The idea of importing a classic car, bringing it home and telling the tale of how you found the perfect automobile in a remote corner of the world sounds great doesn’t it?

There are however a number of points to take into consideration. Sourcing and buying your perfect classic car is possibly the easy part of the importing process although even this comes with a few of its own challenges not least the validation that you’re actually getting what you’ve promised!….more to come on that.

In this post we’ll focus on what we believe are the top 5 points to look out for when sourcing and importing your classic.

1. Where to look: This seems like a straightforward point and maybe too obvious. However too often too little time is spent thinking about the area of the world, the climate the legislation involved in country. When importing classic cars its worth taking into consideration areas of the world such as South Africa, New Zealand and Australia; particularly if you have your heart set on a right hand drive classic. However shipping can be more expensive and more difficult than areas of the world like Canada or USA.

Europe is obviously another option which is by far the easiest in terms of shipping and import duties etc. although unless you are looking for something very specific you may as well source from the UK as the difference in cost of classic cars in Europe is insignificant.

2. Import Costs: Obviously the cost of shipping your classic car can differ greatly depending on the area of the world, the method of shipping and the import tariff the car is imported under. For this point we will focus on the points you need to look into rather than the specific detail of each point as every import will be slightly different.

Import Duty & VAT: When importing classic cars from outside of the EU you will have to pay 10% import duty on the cost of the car plus the shipping. In addition to this you will pay 20% VAT, unless you can prove your car is ‘of historical importance’ in which case you will have to persuade HMRC that this is the case….IF you successfully do this the VAT rate is only 5%. There is an interesting article here if you want to know more about the 5% VAT ruling. So for your reference if you pay £10000 for your car, plus £2500 for shipping = £12500. £12500 + 10% (import duty) + 20% (VAT) = £16500.

VAT: Try and defer VAT until the car arrives in the UK as other countries may have higher rates than the UK.

Dockside storage: It’s important to know this upfront. When using a shipping company be sure to understand the cost of storage at the docks once the car arrives. These costs can be extortionate so it’s important to make sure your shipping company notifies you once the car arrives and that you have transport arranged to collect the car as soon as you can

3. How to Ship: This point is to cover the two main methods of shipping a classic car. The first (and cheapest) way of shipping your classic is to use a RoRo (Roll on, Roll Off) service. This will mean that your car needs to be on its wheels and be running otherwise additional charges will be forthcoming! Essentially though your car will sit in the hold or on deck of a cargo ship as it comes across from wherever you have sourced it. The problem with this method is that damage may occur, pieces may ‘disappear’ in transit and a host of other issues.

The second option is to ship using a container. This way the car is completely enclosed, it doesn’t have to run or even be in one piece. Any additional parts or pieces can being shipped along with the car with no worry of them going missing or getting damaged. Whilst this is considerable more costly we would always advise this method particularly if the car is rare or of high value.

4. Authenticate: This part can be difficult! Whilst the internet of things has opened up the world in terms of sourcing cars, the opportunities of skulduggery and foul play when importing classic cars from around the world has increased greatly. Once you have found a classic car that suits you it’s advisable to ‘validate’ it in some way. Ideally your go and see the car for yourself, this is relatively simple if the car is in Europe and you can take a day out from your schedule. However the cost and time commitments increase exponentially as the distance of import increases.

Another option is to find a company to do all of the above for you, companies like ourselves have people on the ground in location who can validate, source and arrange everything right up to delivery to your location. This option removes the time aspect and reduces the cost of validation significantly as we often don’t have to travel so far to check the car over.

The final option for validating your classic is to simply ask for as many pictures of the car as you can get. Be sure to ask for pictures of known weak points and ‘problem’ areas of the specific car you are looking at. This option is by far the cheapest IF all goes well. There is obviously a time commitment on this to research the potential issues surrounding your chosen classic and there is a greater risk of the car not being what you expected even after all the care you take. After all its difficult to test drive a photograph!

5. UK Registration: Our final point today is on UK registration. Depending on the age of your imported classic car you will need an MOT, Tax and UK registration. There is work to be done particularly on cars imported from the USA and Canada, things like yellow indicators, British slant lights etc. This will need to be booked in and fixed before the car can be MOT’d and registered for the UK. If you have used a company to import the car for you this should be included in the cost of the import. It’s worth making sure this is the case before you give them the go ahead to bring the car in for you.

To complete the registration you will need the foreign registration documents and all the other related papers you may have for the car. You will also need the customs clearance form you should have got from the shipper. If you don’t have this a copy can be requested from the shipping company as they should have it on file.

The above probably seems like a lot to take in and it’s by no means an exhaustive list of things to consider when sourcing and importing your classic car!

However there is good news. At Roman Garages we specialise in the import of classic and rare cars from across the world. We have teams in America and Canada who are sourcing, validating and shipping classic cars on a weekly basis. We also travel right across to globe to seek out the finest classics available.

We’d be delighted to help you with your dream car. Maybe it’s just an idea at present, maybe its a specific year/specification you need found or maybe you think you have found the car you want and it just needs validation….in all of these situations we could help you with either sourcing, validating and shipping of the car to your door.

Get in touch to discuss your requirements, there’s no obligation at all you use us for your import and we’re more than happy to just give you the advice to set you on your way!

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