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.

Deciding What Classic Car To Buy

Classic cars are popular among enthusiasts who like to while away the hours tinkering with an older motor and getting it running again.

And with many more restoration programmes on television these days, the world of car rebuilding remains a popular hobby for those who love restoring vehicles to their former glory.

We all have a favourite vehicle, either old or new, and for a lot of people, restoration and renovation projects can be a great way of revisiting the past, practising mechanical and engineering techniques and sprucing up the vehicle to as close to its’ original form.

Enthusiasts usually invest time and money into bringing an old favourite back to scratch and then break it out every so often to attend car shows, attend meets with fellow enthusiasts, and even use them for rallies and drives along iconic routes.

If you’re interested in joining enthusiasts and getting your hands dirty by working on an older car, what should you consider before you take the plunge and make what can be, in some cases, an expensive hobby?

What Model Of Car Do I Want?

Many enthusiasts will have a favourite make or model of car, particularly if it reminds them of their past, or just interested in renovating an older car to practice their engineering skills.

With hundreds of manufacturers to choose from, both from bygone years and more modern motors, the options are vast and diverse.

Sourcing your chosen vehicle can be varied and, in some places, tricky too, but by doing some thorough research before embarking on such a venture, you can help ensure that your hobby can be a good pastime, rather than an expensive lemon.

And it’s not just cars either; there are enthusiasts out there who renovate anything from old buses and trucks to motorbikes, scooters, and even golf carts.

You may also check our article about Mini: A British Classic Vehicle.

What Vehicle Age Do I Want?

Age can make a real difference to your project, so depending on the make and model of the vehicle, it’s worth looking into what era of car you wish to buy.

Older vehicles will require a lot more time and money, and while you might get a sense of pride from your work, you may find yourself out of pocket if you’re not careful.

Older vehicles may also be more expensive to insure, but there are plenty of classic car insurance brokers out there who will be able to help determine the cost of securing your investment.

Where Can I Source It?

Depending on the make and model of the vehicle you’re after, sourcing could be as easy as finding one at a specialist classic car seller, or as tricky as finding private sellers. Try looking in the following places:

  • Classic car magazines – these will not only provide useful information on your chosen vehicle and tips for sourcing parts and materials but will also have a classified section, where enthusiasts will sell anything from individual parts to fully-restored vehicles.
  • Breakers yards – these can be a goldmine for finding replacement parts, particularly if you find vehicles which may be beyond repair from a bodywork point of view, but could still have useful replacement parts still intact.
  • Internet – Googling the make and model of the vehicle you are looking for is a useful way of finding sellers, advice on renovating vehicles, finding parts suppliers, and joining enthusiasts clubs.
  • Auction sites such as eBay and Gumtree can also be a way of finding parts for sale, and you may end up finding what you need more locally than you thought. Bear in mind that some vehicle sellers may insist on a ‘collection only’ stipulation, so be sure to check the advert carefully.
  • Classic car shows – these can be particularly useful for finding not only merchandise and fellow enthusiasts, but also seeing your chosen vehicles in use if the event happens to have a parade lap.

How Easy Is It To Source Parts?

Now comes the tricky bit, the rarer the car, the more difficult it’s going to be to find parts. Owning and renovating classic vehicles can be an expensive business, and you might see yourself having to source parts from further afield than you think.

Parts have to be sourced depending on where the vehicle is from.  If you can find parts providers within the UK, it’d be ideal. But don’t be too surprised if you have to source some parts from your vehicles’ country of origin – which could add to the costs through postage.

Parts providers exist online, though there are some that have physical shop fronts and allow you to check the condition of their stock before you buy.

RELATED: 10 Easy Ways to Reduce the Costs of Your Car Insurance

How Expensive Will It Be To Insure?

While the vehicle itself can be quite a costly investment, insuring a classic car can be equally expensive if you don’t know where to look. Because of the age and risk of breakdown, older vehicles will usually cost more to insure than most modern cars.

Consider the following points before embarking on such an investment, as being wary of these could help decrease your premium prices:

  • How often will you use the car?
  • Where will you store the car?
  • Will joining an enthusiast’s club get you a discount?

There are specialist classic car insurance brokers on the market, including those who will deal in insuring specific makes and models, so depending on what you want to buy, it can be worth seeing if specifics might lead to savings.

ALSO SEE: Insuring A Business Car vs Your Regular Car


The most important thing to remember when buying a classic car is researching. It’s important to not only find out as much as you can about your vehicle but also put yourself in touch with your fellow enthusiasts to ensure you have a wide pool of knowledge.

Classic vehicle ownership can be an expensive hobby but worthwhile, and by making sure that all your bases are covered before you embark on your potentially costly purchase, your ownership of a classic vehicle can be a rewarding pursuit.

Campervans: Not Just For Surfers

For those who grew up during the Swinging Sixties, there were two iconic vehicles of the 1960’s; the Volkswagen Beetle and the Volkswagen Westfalia camper van.

Also known as a microbus, the Westfalia was a conversion of the VW Type 2 campervan, these vehicles became synonymous with those making great journeys in the 1960s, and were often the vehicle of choice for those embarking on road trips.

