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Frequently Asked Questions
The Estima Motoring Community cannot be held liable for any damage to engines or cars; or for any personal injury caused through following any advice, opinion or recommendation shown on this website. The decision to follow any such advice is solely your own.




Yes, it is possible to import your own Toyota from Japan into the UK. There are THREE main methods of obtaining a "fresh" (new to the UK) Import::


A) Purchase a newly imported car off the forecourt of  a UK Importer


This will be the easiest method. You review various Dealers' stock lists and select a vehicle. All the relevant paperwork will have already been finalised and all duties and taxes paid.


The main advantage is that the vehicle will be available in a very short space of time (usually a few days/weeks) As the vehicle has already been prepared and certified for UK road use it will only be  subject to the Dealer's final PDI (pre-delivery inspection); consisting of a MOT, Vehicle Taxing and perhaps a valet and final cursory mechanical inspection/road test.


Combined with the quick availability and ease of purchase is the Dealer's assurance of quality which should be backed up with a decent warranty on the vehicle - so if anything does go wrong, you can have the car repaired, replaced or your money refunded.


All of this extra service comes at a price - therefore, this is usually the most expensive method of purchasing an imported vehicle



B) Get a UK Importer to source & import a vehicle to your specification


Part of the problem with purchasing any used car - imports included - is the need to compromise your selection criteria (this may mean not having your preferred choice of colour or a lower trim level than you wanted, and so on). Method B allows you to be more defined in your choices as this method involves the UK Importer accessing the Japanese Market on your behalf  - and thereby greatly increasing the choice available.




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Once a vehicle has been obtained, your Importer will handle all the paperwork: Shipping, Import, DVLA, SVA, MOT and so on - dramatically reducing your hassles!


Again, this all involves time and effort from the Importer - and so comes at a price. However, the greater choice of vehicles and potentially reduced costs (as the Importer does not need to keep this car on his forecourt awaiting a buyer!) over Method A makes it an attractive option.


This is further improved by the fact the the Importer will be  much better versed in the issues and practices of vehicle importation meaning that he will be much more efficient in  bringing a vehicle into this Country (and getting it through the various controls, preparations and tests) than you will be.



C) Import a vehicle yourself


Methods A and B allow the Dealer to take on the stresses and hassles that accompany the import procedure - at a price. Obviously, as with anything that you can "do it yourself", there are dramatic savings to be made - but these are usually accompanied by dramatic increases in aggravation, so be prepared before you start out on the DIY route! Nevertheless, the sense of achievement in importing your own car must not be understated!


Firstly, decide what you want! There are so many variations within the Models that you can be quite specific - so gather as much information as you can. Have a look at our Model Guides and chat to other members of our Forum.


Once you have drawn up your specification, you need to factor in how much you have available to spend. Your Budget MUST include the following importation costs:



  • FOB = Your Japanese Agent's costs to get the vehicle onto a ship heading for the UK

  • BANK TELEGRAPHIC TRANSFER FEES = The fee charged by your Bank to "wire" over various amounts. Check with your Bank for the costs involved; but it is likely you will need to transfer three separate transactions.

  • FREIGHT = The cost of shipping the vehicle from Japan to the UK (current shipping rates vary from �35 - �55 per m3 - based on current exchange rates, as Freight is usually charged in US$) An Estima is approx. 16m3

  • PORT FEES = The Handling and Admin charge to get your vehicle off the ship and onto the Dockside (approx �50 - �100)

  • CUSTOMS PROCESSING = approx. �75

  • IMPORT DUTY = 10% of the total of FOB + FREIGHT + PORT FEES

  • V.A.T. = 17.5% added to the total of FOB + FREIGHT + PORT FEES + DUTY

  • SVA PREPARATION = the cost of getting the vehicle ready for the SVA Test (depending on the vehicle, anything from �200 - �500!)

  • SVA TEST FEE = the cost of having the SVA Test. See HERE for the current costs.

  • MOT FEE = Current costs can be seen HERE

  • DVLA REGISTRATION FEE = Current costs can be seen HERE


  • VEHICLE TAX = Current costs can be seen HERE

  • CONTINGENCY = Not required, but worthwhile to include an amount to cover any unforeseen events (especially Exchange Rate fluctuations and increasing costs at the SVA Test preparation stage) - best practice is to include a further 10% of the total costs

Therefore, as a very rough approximation of costs to import a vehicle - assume �1,500 to �2,000 of fees & costs PLUS the price of your purchased vehicle (as at December 2007)

Don't forget to factor in your Motor Insurance costs once the vehicle is ready for UK roads - but as this would be payable regardless of your importation method, it is not included as a specific item on this list.


