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Buying a Left Hand Drive Car

Updated on June 13, 2012

Tips for UK LHD car buyers

You’ve made the decision to move overseas or may have already made the move. Next on your shopping list is a LHD car, where do you start? Here answers for people in the UK who are wondering about buying a left hand drive car.

LHD v RHD car prices? - I’m sure you’ve noticed the pricing differential between right and left hand drive vehicles. At the moment, LHD cars are more expensive than RHD equivalents. This is because they are priced in euros and the exchange rate determines how we see prices in pounds. As a rule of thumb, at an exchange rate of approx. 1.4 euros/£, RHD and LHD prices are in parity, if you are getting less euros for your pound, LHD car prices will appear more expensive.
Should I buy in the UK or on the Continent? – UK LHD car dealers will offer you incentives to buy from them rather than buy on the Continent. For instance, a good UK dealer will accept your RHD car in part exchange; a dealer on the Continent almost certainly would not. There can also be price and quality benefits.

UK or Foreign plates? – This really comes down to how you are looking to use the car. If you have a UK address and are not a full time resident overseas, keeping your car on UK plates has a cost advantage in some countries such as Spain and Portugal. However, for your UK registered car to remain legal, it needs to have a current MOT and carry UK RFL (road tax), which means that once it is over 3 years old it needs to come back annually to the UK. You may be told that a foreign certificate of roadworthiness / MOT equivalent is acceptable and that you do not need road tax as it’s not being used on the UK public highway, but, this not the case and can lead to big fines and your car may be impounded.

Transferring your car onto Spanish or Portuguese plates involves a matriculation tax which is based on the C02 emissions of the vehicle and is a percentage of the cars value which can amount to thousands of euros. If you are a looking to become a tax resident of Spain or Portugal, tax loopholes exist at this time to avoid matriculation charges. However, in these times of austerity they will soon be closed.

If you prefer not to stand out or don’t want the hassle of bringing a car back to the UK annually, or perhaps are a tax citizen of another European country and need a car on foreign plates, there are costs to be taken into consideration here too. Ownership transfer for a UK registered car costs the price of a stamp, but, in some EU countries such as Spain, selling a car is more akin to selling a house, you will need to employ someone to complete the transfer and a fee of up to 8% of the vehicle value is payable by the new keeper.

Provenance checks? – If you are buying a UK registered used left hand drive car, you can pay for a HPI check which will reveal if it is on finance, stolen or has been subject to an insurance claim / written off. However, this check will only cover the period that the car has been on UK plates, it may have an unsavoury history prior to this. Similar provenance checks exist in some European countries. I am able to check cars from Spain, France, Portugal, Belgium and Germany. Please be aware that if a Spanish plated car has a debt attached to it known as an embargo, this debt is passed to the vehicle’s new owner if a transfer is done without checking the car first.

What is a COC? – A European COC or certificate of conformity, to give it it’s full name, is a single sheet document that is available for cars built for European consumption. If a car is produced in the EU but was built for another market such as America or Asia this document is not available. These non -European cars will generally be cheaper than European cars and may look identical but can be false economy if you are looking to register them in certain EU states. The COC document contains all the technical data about the car and is needed in many EU countries to register your car. If no COC is available a similar document needs to be produced which involves a test which at best is expensive and at worst can be an unviable exercise.

Insurance? – Uk plated cars can be insured in most instances with most UK insurance companies, however, most policies only offer 90 days European use per year. If you intend to spend more time on the continent, I can put you in touch with a company that insures UK plated cars with an annual green card so that it can be used anywhere in the EU. Insurance for French plated cars is very good value. Spanish and Portuguese policies also aren’t bad value when you consider they always includes ‘grua’ or breakdown cover and cover the car for any driver over the age of 25 years old.

European delivery? – You can find reliable LHD cars dealers in the UK with left hand drive cars who offer competitive delivery to France, Spain and Portugal, but you may prefer the idea of an adventurous road trip to test drive your new purchase. If you chose the latter, make sure you are able to insure the car, that it has a valid certificate of roadworthiness (MOT equivalent) and that you are carrying spare bulbs, hi visibility vests etc. Keep an eye on these regulations at as items such as alcohol breath tests are being introduced. If your car is un-registered delivery is a must.


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