Import car insurance

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Learn how to save money on your car insurance with our special guide...

What is import car insurance?

Finding your perfect car abroad can be hugely satisfying, but it can sometimes be difficult to find the appropriate insurance cover for it once you’ve got it home.

Imported cars are often seen as ‘non-standard’ by the major car insurance companies, which means you may have to look for a specialist imported car insurer to provide cover.

Remember, car insurance is a legal requirement on UK roads, and driving without it is a criminal offence. Luckily, there are quite a few options for people looking to insure their imported car.

Specialist import car insurers can also offer special policy extras such as cover for left-hand drive vehicles.

With it becoming easier for people to buy cars from different countries and have them transported to the UK, there are more and more offers and deals for cheap import car insurance.

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The main issue the more ‘traditional’ motor insurers have with imported cars is that they find it difficult to work out exactly how much of a risk they are. Insurance premiums are calculated based on how likely you are to make a claim, and how expensive that claim is likely to be.

If you import a supercar from Japan, for instance, an insurance company could find it hard to figure out how much it would cost for replacement parts if it needed to be fixed. Also, as there is no requirement for licence holders to learn to drive a left-hand drive car, an insurance company can have no way of knowing how experienced you may or may not be – and how likely you may be to cause an accident.

There are also lots of car models from different parts of the world that are made using different manufacturers standards to what we use here in the UK and across Europe. This means the insurance company would have serious issues surrounding the quality and safety of the car.

What are the different types of imported car?

The key thing to understand when it comes to the price of car insurance for imported cars is what category of import the car falls under.

According to the AA, there are two different types of imported car: grey imports and parallel imports.

Grey Imports

Cars that come under the ‘grey import’ category are those which are manufactured outside of the EU and do not conform to European standards. Perhaps the most popular grey imports are cars imported from Japan.

If you buy a grey import then it can be more difficult to get car insurance as some insurers will simply not offer cover for them, while others will charge more expensive premiums.

If a motor insurer does offer to cover a grey import car, then they may ask you to go through a testing process under the Single Vehicle Approval scheme – which you would need to pass before your imported car is road legal in the UK.

You can also expect a lot of detailed questions from the insurer about the car, it’s specification and your driving history before you are offered an insurance quote.

Parallel imports

A ‘parallel import’ is a car imported from another EU country which was built to the EU specifications and standards.

As they already conform to the standards recognised by insurers, finding insurance is much less of a problem than it is for grey imports.

How to get cheap import car insurance

As import car insurance tends to cost more than conventional insurance, it’s important to do what you can to keep the costs as low as possible. For instance:

  • Think carefully about the type of car you are importing. While it may be tempting to get a sports car, these will always cost significantly more to insure in the UK
  • That also applies for import cars that have been modified in any way, as insurers will be wary about a car from overseas that has been modified
  • Car security is always a sure-fire way to keep your insurance costs down. Parking your imported car on a driveway or in a garage is the best option, as well as adding safety features like anti-theft devicesalarms and an immobiliser.
  • Another great way to get cheaper car insurance is to pay a higher excess (the amount you pay towards any claim you make). This lessens the financial risk taken on by the insurance company, and so can result in lower premiums. However, make sure you only set your voluntary excess to a level you can afford if you have to make a claim
  • Although it won’t apply to everyone, having a good no-claims record will certainly help to keep the premiums down

Top 10 most popular Japanese grey imports in the UK

Here we list the ten most popular grey imports in the UK over the past 25 years – featuring the usual sports and retro cars as well as more standard imported 4x4s and coupes…

1. Nissan Figaro

2. Eunos Roadster

3. Honda Beat

4. Nissan Pao

5. Toyota WiLL Vi

6. Mitsubishi Pajero

7. Nissan 300ZX

8. Mazda Bongo Friendee

9. Mitsubishi FTO

10. Mitsuoka Viewt


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