Why imported cars are (usually) more expensive to insure

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Types of import
Insuring an imported car
Specialist import insurance

Insurance is normally more expensive for imported cars because insurers see them as ‘higher-risk’.

This is because they usually cost more to repair, and are often higher-spec, and with more powerful engines, than standard cars. They’ve also sometimes been modified to fit with UK regulations.

All of this leads to a lot of extra hassle (and risk) for insurers.

So they either put their prices right up, or refuse to insure imported cars at all.

You can get specialist imported car insurance, though. More on that below.

Understanding the different types of car import (and what this means for insurance)

There are two main types of imported cars:

1. Grey imports: usually cars from outside the EU

Grey imports normally come from outside the EU. They tend to be cars that don’t have a UK version.

For example, the American car brand Cadillac doesn’t make cars for the UK market. So if you wanted one, you’d need to get an imported one.

This would be a grey import.

Grey imports normally need specialist (and more expensive) insurance

Grey imports are normally quite a bit pricier to insure than UK cars. And they probably need specialist insurance too. This is because:

  • Grey imports are often high-spec cars with powerful engines (that’s why people want to import them).

People who drive powerful cars are statistically more likely to drive more dangerously and make claims. So insurers put their prices up.

  • Grey imports are often high-value cars that would be expensive to repair or replace. This is because it can be harder and more expensive to find car parts for them.

And sometimes they might need specialist mechanics who are used to fixing imported cars.

This means it’s harder for insurers to figure out how risky they are.

  • Grey imports might be more likely to get stolen because they’re often highly valuable (and rare in the UK).

2. Parallel imports: usually cars from inside the EU

Parallel imports tend to be cars that come from inside the EU, and which do have a UK version.

For example, Volkswagen is a German car brand, but it makes models for the UK market.

Some people choose imported EU cars because they get a better deal than buying the UK version.

This is a parallel import.

When an imported car comes from the EU, it already meets the same safety regulations as UK cars (because these are the same across the EU). This means they’re normally less expensive to insure than grey imports.

The parallel import situation might change soon because of Brexit

When the UK is out of its ‘Brexit transition period’, the trade deal that currently means the UK and EU work to the same car safety regulations might go out the window.

This could affect car insurance.

Come 2021 it might be one set of rules for the UK, and another for the EU. This could complicate things when it comes to parallel imports. (They’d start to look more like grey imports).

It’s also possible that not much will change at all from a car import point of view, though.

Ideally, we’ll get to keep things as similar as possible to the way they are now.

But the fact is we just don’t know what things might look like in 2021.

Parallel imports might still need specialist insurance

Standard car insurance companies are more likely to cover parallel imports than grey imports. But depending on the car and situation, you might still need to find a specialist insurer.

Either way, it’ll probably cost you at least a bit more than normal car insurance.

Like grey import cars, there’s a chance your parallel imported car is a left-hand-drive. Insurers will take this into account when they’re deciding the price of your cover.

This is one reason the cover will probably be pricier than for a non-imported car.

Grey and parallel: the two types of import
Grey imports are cars from outside the EU. Parallel imports are cars from within the EU. They're different because all EU countries make cars to the same agreed standard. 🇪🇺

You need a VIN to insure an imported car

Every car in the UK has a Vehicle Identification Number - or VIN.

A car’s VIN is branded into the chassis. It’s so each car has a completely unique number, even if the registration number changes.

Insurers use the VIN to look up the car when you get a quote. It’s how they get all the information about the car that helps them come up with a price.

If the car’s from the EU, you’ll also need your “European Certificate of Conformity” to show that it meets all the standards the EU members agreed on.

If your car’s not from the EU, you need an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA). Sorting out all those documents is hours of fun.

Buying (and insuring) an imported car second-hand

Buying a second-hand imported car is more or less the same as buying a new imported car when it comes to insurance.

In other words – insurers will still see it as a higher-risk car.

So before you buy a second-hand car, it’s best to check the VRM and find out if it’s an import. Luckily for you, our car checker lets you do just that - for free.

Things that might help keep your imported car insurance down

Imported cars are usually more expensive to insure. They tend to come with a higher compulsory excess, too.

If you’re looking to get an imported car, there are some things you can do to help keep your insurance costs down:

  • Take out extra security measures, like installing a Thatcham-approved alarm and immobiliser
  • Use your imported car as your second car (so you keep its mileage down)
  • Keep your imported car in a secure garage or rented storage container

Some insurers have their own app that monitors your driving – if you feel comfortable using this, it could help let your insurer know you’re not a high-risk driver and lower the price of your policy.

Prep the paperwork 📎
To insure an imported car, you need to get a vehicle identification number. You'll also need a European Certificate of Conformity, or an Individual Vehicle Approval, depending on where you got the car from.

Getting specialist imported car insurance

For grey imports in particular, you’ll probably need to find a specialist insurer.

A specialist insurer will be able to:

  • Insure your car before it’s been given a registration number (before it’s been registered in the UK).

This is important because most standard insurers won’t insure a car that doesn’t have a registration number yet.

  • Offer cover for cars with modifications, or cars that are higher-spec/more powerful than standard cars. (Basically, the things typical of grey imports).

  • Offer cover cover for left-hand-drive cars.

Specialist imported car insurance companies will offer this kind of cover at competitive prices.

Like with all car insurance, how much it costs will depend on things like the car itself, and the driver's:

Some temporary car insurance companies won’t insure imported cars

One thing worth bearing in mind is that not all temporary car insurance companies offer cover for imported cars.

This might make things tricky if you’re buying a second-hand imported car and want short-term cover to move it to your home.

If you are planning to buy temporary car insurance to get your new car home, check you’re eligible first.

Updated on 4th November 2020

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