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Having read the article in AutoItalia Nr. 22 (June 1998), one might feel stumped how difficult it seems to import a car into the United Kingdom.
But maybe the article by Phil Ward is a little too harsh. A significant number of members of our mailinglist have successfully bought a car abroad.

According to Phil, it's wiser to buy second hand instead of new, but we don't share this thought.
To quote the last paragraph of the article: "Buying in Europe is a risk, but local knowledge and reliable contacts are the way to go (...)". Fortunately, we have found a reliable Italian dealer (or rather, he found us!) who will deal with all red tape on his side of the Channel. Check out the new cars page.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions on importing a (new) barchetta to the UK

Q: The AutoItalia article makes the import process sound so difficult. Is it?
A: Not really, especially if you buy a new car from a helpful dealer and you've contacted the VRO in advance for all the documentation.
If you buy new, make sure you get transit plates, transit insurance, etc.

The homologation number (omologazione numero) on the Certificate Of Conformity (Certificato di Conformita CEE) that Phil mentioned in his article can be obtained from a person at Fiat UK near Reading who does this specifically: you give him the chassis number; he contacts Fiat in Italy and they send the certificate to him, which he then gives to you.

For your information, this homologation number is E3*95/54*0005*04, category M1.

Q: When importing a car to the UK, are there any limitations regarding its age?
A: To avoid paying VAT, you need to import a car which has been registered (to anyone — this has no bearing on when you re-register the car back in the UK because German law states that the person who just has the reg document owns the car, i.e. it's academic as to who's name is actually on it) for at least 6 months and has done 6000km. (Ofcourse, your warranty will expire in the few months left). Cars under that age attract a full (17.5%) VAT charge.
Brand new cars purchased outside the UK can be bought VAT-free and driven back to the UK on transit plates (insurance required, with chassis number quoted).
In Germany, VAT is paid first and reclaimed later.
Q: What to do before I leave to get my car?
A: A week or so before you leave, phone the appropriate Customs & Excise department (C & E) — 0118 964 4355 — (there's one in Dover that deals with personal imports) and let them know what you're doing. They'll send you an information pack and some forms.
Before picking up your car abroad, make sure that a) insurance is arranged and b) that you'll get a certificate of conformity from your foreign dealer or from the UK agents.
Q: What to do at Customs when arriving back in the UK?
A: New car:
When you bring the car back, either tell customs at the port during your arrival or write to Customs & Excise. You'll need proof that the car was registered and driven abroad (insurance, transit plates, return ferry tickets, etc.) and the invoice. You'll be presented with a bill for the VAT due, calculated using the invoice presented to you by the dealer. The invoice should carry a stamp that says that the car was new. If not, you have to fill in another form.

Go to your local Vehicle Registration Office (VRO) — 0870 6006767 — with Certificate of Conformity, VAT demand, valid insurance (a cover note will do) and they'll ask you to fill in some forms and before they begin work on registering the car.
(This is the bit that has changed. In the past, you required proof of VAT payment — not now. The VAT demand will do. Many VROs may not know this — Cardiff didn't, a month after the rules changed — but C & E at Dover can put them right. This change takes a good few days off the turnaround time).
In the past, it was also likely that the car would be inspected — much less so now.

The delay, from arriving in Britain to having your car on the road, road taxed (£ 155) and with UK plates (£ 20), and registration (£ 25) can now be just a few days in total. Remember to pay your VAT (17.5% of the dealer invoice, about £1800) within the time limit specified on the demand — C & E folk can be deeply unpleasant when you're naughty.

Used German car:
You then turn up at your local UK VRO with the Fahrzeugbrief, Fahrzeugschein, homologation cert, proof of when you imported the car (e.g. boat ticket), UK insurance cover note, and receipt for the car (if it's not your name on the Fahrzeugbrief), and some money. You just fill in forms to state the kilometres and all the other details, and sign a declaration saying that you meet the criteria for not paying import duty, and they give you a tax disc and registration number.

Some notes by Bahi:

Some notes by Katy:


Thanks to:
    Bahi Para (Italian import info),
    Dino Laudato (Italian import info),
    Katy Fox (German import info) and
    Luigi Carulli (Italian dealer).