Buying cars from abroad: Everything you need to know!

The idea of buying a car from abroad might seem daunting at first, but don’t worry, we’re here to discuss the easiest way to purchase your dream car from overseas!

Whether you’re seeking a specific make or model of car that is not available where you live, looking for a good deal, or simply wanting to explore your options, buying a car from abroad can be a very rewarding experience.

We’ll delve into everything you need to know about buying cars from abroad, including tips, tricks, and essential considerations to ensure a smooth and successful transaction.

Cars driving along the beach seafront with palm trees

Table of Contents:

Why buy a car from abroad?

No matter what your dream car is, there are many benefits to buying a car from abroad. These benefits include:

  • Access to Exclusive Models: one of the most popular reasons for choosing to buy a car from overseas is gaining access to models that aren’t available in your domestic market.

    Whether it’s a one-of-a-kind limited edition, unique colour, or specific modifications, shopping for a car abroad will expand your options significantly. 

  • Cost Savings: Foreign exchange rates, tax incentives, and in some cases lower vehicle prices can make buying a car from abroad appealing financially. Get in touch with one of our experts today to learn more about our money transfer service, before purchasing your car. 

  • Higher Resale Value: Rare or ‘exotic’ car models are more likely to retain their value. The exclusivity of these vehicles can attract buyers who are willing to pay a premium, which could lead to higher resale prices in the future.

  • Customisation Options: When buying a car abroad you may find you have access to customisation or personalisation options that aren’t available locally. Whether it’s factory options, aftermarket modifications, or unique colourways, international purchases can cater to your individual preferences.

How to buy a car from abroad

You could take several routes when buying a car abroad, such as online dealerships, auction houses, or specialists. 

We advise you to conduct thorough research on reputable dealerships, or online platforms that specialise in international car sales. You can check their credibility by reading customer reviews, ratings, and any information on online forums. 

Whether buying from a dealership, or through an auction, communicate with the seller to gather detailed information about the vehicle’s history, maintenance records, and any areas of concern. 

You could also use websites like carVertical, to obtain a full report on the vehicle's history including; previous owners, mileage, and any reported accidents.
Suppose you decide to buy your chosen car through an online auction. In that case, you should ensure the seller provides you with all the necessary documentation to register your car in your home country, as well as the car's original documents.

Things to consider before purchasing a car from abroad 

Before deciding to buy and import a car from abroad, make sure you have considered the following:
cars driving on a motorway

Why research is a key step when buying a car from abroad

Before fully diving into the process of buying a car abroad, it is crucial to conduct thorough research. 

We advise that you start by researching the specific make and model you’re interested in, and determine its availability and pricing in different countries. 

Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) cars have become increasingly popular over the last few years, with the Nissan Skyline GT-R being one of the favourites. However, buying one that is already in the UK could be costly, so in this instance, we would suggest looking at sellers in Japan first.

For example, if you are looking to buy a Nissan GT-R: 
  • Average cost of a Nissan GT-R in Japan: £41,198 - £177,885 (USD$49,250 - $225,000)

  • Average cost of a Nissan GT-R in the UK: £54,495 - £181,820 (USD$68,929 - $181,820)

You may prefer European cars, for example, Porsche, BMW or Mercedes. Finding European import cars for sale is a straightforward process, and could save you money.
  • The average cost of a brand new BMW (7 Series) in Germany: £57,264 - £181,725 (USD$72,431 - $229,858)
  • The average cost of a brand new BMW (7 Series) in the UK: £66,616 - £144,185 (USD$84,260 - $144,185)

Once you’ve found your dream car, make sure you take into account factors such as;
  • Import taxes

  • Shipping costs

  • Local regulations regarding Vehicle Imports
You should also familiarise yourself with the reputation of sellers and dealerships in the country you’re considering purchasing from. 

Online forums, reviews, and automotive websites will be valuable resources when gathering information and insights from other buyers. 

Understand import regulations

Import regulations will vary from country to country and can significantly impact the process and cost of buying a car abroad. 

Before making any commitments, make sure you understand any import requirements and restrictions imposed by the country you’re purchasing from. 

This will include:
  • Compliance with safety and emissions standards.

  • Customs duties.

  • Taxes.

  • Paperwork e.g. import permits, registration documents, etc.

Importing Cars to the UK

There are certain requirements that you will need to complete as soon as you bring your new car into the UK, these include:

  • Use your registration number to send off for number plates, you can contact the DVLA here.
If you are importing a damaged, modified, or rebuilt car, make sure to check it can be registered to drive in the UK before importing it. 

Importing Cars to the US

Before importing your new car to the US, you will need to have completed the following steps:

  • Make shipping arrangements for your car with enough time for it to be processed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

  • Have your courier notify you of the estimated arrival date and inform CBP of this date.

