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Importing Japanese Used Cars Into the UK


All vehicles that pass the requirements of their category can be registered and licensed for road use within the UK. This information focuses on passenger vehicles. There are additional requirements for vehicle with more than 9 seats and also goods vehicles.

Vehicles wishing to be registered and licensed in the UK must pass certain tests depending on their age. Here is a brief overview on how age effects which tests you must pass:

Less than 3 Years Old:
SVA/ESVA Test: Yes | MOT Test: No*

Between 3 and 10 Years Old:
SVA/ESVA Test: Yes | MOT Test: Yes

More than 10 Year Old:
SVA/ESVA Test: No | MOT Test: Yes

*All vehicles in UK must have a MOT test yearly after the third year since its first original registration.

If you are unable to pass the relevant test(s), you will be refused to register the car for British roads.

Also another rule for registration is the maximum permitted width of vehicles in Great Britain is 2.55m and the maximum length for a rigid vehicle is 12m.

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DUTY = 10%*CIF +
VAT = 17.5%*CIF+duty +
£200.00 for ESVA application (if required) +
ESVA Testing Costs +
Model Report (if needed) +
£50.35 for MOT (at minimum plus each year after) +
£50.00 Registration +
£0 - £300 Licensing Fee (varies according to CO2 Emission; valid for 6 or 12 months)+
Insurance in the name of the "registered keeper"

Note: If imported after 1 month after purchase, you must pay duty and VAT according to the wholesale price of the vehicle in the UK.

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  • Completed SAD (Single Administrative Document)
    • Commercial Importers must have a Trader’s Unique Reference Number (TURN)
  • Purchasing Invoice to prove you paid for it.
  • Other Invoices showing cost of transportation, insurance, and other fees involved.
  • Deregistration Certificate to prove you are its owner and it was allowed to be exported.
  • Picture ID
  • Items Necessary for Duty and VAT Payment


  • A completed SVA1 Form.
  • Japanese Deregistration Certificate.
  • Any other documents that support your exemption from parts or all of the test.
  • ID
  • Fee


  • A completed V55/5 Form.
  • Fee for registration (current fee can be found via the LINKS FOR UK section).
  • Fee for licensing (also called the Vehicle Excise Duty).
  • British Insurance Certificate in the name of the "registered keeper".
  • Japanese Deregistration Certificate (for proof of car's age).
  • Any additional documents related to the vehicle.
  • Proof of purchase and collection (such as Invoice).
  • Your Customs clearance (evidence of payment of Customs Duties).
    • Note:
      • C&E 386 - For a vehicle of any age personally imported from outside the EU.
      • C&E 388 - For a Customs restricted vehicle of any age personally imported from outside the EU.
      • C&E 389 - For VAT registered traders for commercial imports from outside the EU.
  • Evidence of type approval (such as MAC).
  • MOT Certificate
  • Documents that prove your name and address (originals only- they'll be returned with your Tax Disc).
    • Either your drivers license for both name and address or one of each of the following:
      • Documentation confirming your name:
        • Current DVLA paper driving licence
        • Passport
        • Birth Certificate
        • Marriage Certificate
        • Decree nisi/ absolute
      • Documentation confirming your address
        • Utility bill issued within the last 3 months - gas, electricity, water, land-line telephone
        • Council tax bill for current year
        • Bank/ Building Society statement issued within the last 3 months
        • Medical card

Registration and licensing will not take place unless you have the necessary documentation with you. In some cases the Local Office may wish to see the vehicle to check its identity.

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Arrival at Port

First the car arrives at Port of Destination and you get sent a "Arrival Notice".

Bring that to the port along with all the documents from Japan (Bill of Lading, Deregistration Certificate, and any Invoices), your ID that has a photo, and also something to pay duties, VAT, etc with. Payment can be made by use of a Deferment Account, guaranteed cheque (by the use of guarantee form C&E307, or by individual bank endorsement), Bankers Draft, BACS, or CHAPS.

At the port, the first thing the shippers will want to know is if you're really the owner. They will want to see the documents from Japan and your ID. Once they agree with you that you are the owner, they'll finish with all the remaining shipment related issue (e.g. unloading and unpaid bills).

Now go over to Customs, get a SAD (Single Administrative Document) C88 Form and fill out all the relevant areas. If need help, maybe someone kind in the office might help or if you want to avoid the hassle, hire a Customs Broker. With this file, Customs records what's coming in to the country and also determines how much you owe them. They're going to want you to pay Duty and VAT. More info on amounts charged is in the HOW MUCH IT WILL COST section above.

In return for the one document and your money, Customs will give you Customs clearance, which a stamp on your SAD, and a form (V55/5) that you'll need for registration and licensing. Now you can leave port with your car. Remember, your car must be insured at all time while using public roads. Normally, you are also supposed to be registered and licensed, so they prefer you to transport your car rather than drive it. As an exception, they are a little flexible for imports that are going directly to an appointment for getting registration (e.g. going to getESVA or MOT testing done).

Getting It Road Legal

Now normally, according to the Government that is, you are supposed to immediately have the car registered and licensed. Of course that can only possibly happen for British cars being re-imported, but for the rest of us, there are a few things needed to be done first.

To get registered in the UK, there are a number of documents and things you must have. Two of them are a Type Approval and a MOT Certificate.

MOT Certification, if you've never owned a car in the UK before, is proof that your car is roadworthy and meets environmental standards. MOT stands for Ministry Of Transport. Any vehicle more than 3 years old will need this whether it's a Rolls Royce or a Suzuki Jimny.

