Buying A Japanese Import Car

When it comes to motor vehicles that have not been built in the UK, there are two types of classification to symbolise imported cars:

  • Parallel imports – cars which have been imported from within the EU
  • Grey imports – cars which have been imported from outside of the EU

Japanese cars are popular amongst enthusiasts who like a slightly larger, more powerful vehicle which is built for speed and has increased torque.

Car ownership in Japan is usually short-term, with many choosing to replace their vehicles after two or three years, this is due in part to the stringent vehicle safety checks that cars have to go through in Japan, meaning that vehicles can become available with low-mileage and in good condition.

Japanese import cars will usually have low mileage on them when you buy them, which you think would be good from an insurance point of view, but there can be other pitfalls along the way which affect the cost of a premium.

However, with grey imports, you also have to factor in the costs of importing the car into the UK and the stringent tests they have to go through to be deemed suitable to be driven on roads in the UK.

Enhanced Single Vehicle Approval

If you’re looking to import a car into the UK, there are several things you have to do to make sure the process is safe and legal. By putting the vehicle through an ESVA test, you are essentially proving that the car is safe to drive on the roads in the UK.

An ESVA test is a more thorough MOT for imported cars and is an essential part of the import car ownership process. Your car will be examined thoroughly by a mechanic, and in some cases will have to be modified to bring it up to standard for driving in the UK – including replacing tyres, modifying suspension and even having to change bodywork to meet UK road requirements.

Remember that cars built in Japan will usually have different specifications to those built in Europe, some are built for speed and so are popular with enthusiasts who like to modify them to show them off at car shows and participate in meets and competitions.

Telling The Taxman

Not only will you have to tell the DVLA about your new vehicle and satisfy their stringent safety checks, but also declare the vehicle to HMRC to ensure you’ve paid all the relevant vehicle taxes.

After you import a vehicle into the UK, you will have 14 days in which to inform HMRC using a system known as NOVA (Notification of Vehicle Arrivals). Only after your vehicle is accepted will you then be able to start the process of registering your vehicle with the DVLA.

If you’re buying from a dealership, they will usually do this for you as part of the import process, always be sure to double check that this has been done and that the vehicle has all the relevant paperwork before you commit to a sale.

How Can I Import A Vehicle?

There are a number of different outlets you can use for sourcing an import motor:

  • Specialist Dealerships

Import dealerships will be experienced in the process of buying and selling on import cars, so finding a local showroom can be your first point of call, as not only can they source and import your preferred vehicle, but they may even have one in their showroom.

After importing the vehicles, the dealership will then prepare the car to ensure it meets ESVA standards before selling it on to you, whether you’ve pre-ordered an import or bought from the showroom floor.

Be careful though, do some thorough research and look to see if they have a website and premises before you commit to a sale.

  • Online

You can buy vehicles through auction sites and private buyers these days, but you must make sure that you thoroughly research the vehicle, and in particular its history before you commit to a sale.

Paperwork is the most important part of buying an import vehicle, and you must check that the seller has the relevant paperwork to hand.

What About Sourcing Replacement Parts?

One of the main pitfalls of owning an import vehicle, especially an older model, is that replacement parts can difficult to source. Many enthusiasts will add parts such as tuning kits to boost performance

There is no shortage of specialised stockists of import car parts in the UK, while the Internet provides another source of stock, be wary of shipping costs if you’re buying from abroad though.

Do I Need Specialist Insurance?

Because Japanese import vehicles will have more powerful specifications than cars built within the EU, they will require a specialist grey import insurance policy.

There are some specialised brokers who can provide cover for import vehicles, so it can be worth researching into multiple options before you decide on a policy.

Japanese cars are popular with those who like to tune their vehicles to increase speed, reduce drag, and spruce them up with body kits, but remember that making modifications to your vehicle can add to the cost of your Japanese car insurance policy.

How Can I Reduce My Premium?

Much like a regular car insurance policy, being careful with your vehicle as well as your driving habits that can help keep your insurance premium down.

By accumulating some No Claims Bonus and maintaining a good driving record throughout your ownership before you buy a vehicle, you can help keep your costs low.

If you’re only going to use the vehicle on occasion, either for car shows or race meets, consider adding a limited mileage allowance onto your policy, which could help keep the cost of your car insurance policy down if you stay below the mileage limit agreed with your broker.

For more details, you can check our comprehensive guide, How to Reduce The Costs of Your Car Insurance.