Buying LHD Cars in the UK (Left Hand Drive)

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As an importer of LHD vehicles, and previously a vehicle fraud investigator, I would like you to take time understanding of some of the difficulties faced when purchasing and registering left hand drive cars, especially those with a foreign registration, in the UK and abroad. 

The European Used Car Market

New cars in Europe are generally cheaper than in the UK, but the used car market differs enormously.  In the UK there are a proliferation of newly registered company cars, these cars are 'written down' on the company's accounts so when they enter the used car market, they drive down values.  Generally in Europe there are very few company cars therefore there is a lack of 3 year old used vehicles being generated by companies.  In general people tend to buy cars and keep them much greater periods of time, for example in France the average length of ownership is 7 years!

By purchasing your LHD car off Ebay or via specialist publications you will generally find that you will save a substantial amount on the European retail price of a car, there are however pitfalls......

Stolen or Outstanding Finance

As most buyers know when purchasing a UK car it is possible to perform a HPI check.  This will tell you if the car is stolen, has outstanding finance, has been the subject of an insurance claim, has had a previous plate etc.  Unfortunatly there are no similar UK based systems for foreign vehicles and sometimes performing those checks, even when living in that country, is difficult and time consuming.

In France, for example, you can obtain a 'Certificate du Non Gage' provided by the French equivalent of the DVLA which gives you similar information to the UK HPI check. There is a similar system in Holland supplied by the RDW.

Buying privately you have very little comback - as the old phrase goes, "Buyer Beware"!  If you chose to buy from a registered UK company you will at least usually have a warranty and comeback should there be a problem with the legal title of the car you have just bought.  There are several UK and overseas based specialist LHD companies who will provide you with good service and peace of mind.    

Non EU Compliant Vehicles

Take particular care when purchasing a LHD vehicle which was supplied from outside of the EU as registration, even if the vehicle is currently on UK plates, in other countries can be very difficult, and sometimes even impossible without a European Certificate of Conformity.  Cars built for the EU market will have E numbers marked all over but the easiest to see will be on the windows and the lights. 

Re-Registering a foreign car in the UK

So you have just bought your ideal car off ebay which is on foreign plates so you decide that you wish to UK register the car.  There are many changes, some of which are very expensive, you must comply with.  In order to re-register the car you must have a Foreign Registration document, Certificate of EU Conformity, an MOT, (if the car is over 3 years old), and UK type approval.  You can obtain the COC from the manufacturer (usually at a cost of circa £100), the MOT, (once the car is UK compliant), from any test station and the UK type approval from the VCA.  Before the VCA take your money and issue the certificate you must have the car modified to suit the UK and provide the invoice for the works from a reputable garage. i.e the headlamps must be changed to RHD lights, the rear fog lamp must illuminated on the RH side of the vehicle, the speedo must have MPH markings, there must be side/wing mounted indicators.  All in circa £1000!

Transfering a French or Spanish Car into your name.


Very simple, in order to transfer you need a Grey Card (Certificate d'Immatriculation), a certificate du cession, more than 18 months left on the C.T. (MOT test equivalent) and provide proof of residence, (i.e. EDF, France Telecom Bill).  The transfer fee is circa Eur30 times the puissance fiscal which is listed on the Grey Card under PUISS.  The prefecture will issue the new Carte Grise on the spot.


Straightforward but very dependant on you having the correct documentation.  To transfer you will need the two parts of the car registration documents, a copy of the current owners NIE or NIF Certificate and Passport, your NIE/NIF certificate and a contract of sale (Contracto de Compraventa de vehiclos usados entre particulares). It it also advisable to have proof that the local annual tax has been paid, as you will be liable for back taxes if they have not. You then take all of the papers to your local Traffico for transfer. Without ALL of these documents you are snookered.

I know this guide has been a little heavy reading, its not been written as the definative guide to buying a LHD car, I just wanted to share some of my knowledge - I have seen the trauma of people who, after parting with their hard earned cash for a vehicle have had it seized from them or have found that it was not what they thought it was as I always say ..........

It's unwise to pay too much, but it's also unwise to pay too little.  When you pay too much you lose a little money, that's all.  When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do.  The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot.  It can't be done.  If you deal with the lowest bidder, it's well to add something for the risk you run.  And if you do that, you will have enough money to pay for something better.

John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)

Good luck with your LHD purchase!


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