New/Prospective Owners Importing

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From Germany

Plurker: sent this in:- Thanks to Tom Sweet for writing this up

My friend and I decided to buy VW T4 transporter vans from Germany as they are cheaper and in better condition than the ones you get in the UK. I’ve written the whole process out below to outline the various pitfalls we encountered along the way. This process will cover bringing any private use vehicle from any EU member state to the UK, but the export process from each country may vary from that listed below.

Things you will need do to before your trip:

1. Find a van - We got ours from as they have their entire stock list online. Give them a call and let them know which one you’re interested in. They speak a bit of English, enough to get by. This site is also good and they cover most of Europe. M & M needed to get the registration documents from the bank and make sure you check that the vehicle has an MOT (TUV in Germany) sorted for when you visit. A couple of things to note at this stage that you should factor in when planning your trip: i. In Germany, you need to get export plates from the police. I’m not sure how it works in other countries. The Police in Germany stop work at midday on a Friday. Monday to Thursday it’s 9am to 5pm. Make sure you have plenty of time. This nearly caught us out and it would have made for a very frustrating, expensive weekend! ii. M & M were able to help us with the export process. I’m not sure how complicated it is, but it was good to have someone assist us. Check whether the vendor/garage can help you out or not. iii. Make sure the van you’re after has a TUV (German MOT). The German police require all vehicles being exported have a TUV (although they will issue you plates valid for 5 days if no TUV is present). The van I bought had no TUV and trying to find a station that could fit me in added to the time constraints on getting to the Police station on time.

2. Sort out foreign currency - As with most places in the UK, people prefer cash! To use M & M as an example, they were happy to accept cards but there was a 3% handling charge, which they would have passed directly on to me. 3% on a few £k adds up! Try and get the currency issued by your bank (may take up to 7 working days), or withdraw the cash and change it at the post office. The Post Office will charge you a 2% fee if you use a card, but it’s free if you give you use cash. When it comes to exchange rates be aware that it’s the ‘sell’ rate (lower number) that you want to pay attention to, not the ‘buy’ rate. You could always do a money transfer although if you are overseas this isn’t always the most practical option.

3. Get the relevant paperwork. Call DVLA Swansea on 0870 240 0010 or visit and they will send you all the forms you require complete with instructions on how to fill them in.

4. Sort out getting there and back. We flew to Berlin with Ryanair for £45 and came back by ferry from Dunkirque with Norfolkline for £44 per vehicle.

5. Find somewhere to stay near where you’re buying your van. I’d recommend Google to point you in the direction of the nearest hotels.

6. Sort out insurance. When we bought the vans from M & M they included insurance to cover us for the whole of Europe for 14 days. Once back in the UK I insured my van with HIC until you have the vehicle registered with DVLA, you’ll have to supply the chassis number. Once you got the UK registration number sorted, let your insurance company know.

Once you’re there:

1. Check the van over thoroughly, as you would with any new vehicle. If you find anything wrong, get the garage to sort it BEFORE you part with any cash. M & M were good at sorting things out for us.

2. Take the van for a drive. You’ll have to go to the Police station to get the export plates, so ask if you can drive it and have someone show you the way.

3. Once you’ve got the export plates sorted, and any problems with the van ironed out, try and haggle a bargain – it’s always worth a go!

Make sure the van your after has a TUV (MOT). The German police will only grant you a 5-day export plate if you have a TUV.

After the sale:

1. It’s likely you’ll have a fairly long trip ahead of you. Try not to wear yourself out too much! 2. If you’re passing through a number of countries as we did, be aware that they often have different speed limits.

Back in the UK:

1. Upon your return, you will need to get the van MOT’d before you can register it. Points it will fail on if you don’t remedy them straight away are: a. Headlights. These either need to be changed for UK versions or have tape put over them to deflect the beam. b. Fog lights. If applicable, they need to be on the offside rear of the vehicle c. Speedo. If it’s in kilometres, you’ll need to change it to miles. DVLA will tell you the vehicle needs this for the MOT, but I got through without it.

2. Once, you’ve sorted the MOT, you can take your all your paperwork (documents from Germany, MOT certificate, certificate of insurance, V55, VAT form and ID) to your local DVLA office. You can find out where that is at Be aware that if you go to a centre that is outside your catchment area (postcode determined) your vehicle will be called for inspection (to check that you are not lying about it’s existence!). You can post the forms of deliver them in person. Once the office has the forms, it will take them 5 working days to process them. 3. Once DVLA have sent you the forms back, you’ll have been assigned a registration number, so head off to the plate shop to get some new plates made up! 4. If you have resident parking permits etc. don’t forget to get them changed over to your new registration. 5. Enjoy your new van!!