharing!

Mike John Grady
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Mike John Grady

I have a brother in the USA is it true if he buys and keeps for six months then brings to UK can he sell to me and cut import duties

Patricia
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Patricia

can a non uk resident import a classis car to the uk

William Henry
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William Henry

Hello Emma Thank you for the article which is really well laid out and very helpful. I want to import an historic vehicle 1965 from South africa back to the UK. The car has been dismantled and so is partly in bits, The engine is in the engine bay but does not work and lots of the other parts are in boxes. The vehicle has been a non runner and off the road for many years. I want to import it and put it back together again. It has no papers. Is there anyway I can export a non running… Read more »

Bill Piper
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Bill Piper

I am moving back to the UK from France. I have a 1959 and 1960 Cadillac. Both vehicles are registered in my name here in France. They also have French classic car MOT equivalents. They will arrive in the UK late September/early October. Could you please describe the process I must follow. Many thanks.

Tony
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Tony

Hi Emma,

I would like to import a 40 year old Suzuki motorcycle from South Africa most of the bike is there but stripped down in pieces is this spares, or a complete bike for importation, duty etc?

Regards
Tony,

Autohub NZ Limited
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Autohub NZ Limited

Thanks for sharing this valuable information!

Dave Erwin
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Dave Erwin

Hi Emma,
I have a 1987 BMW E28 M5 that I wish to import to the UK . The vehicle was assembled in South Africa from a kit sent from Germany. Would the vehicle qualify for the import duty exemption (i.e. the 50 Pound administration fee)? What rate of VAT would be payable and on what value? The vehicle is registered in the name of a company. All shares are owned by me.
Regards,
Dave

rmhizha
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rmhizha

fantastic article

sean mcdonald
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sean mcdonald

i have two classic Ford Pick up trucks. a 1948 and a 1952 F1. Each are small 1/2 picl ups with V8 engines, original Texas titles and I’ve owned both for greater than 6 months whilst living in the USA. Will these be exempt of duty and VAT (5%) as I’m a UK expat >6month rule? Do Historic / classic pick up get classed as cars or are they classed as commercial vehicles? Thank You

John Halliday
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John Halliday

Hi Emma,
I am a New/Used car dealer in UK, i have bought a 1983 2cv in Italy which i was going to drive home next week, can i use my garage plates or do i have to get a Q plate from the DVLA ?
Or is there a simpler way ?

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

I bought a ’73 DS from France, registration could not have been easier! Provided you have the Italian reg docs then all you should need to do is apply for UK registration with DVLA. In theory they can come and check on the car or ask you to take it to a local DVLA office (are there any now?), but this didn’t happen. As for driving it home – well you’ve probably done it now anyway – just use the Italian plates.