Can a Foreigner Buy a Car in the UK?

Owning a car in the UK can be a challenge for foreigners, as many people in the country don’t own a car and instead rely on public transport. Nevertheless, if you are planning to stay in the UK for a while and have a steady job, purchasing a car could be an excellent idea. But, how can a foreigner buy a car in the UK?

Can a foreigner buy a car in the UK? Yes, foreign nationals can buy a car in the UK as long as they have a valid visa and meet the requirements set by the government. You’ll need to have your documents in order, including your passport, driver’s license, and proof of insurance. You may also need to show proof of residency in the UK.

This article explains the different options available to foreign car buyers and what paperwork is required. It also looks at how much it costs to own a car in the UK and other expenses related to owning a vehicle.

If you plan to purchase a car for export, read this dedicated article.

Buying a car as a foreigner in the UK

It’s pretty simple to buy a car as a foreigner in the UK, provided you have an international or UK driving license. It’s cheaper to purchase insurance with a full UK driving license than an international one. Therefore, it would be wise to change to a full UK driving license before buying a car if you plan to live there.

If you buy a vehicle to use outside the UK, you aren’t required to pay UK VAT or vehicle taxes and registration fee. The amount you pay and how you pay it depends on the import laws within your country.

Read how to buy a car with an international driving licence in the UK.

Do you need to buy a car in the UK?

If you choose to live in one of the major cities, you may not need a car because the public transport system in these cities can meet all your needs. Additionally, parking in these cities can be expensive, challenging, and frustrating.

If you live in a small city like Wells with no nearby stations, or your location is far from the necessary amenities, a car may be your only option. 

To determine whether you need a car in the UK, consider the following:

  • Your job location

For example, if working in central London, you may find the additional charges such as parking relatively high, so other means of transport like trains may be an easier option. 

  • Your location in the UK

Suppose you live on the outskirts of small cities. In that case, it’s worth buying a car since the nearest public transport station, general amenities, and shopping center may be a lot, making it more reasonable to purchase a vehicle.

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

What is the cost of owning a car in the UK?

If you live in a major city like London, you may spend around £1,500 to £2,000 per year on insurance, MOT, consumables, tax, parking permit, and fuel. Read a detailed article about the cost of car ownership in London.

Nonetheless, the cost of owning a car in London is up for debate and entirely depends on how often you use your vehicle, the cost of parking in your area, and the distance you cover daily.

The process of buying a car in the UK

Below are the steps you need to follow to buy a car in the UK:

  • Find a vehicle
  • Complete MOT test 
  • Find and purchase car insurance
  • Pay for the vehicle, and receive V5C/2 from the owner
  • Pay for vehicle tax (can be done online)
  • Drive vehicle away and wait for full V5C

Insurance issues related to buying a car in the UK

You must have a valid car insurance to buy and drive a car in the UK, even though you intend to drive occasionally or stay in the country for a while. Unlike other countries like Canada and USA, car insurance in the UK focuses on the person driving the vehicle. 

You can get UK car insurance with a foreign driving license, but it’s often more expensive. This high cost is because international drivers are generally considered at higher risk of an accident and are more likely to make a claim. 

In the UK, insurance coverage is instant; therefore, when you buy it online or over the phone, you get the policy on the same day. To legally drive in the UK, you require a minimum of third-party liability insurance.

If you’ve been a long-term driver in your country, you can try to get records from your insurance company at home. After this, try to plead your case with a British insurer; they may agree to give you a discount.

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.

Read this article to find a cheap car insurance in the UK.

Can international students buy a car in the UK?

International students can buy a car in the UK but will need to obtain a driving license and insurance. The process of buying a car in the UK as an international student is similar to that of any other foreigner, and students will need to research their options and budget before making a purchase.

Students in the UK are known for being busy and on the go, which is why many choose to invest in a car. While international students may face some challenges when trying to buy a car in the UK, there are several options available.

One option for international students is to purchase a used car from a private seller or dealership. This can be done online or in-person, depending on your preferences. You will also need to obtain a driving license and insurance in order to drive in the UK legally.

Another option for international students is to rent or lease a car. This can be an attractive option, as you won’t have the hassle of owning and maintaining a vehicle while still having access to reliable transportation.

Can a non-resident register a car in the UK?

After finding the vehicle you want to purchase and buying insurance, you need to register the car. You certainly can do it as a non-resident. The vehicle owner will have the car’s registration document, known as V5C, which carries all details regarding the vehicle.

As the new owner, fill a section referred to as “new keeper’s details” – V5C/2 and retain it. This document is temporary proof that you own the car before obtaining a new V5C, and you’ll use it to tax the vehicle.

The previous owner also signs a small section of the document to confirm that they have sold the vehicle and sends this off to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). Once DVLA receives the V5C, they update the car’s registration and issue a new V5C in your name; you’ll receive it by post within a few weeks.

It’s advisable not to leave the country until you get the new copy of the V5C because you have little proof that you own the vehicle without it. You will be required to show your full V5C to get back to the country.

Finding a car in the UK

The first step in purchasing a car in the UK is to decide whether to get a new or used one. New vehicles have an extended warranty and feature the latest fuel-saving and safety technology. 

On the other hand, used cars are plentiful in the UK, and you can get nearly-new models with significant discounts from reputable dealers. Furthermore, buying a used car can be a faster option, as new ones usually have long waiting lists for new models.

Buying a new car in the UK

If you opt to buy a new car, you’ll need a valid driving license and car insurance before getting on the road. The company you buy from deals with all the documentation, including registering the vehicle, which will require insurance and proof of your identity.

There are numerous ways of buying a new car in the UK. They include:

Car dealerships 

This method is perfect for getting the best price and finance package, as you can easily compare from one dealer to another. In most cities within the UK, these dealerships are located in clusters, making it easy to visit several franchises in a single trip. 

Car brokers 

If you want to avoid the hassles that come with looking and negotiating for a car deal in the UK, work with a broker. Working with a brokerage firm saves you time and money as they handle the whole buying process and negotiate on your behalf with the dealerships. 

The pros of buying a new car in the UK

  • Latest safety equipment and technology
  • It’s easy to sell the car later 
  • Low car taxes
  • Low consumption engine

The cons of buying a new car in the UK

  • Higher purchase price
  • Requires more care compared to a used one
  • Higher value loss

Buying a used car in the UK

The UK’s reliability and cost of used cars have immensely improved lately. According to a report by BBC News, second-hand vehicles in the UK have an average price of £19,254, which is quite affordable.

If you do decide to buy a used car, consider getting it from:

Car dealerships 

Thousands of car dealerships in the UK offer great finance packages and warranties. Additionally to selling you a car, they check to ensure that you meet all your legal requirements before driving away. 

Private owner

According to Auto Express, buying a car from a private owner is 15% cheaper than buying it through a dealer. However, this path has risks such as reduced legal protection and the lack of a warranty. 

Buying online

The online sale of used cars has recently soared in the UK. It allows you to carry out everything online, including finance, sourcing, and vehicle delivery to your location.

On buying your car online, you can cancel the purchase up to 14 days after delivery and return it within 14 days. You should receive a refund within 14 days of the dealer receiving the car. 

 The pros of buying a new car in the UK

  • Affordable buying price
  • Cheap registration and insurance fee
  • The vehicle is driven in; hence no testing is required
  • No waiting period

The cons of buying a new car in the UK

  • Little to no warranty
  • Require high maintenance
  • Bad fuel efficiency
  • Some damage may not be detectable at first

Also read: How much does it cost to run a car in London?

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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