Japan is one of the largest car markets in the world. From Honda and Nissan to Toyota and Mazda, and even Subaru and Mitsubishi, Japanese cars make up a significant proportion of the global car market.
If you’re based in the UK and love Japanese cars, you might be tempted to import a car straight from Japan to here, and there are a few benefits of doing that. It can be cheaper, even with shipping and tax factored in, they tend to be made to a higher specification than the comparative UK models, and you can get access to models not available in the UK. In Japan, they also drive on the left, meaning the steering wheel is also on the right, just like in the UK!
Importing a car from Japan to the UK can be relatively straightforward if you follow the right process. So how can you do this?
1. Buy Your Car
The first thing to do is buy your Japanese car. You might already know what type of car you’re looking to buy, or you might wait to see what comes up in a car auction. In any case, it’s worth doing your homework about the car you’re buying and the reputation of the seller.
As it’s unlikely that you’ll have a chance to check the car out yourself, it’s recommended to have someone do that for you before purchasing, if possible. Whether you’re buying from an auction or an individual seller, be careful of scams and always do your homework on who’s selling the car.
2. Find A Shipping Company
Once you’ve purchased your car, the big task now is to import if from Japan over to the UK. There are a few shipping companies available that offer this service, and with Japanese car imports being a big business, there are even some companies who specialise in this. To reduce any miscommunication over paperwork and fees, it might be worth using a UK-based shipping company.
3. Get Your Paperwork in Order
There are many bits of paperwork you’ll require to get your Japanese car past customs. The first is the import declaration, which your shipping company might be able to handle. A shipping note and bill of lading are also required, which the shipping company can also provide.
You should also have proof of ownership from the seller or dealer, which would come in the form of an invoice or bill of sale. The vehicle registration certificate or vin/chassis number should also come from your seller or dealer.
A proof of individual vehicle approval (IVA) is also required, which can be acquired from the DVSA.
4. Notify HMRC and Register with the DVLA
After your Japanese car has passed through customs, you have 14 days in which to tell HM Revenue & Customs that it’s arrived in the UK. You should also pay VAT and duty if HMRC tells you to.
Next, you’ll need individual vehicle approval from the DVSA, to ensure your Japanese car meets all the relevant safety and environmental standards. When registering you can choose your test centre, and the DVSA will offer you an inspection within 20 working days. If your vehicle passes, you’ll be issued with an Individual Approval Certificate (IAC).
You should also register and tax your vehicle with the DVLA. Once you do, they’ll give you a registration number which you can use to get the number plates created.
5. Have the Correct Insurance
Normal UK car insurance will refuse to cover Japanese imports, or there will be high premiums attached. This is because Japanese import cars are seen as a ‘grey import’ coming from outside the EU, and may not conform to high EU and UK standards.
In addition to this, insurance may be hard to find because of potential repair costs. Replacement parts might not be readily available, either scarce in the UK or having to be imported specifically for repairs. Mechanics who are experienced in repairing Japanese cars are also harder to come by.