Buying a Car in the UK with an International Driving License

If you are a new immigrant to the UK or plan to do so, you might be concerned about transportation. Though the public transport network in the country is incredible, it might be more convenient to buy a car. But how can you acquire a vehicle in the UK with an international driving license?

Can you buy a car in the UK with an international license? Yes, as a foreigner, you can buy a car in the UK with an international driving license as long as you have a passport, a minimum of £900 to pay for the car, and other additional expenses such as tax and insurance.

This guide explains how you can buy a car as a foreigner in the UK with your international license and the steps you need to take for this.

Want to finance a car in the UK? Read this guide on car loans and how to get one.

Can you buy a car with a foreign license in the UK?

You can buy a car with a foreign license, but you’ll need additional documents such as your passport, proof of insurance, and a home address in the UK. Learn how to buy a car in the UK for export in this article.

The process of buying a car in the UK as a foreigner

To buy a car in the UK as a foreigner, follow the following steps: 

  • Find a vehicle
  • Complete MOT test 
  • Find and purchase car insurance
  • Pay for the vehicle, and receive a V5C/2 from the owner
  • Pay for vehicle tax
  • Drive vehicle away and wait for a full V5C to arrive

Read a detailed article about buying a car as a foreigner in the UK.

What to look for when purchasing a vehicle in the UK 

When searching for a vehicle, one important thing to look for is to check when the next MOT (Ministry of Transport test, now called the Department of Transport) is due. An MOT check is required every twelve months for cars over three years old to ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy.

If your car fails an MOT test, you have to improve what is needed and retake the test. When buying a vehicle in the UK, ensure that it has about six months remaining before requiring another test.

Vehicle tax in the UK

Vehicle tax is compulsory to drive on UK roads; otherwise, you risk being fined and your vehicles being listed as ‘off the road.’ To buy tax, you need either a tax reminder letter, a vehicle logbook (V5C), or a “new keeper’s details” (V5C/2).  

You should pay for the vehicle tax online before hitting the road with your new vehicle. This tax is not transferable, so you still need to pay if you buy a car with a valid tax already on it.

Insurance-related issues for your car in the UK

Having car insurance is a legal requirement in the UK, regardless of whether you plan on being in the country occasionally or for a short period. It would be best to have third-party car insurance before jumping in the driver’s seat as a foreigner.

Third-party insurance covers you if you’re involved in an accident and cause damage to another person, property, vehicle, or animal. Nonetheless, this insurance doesn’t cover other costs like repairing your car.

If you’re a foreigner in the UK and plan to borrow a relative or friend’s car, they must add you to their insurance policy as a named driver.

The only challenge with buying a car with a foreign license is that it’s pretty expensive to acquire insurance, primarily if a non-EU country issues it. Therefore, to avoid the high expense, it’s advisable to change to a full UK driving license before purchasing your car. 

Below is a chart showing the average car insurance quote based on license type for foreigners in the UK.

Source: moneysupermarket.com

In the UK, you can find suitable car insurance by using this comparison platform; they compare up to 120 car insurance companies to save you money.

Cost of car insurance for international drivers in the UK?

According to an analysis by the UK Government Actuary’s Department (GAD), the average premium paid by international license holders is between £952 and £1,578. This amount is more than the average premium paid by UK drivers. Here is a breakdown:

Driving license typeAverage annual premiums
Full European (Non-EU)£1,683
Full International License£1,578
Full EU License£1,112
Full UK Car License£626

International drivers pay more insurance because insurers think international drivers are more likely to claim due to their lack of experience on UK roads. Find a car insurance company that can consider any no-claims discount you have built up with your country of origin to get an insurance discount.

To buy car insurance in the UK, find an insurance company on sites like confused.com. Additionally, you can look for some private companies through their websites. 

Read a detailed article about the cost of running a car in London.

Buying a car in the UK with an EU license

You can buy a car in the UK using an EU license. However, you’ll need additional documents such as an MOT roadworthiness pass certificate, insurance, and a vehicle excise license.

The cost of buying a car with an EU license

The average cost of a car in the UK depends on various factors such as specs, size, and model.

The table below shows the cost of the ten most popular cars in the UK.

Car ModelCost
Mercedes Benz GLC£44,545
BMW X3£44,205
Audi Q5£44,115
Volvo XC60£42,830
Jaguar F-Pace£40,675
Kia Sorento£39,710
Land Rover Discovery Sport£31,820
Seat Tarraco£30,080
Skoda Kodiaq£28,185

Before buying a car in the UK with an EU driving license, shop around to find the best deals. Visit sites such as MoneyHelper, which offer advice on the available vehicle options and how you can shop around to find the best car deals.

It would also help to visit online comparison sites like GoCompare and Uswitch to find the best deals.

After purchasing your car as an EU license holder residing in the UK, you can continue to use it as long as it’s valid. Your EU license is subject to the United Kingdom license renewal requirements, meaning that you can change it to a UK one within three years after becoming a legal citizen.

Can you drive with an international license in the UK?

You can drive with an international driving license in the UK for 12 months from when you enter the UK. After this time, you need to apply for a UK provisional license and retake your driving test. 

The international license one is invalid after receiving your provisional one, even if it’s not expired. When using your provisional driving license, you are not permitted to drive unaccompanied. You can switch from a provisional driving license to a UK one after staying in the UK for 185 days.

Converting an international driving license into British

To apply for the exchange of your foreign driving license for a British one, you must meet the conditions below:

  1. Hold a current driver’s license and surrender it for exchange at DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency).
  2. Have a test pass certificate that is not older than two years after the date of license application.
  3. Must be a UK resident with a permanent address. If you hold a community driver’s license, you must have resided in Great Britain for 185 days within 12 months before your full driver’s license application.
  4. Your foreign license must be in English; if, in another language, you must have a translation from an approved translator.

To change from an international license to a UK driving license, you need to do the following from the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) portal:

  • Fill out a D1 form
  • Provide your current driving license
  • Have a form of identification such as a travel document, national identification card, or an original passport
  • Make a payment for the license via cheque, Delta debit, MasterCard, or credit card

Which countries’ driving licenses are valid in the UK?

If your license is from Northern Ireland, you can use it in the UK as long as it remains valid. 

As a foreigner from the EU or EEA, you can use your license in the UK until you turn 70 years, after which you’ll have to convert to a British one. 

European economic areas include Austria, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Portugal, Estonia, Finland, France, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Malta, Norway, and Poland.

If you are from a “designated country,” You have five years after becoming a UK resident to apply to exchange your driving license for a UK driving license.

You can use your driving license for a maximum of 12 months from the time you become a resident, after which you can choose to apply for a British license, but you don’t need to sit for a test. 

Designated countries are Australia, Zimbabwe, Barbados, South Africa, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Japan, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Republic of Korea, Gibraltar, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Monaco, Singapore, and Switzerland.

If your driving license is from the remaining countries outside of the designated countries and the European Economic Area, you can use your foreign license for 12 months. After one year, you need to change to a British driving license. 

To switch to the UK or British driving license, you need to take a driving theory and practical test, after which (if you pass) you’ll be issued a provisional Great Britain Driving license. You can then apply for a full driving license after residing in the UK for at least six months (185 days).

Anna

Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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