Nowadays, Westfalia campervans are still popular to surfers, seasoned campers and those who like to keep a bit of historical quirk on their driveways. The vehicles are also becoming more commonplace in the world of mobile catering, with modified campers being used as food trucks popping up more frequently at festivals.

Westfalia campervans, with their forward-facing cabs and distinctive engine sound, are still very much in demand even after all these years, with enthusiasts still meeting to show off their vehicles, discuss maintenance and even making use of digital mediums such as online auction sites to source replacement parts.

So where can you look if you want to buy one of these classic campers?

Buying A Campervan

When you’re looking to get your hands on a classic campervan there are many options at your disposal, and with plenty of enthusiasts out there keeping the vehicles on the road, there are plenty of resources out there offering support as well.

As your first step, look locally either in the car listings or advertisements in the local media, you may find a vehicle for sale close to where you are, which will save on travel time and give you the chance to test-drive the vehicle.

When buying a vehicle, viewing the vehicle itself is essential, so make sure you can actually see what you’re about to buy. Auction sites can be a bit of a risk, especially if you’re buying from abroad, always be sure you have at least test-driven the vehicle before committing to a sale.

Sourcing Parts

Many enthusiasts will take on older campervans as restoration projects, and there are plenty of options when it comes to finding replacement parts as part of your project:

  • Breakers yards – with many yards having older campervans in their yards, they can be handy for finding replacement parts – including mirrors, hubcaps and even cookers – being sold for scrap
  • Auction sites – these can be a goldmine for those looking for parts – anything from replacement roofs to the kitchen sink – many of the parts will be ‘collection only’ so be prepared to travel where necessary
  • Fellow enthusiasts – there are enthusiasts out there who will have a great collection of spare parts available to sell to their fellow enthusiasts, so try seeking these out at motor shows or through your local campervan club

Making Connections

When buying a vehicle of any kind, knowledge is power, and the VW Westfalia still has quite a following of enthusiasts, so it can be worth looking into whether there’s a local campervan enthusiasts group near you.

Networking with fellow campervan enthusiasts gives you the chance to discuss the vehicles themselves, maintenance tips, buying advice and even discover new and exciting roads to travel on.

Some groups may even offer discounts on campervan insurance policies, so it could be worth having a look around and becoming part of a club.

Insuring A Campervan

When it comes to insuring these classic campers, a regular car insurance policy may not cover your vehicle due to its age and risk factor.

Because of this, there are specialised brokers that offer campervan insurance policies, so shopping around can be handy if you want to find one that’s right for you.

How Can I Reduce My Premium Price?

By keeping the vehicle in good condition and secure, you can help keep your insurance premiums low, so bear a few things in mind when owning a campervan:

  • How many miles a year do you cover?

Mileage can be a big factor when it comes to motor insurance, the further you travel in a year, the higher your premium.

If you are only going to use the van at certain times of the year, such as to attend motor shows and other special events, it could be worth seeing if you can agree a ‘limited mileage allowance’ with your broker.

A limited mileage allowance essentially sets a maximum mileage for a year, which if you don’t exceed in a year can help save you money on your premium. It can be handy if you only use the vehicle for show purposes or as an occasional runaround.

  • Where do you store the vehicle?

Vehicle location is another factor which can affect your premiums, especially when it comes to where you live. Those campers stored in secure parking areas and in garages are going to be seen as less at risk than those which are kept parked on the street.

  • What security features does it have?

Making use of additional security features, such as alarm systems, wheel locks and even in-van CCTV systems can help to reduce your premiums. By investing in some extra security you can help to reduce your campervan insurance premiums in the future.

VW campervans still hold a place in our automotive history, and there are still plenty of enthusiasts out there who are keeping the spirit of the vehicle alive and much more who are taking an interest in these iconic vehicles.

RELATED: Travelling With A Trailer Tent

How to Avoid First-time Buyer Regrets

A staggering 10% of first-time buyers regret buying their first home, but you don’t have to make sacrifices that you will regret or exhaust your savings just to get your foot on the property ladder.

First-time regrets

We have discovered that first-time buyers are experiencing anxiety, stress, and depression because of the sacrifices that they are making in order to buy their first home.

Of the 750 new homeowners that have been surveyed:

· Over 25% moved far away from work

· 40% had to separate from their family

· 10% had to transfer to an area with greater flood risk

· 1 in 7 transferred to a higher crime area

Our home buying tips

Here are some fast and simple ways to save money buying your first house:

· Check how much you could be able to borrow before you start scouting properties. This way you will be able to know how much you can afford and what you need to save as a deposit.

· Look for government schemes which are designed to assist you so you can afford your first home. The Help to Buy scheme grants an interest-free loan for five years for new build properties.

· The higher your deposit, the better the deal you will receive and the more you will be able to afford. It might be worth it to hold on for as long as you can and save up before buying in an area that is not suitable for you.

· Look at obtaining a Help to Buy ISA since free cash from the government is too good to refuse.

· Do not just take a mortgage with your existing banks since you might not get the best deal. Shop around for your mortgage instead.