Type Approval is basically proof your car meets EC and British design and construction standards. What that means is your car has equal safety, emission, and noise levels as European cars. To prove this, most JDM Importers rely on the easiest (and usually the only) method which is getting a SVA (or Single Vehicle Approval) certificate called a MAC (Minister's Approval Certificate)0. Some good news is cars over 10 years old do not have to get Type Approval. For cars less than 10 years old, read on further.

Cars Less Than 10 Years Old
Back in 2003, the British government decided that having one test for all imports too easy. So the created a sub category of the SVA called an ESVA (or Enhanced SVA). Enhanced means more things are tested and unfortunately, most JDM Imports must use this approval. The only exceptions for cars from Japan which can be possibly claimed are personal imports, LHD (Left Hand Drive) imports, or VLV (Very Low Volume) imports. The remaining 99% that don't qualify have to use the ESVA.


Japanese car importers have it easy. For most standards, simply showing the Deregistration Certificate is sufficient proof that you pass. The remaining standards needing proof of compliance are usually the emission standards and the noise standards. Most Japanese cars pass these or be modified to pass them. For example, sometimes Japanese cars don't have catalytic converters which function is to really cut down emissions. According to British government, all passenger vehicles need catalytic converters to pass these standards. Another example is cars made after 1st October 1998 must have an immobiliser and alarm to pass.

Attention! Remember, if your car needs modification, get it done before the testing or else you'll have to retest. Also, if you import a modified car, the Deregistration Certificate's benefits are invalid an you must have your car tested again for all standards.

Also note:Forward control vehicles (which means more than half the engine's length is behind the foremost part of the windshield) and 4x4 with a separate chassis have additional requirements that must be proven.

The people running the ESVA testing allow you to prove the remaining standards are passed by two ways. First is the Model Report method which is essentially a comparison test against test results for an "identical" (meaning same model) car that you rent from somebody. The second method is called a One-off Testing.

One-off (or Individual) Testing has the benefit of costing less. The drawback is your car has to go through the full test rather than just the quicker "checking" that the other method allows. It also may take slightly longer to be passed and some testing facilities cannot do everything at a particular site.

The Model Report method is the more common one which benefits in making things easier for the importer. The actual reports aren't owned by the government, but rather people who have invested in getting them for commercial purposes. A list of Model Report holders can be found via the LINKS FOR UK section at the bottom.

Enough information, now it time to move forward. First you need to apply to get tested with the SVA 1 Form. Application forms are available from DVLA local offices, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) offices, or online (see LINKS FOR UK section below), but you must send completed applications to VOSA's Swansea office at:

    The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency
    91/92 The Strand
    SA1 2DH

With the form, you will also need to send the supporting documents for areas that don't need additional approval (meaning a copy of your Deregistration Certificate) and the fee (current amounts can found off-site via LINKS FOR UK section below). After VOSA gets your application, they will send you a notice telling you the day of your testing and where (usually the place you select on the Application).

If you car doesn't have a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), you can get it at your local DVLA office. You need one for the SVA inspection.

When testing day comes, drive or transport you vehicle straight to the test site to avoid police problems. If you fail your test, you'll need to fix the issues at a garage and have it retested. If the vehicle passes, you can go set up a MOT test. For proof of passing they will give you a MAC (or Minister's Approval Certificate).


Next thing you need to get do (unless you car is less than 3 years old) is get it passed for MOT Certification. The test involved is mostly for checking the vehicle's roadworthiness since environmental standards are kind of already covered in emission test (unless of course you cheat).

To get a MOT Certificate, simply go to an approved MOT garage to have the vehicle tested. If you pass you will get a MOT Certificate.


  • Speedometre must be converted from km/h to miles/h.
  • License plate space expanded to fit UK size.
  • Rear fog light installed.
  • May need a catalytic converter installed.
  • RASS (Radio Activated Security Systems), such as an immobiliser or alarm, may need frequencies adjusted.
  • Fuel-filler nozzle diameter reduced (which will protect the catalytic converter from leaded fuel).
  • LHD to RHD - if LHD bought, you need a steering conversion, RHD headlights, and RHD compliant rear-view mirror.

Registration & Licensing

This is the last process before you can be road legal. Simply, bring the documents found it the REQUIRED DOCUMENTS section above and related fees.

The DVLA local office may want to inspect your vehicle before allocating an appropriate vehicle registration mark. Your identity documentation will be returned to you with the vehicle tax disc.

The DVLA will aim to deliver a new registration certificate to you within six weeks of applying at a DVLA local office. After six weeks and you still don't get it then you should contact DVLA.

After you get your Vehicle Registration Certificate, you can take it along with your Driver's License to a registered number plate supplier and have one produced. You can find a local supplier via the LINKS FOR UK section below.

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Government Agencies

DFT (Department For Transport)
    DFT - Vehicle Importing Information (Reference)
DVLA (Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency)
    Order Importing Information Pack
    Search for a Registered Number Plate Supplier
HM Revenue & Customs
    HM Revenue & Customs Import/Export Guide (Reference)
VCA (Vehicle Certification Agency)
    VCA - Vehicle Importing (Reference)
VOSA (Vehicle & Operator Services Agency)
    SVA/ESVA Fees
    ESVA Test Laboratories Locations
    Vehicle Test Forms
    Model Reports List

DirectGov - Importing Vehicles (Reference)
DirectGov - Registering a Vehicle (Reference)

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Total time to process for import to UK: 6-10 weeks from Purchase to licensing.
   Most cars take 2-6 weeks to find. (depends on how particular a car the buyer is looking for)
   1-2 weeks to get paper work organized and car on boat.
   Transportation takes about 14 days Port to Port.
SVA and registration takes 8-10 days (not including time wasted between).


Decision without experience. (can't personally examine the car and test drive it)
Possible damage during transit. (rare, but possible)
Time (can take a long time)
No warranty when you import yourself.

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