  • If you want your car shipped to a specific CBP port, and not the port of entry, you will need to make private arrangements with a freight forwarder or courier.

  •  For CBP clearance you will need the following documentation:

    • shipper/carrier’s original bill of lading.

    • Official bill of sale.

    • Foreign registration.

    • Any other documents associated with your vehicle.

    Note: any vehicles that don’t meet U.S. emission requirements, unless eligible for exemption must be imported through an ICI - Independent Commercial Importer. 

  • Make sure the undercarriage of your new car has been cleaned. This is to help safeguard against the importation of dangerous pets and is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

  • Make sure your new car meets safety, bumper, and theft prevention standards. 

  • Check if your vehicle is subject to the ‘gas-guzzler’ tax. 

  • Ensure your car has an International Registration Marker, and you may want to acquire an International Driving Permit as it can be a valuable asset. If you’re not sure how to obtain these permits, get in touch with an international automobile federation, or a local club, and they will help you. 

Shipping logistics for your overseas car purchase 

Once you’ve found your perfect car and worked out what the import regulations are, you should start thinking about the logistics of shipping the vehicle to your desired location.

We advise you to research reputable international shipping companies, ideally those that specialise in transporting vehicles, and get quotes for shipping costs. 

Several factors might impact the cost of your imported vehicle, including:
  • Size of the vehicle.
  • Weight of the vehicle.
  • The distance the vehicle is travelling.
  • Shipping method (e.g. container shipping or roll-on, roll-off, etc.)
You should also consider whether you’ll need additional transportation arrangements from the port your car arrives at, and the final destination. This should be factored in when working out costs.  

We’ve looked into the approximate costs of shipping your new car to the UK from the following locations:

USA: Shipping your car from the US to the UK will cost between £1000 and £2000.

Japan: When shipping a car from Japan, costs are usually determined by the size of the vehicle. The cost is currently around $140 (£111.15) per cubic meter.

It is important to note that car shipping costs are usually invoiced in US dollars, which means exchange rates may impact the overall cost.

Europe: If you’re looking to bring your new overseas car back to the UK from Europe, the average cost will depend on the European destination:
  • Germany: £487 (average cost) 
  • Italy: £755 (average cost) 
  • France: £450 (average cost) 
All of the above costs will vary depending on the size of your vehicle, and your chosen destination port.

The inside of a muscle car focus on driving wheel

How to inspect the vehicle you’ve bought from abroad

One of the main challenges when buying a car abroad is the difficulties around inspecting the vehicle in person before purchase. 

For our readers based in the UK, this may be fairly straightforward as European import cars are only a short flight, or train journey away if there was any doubt or need to physically inspect the car before purchase.

However, if you’re looking to import a car from further afield or simply want to keep your costs down, there are several ways to mitigate any risk and ensure you’re getting a quality vehicle: 

  • Request detailed photos and videos of the car from multiple angles (interior, exterior, engine bay & any areas of concern.    

  • Arrange for a third-party inspection by a trusted mechanic or inspection service (in the country where the vehicle is located).

  • Check the details of the car on car-history sites e.g. carVertical 
Taking these steps will provide you with an unbiased assessment of the car’s condition and help identify any potential issues or red flags. 

International Payments: How we can support you with your overseas car purchase

Before finalising the purchase of your new car, it is essential to establish a secure payment method and ensure all necessary documentation is in order.

Our money transfer service allows you to make high-value transactions, in a simple, secure, and cost-effective way.

Fluctuations in currency exchange rates could impact the overall cost of buying a car from abroad as well.

Get in touch with one of our experts today, to minimise the impact of unfavourable currency movements during the purchasing process. 

Buying cars from abroad: A summary

Buying a car from abroad will undoubtedly be a rewarding experience if the correct steps are taken to ensure a smooth process. 

Although it may come with its fair share of challenges and considerations, which require careful planning, by conducting thorough research and understanding the relevant regulations, you will be able to navigate the complexities of international auto purchases with confidence.

Whether you’re a car enthusiast looking to import your dream car, or a savvy shopper looking for the best value vehicle, exploring overseas markets will be an exciting experience that could lead to a truly exceptional automotive acquisition.
Buying Cars from Abroad
Explore all of the information you need about buying cars from abroad. Learn about the process, costs, and more.
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How to Buy a Car from Abroad: Guidance and Advice
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Need to send money abroad? We can help.

At EasyFX, our goal is to make international money transfers affordable, smooth, and easy, for everyone. Whether a small transfer or large transaction, we can cater to all types through our money transfer app, or our expert brokers, who are ready to find you the best rate available, saving you money.

If you'd like to receive a free transfer quote, please contact our team today!

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