1. Find a Japanese Export Agent

Search the Internet and talk to people who have had experiences of importing cars. The Agent will be the person that will source a car for you in Japan, buy it and then "load" it onto the Ship. This part of the process uses up a significant amount of your budget (in some cases more than 50%) so be very choosy before selecting an Agent.


Don't worry about the language barrier; most Agents  will speak excellent English. The only issue is the time differences; in the initial stages most of the legwork can be done via eMail - however, you may find that you need to speak to your Agent via telephone during the later stages (if a good car is going through an Auction!) - so be prepared for a late night or two!



2. Create a Buying Specification for your Agent

Talk to your selected Agent - he will be very good at nailing down your requirements and pointing out which areas may be best to be flexible on.


Your specification will include things like mileage (e.g. no more than 60,000), whether you want a Hot/Cool Box, 2WD or 4WD?, Colour, Trim level and the like. Bear in mind that the more detailed and specific you are, the longer you will have to wait for your preferred vehicle to appear at Auction.


Your Agent will know the Japanese Market better than you, so listen to his recommendations and work together as a team - for example, he may suggest not excluding 2WD vehicles as many good examples are coming through the Auctions at the moment.


It is at this point that you must make your first payment - a deposit to secure the Agent's interests and get him sourcing your vehicle. As you are now starting to pay out money and convert it into Yen, it's also worth thinking about Exchange Rates. If the rate is good, then consider converting the rest of your balance into Yen and holding it a Foreign Currency Account at your Bank - you may find that when you come to pay the balance, the � to Yen rate has deteriorated.



3. Contact your Freight & Customs Clearance Agents

This will depend on who your Japanese Agent uses for Shipping, so confirm this with them in the early stages. Once you know who your Shipping Agent is in the UK, contact them and they should be able to put you in touch with an appropriate Customs Clearance Agent who can arrange the payments for Duty & VAT once the car arrives.



4. Source a Garage / Organise SVA Preparation

There are many around (often local to your Port of arrival) who can prepare your car for the SVA Test (if it needs one - click HERE for our FAQ on the SVA Test & criteria) and ensure it is "UK compliant". Take this opportunity to 'shop around' and find a Garage that you are most comfortable with. If you intend buying a vehicle that is over 10 years old, then there is no need for it to complete a SVA Test.



5. Obtain a DVLA New Registration / Import Pack

You can do this in advance of your vehicle arriving. The pack contains everything you need to register your imported vehicle in the UK.. You can either contact your local DVLA Office for this (click HERE for a list - or contact the DVLA directly HERE.) The pack is complicated and daunting to complete, but the DVLA are helpful in giving support for this.



6. Liaise with your Japanese Agent / Purchase Vehicle

If they have not been in touch for a while, find out what's been happening - it may be that your specification is not yielding any results and you may need to work with your Agent at revising your choices. However, you may find that they have already sourced a car and are ready to make the purchase!


When the purchase is made, you will need to make your final payment to your Agent (if you haven't already paid up-front) and this will start the exportation phase - and the exciting / stressful bits!. The Agent will already be arranging for the vehicle to be loaded onto a Ship bound for the UK. He will also be sending you the following documentation:

  • Bill of lading (the original and a duplicate)

  • The vehicles Japanese "de-registration" document & an English translation

  • Customs Invoice (in UK�)


7. Pay your Freight & Customs Clearance Agents

As you have already had prior contact and arranged your Agents this end, things should move more smoothly! Your Freight Agent will need the documents sent to you by your Japanese Agent (Bill of lading, De-registration document & translation and the Customs Invoice) - and also will want to see proof of your UK residency.


The Freight / Customs Clearance Agents will invoice you and once paid, you can collect the appropriate Customs Clearance Form from them



8. SVA Preparation & Test

If your vehicle is less than 10 years old and it meets the criteria (see HERE) then is must have a SVA Test. Prior to the Test, the car must be prepared and modified to meet UK criteria (having a Fog light added, removing the external parking mirror, etc.). Once the car has successfully completed the test, you may collect the Test Certificate


One question that usually comes up at this point is:


"Can I drive my car on UK roads without number plates?"


There are special concessions during the Importation process which allows you to do so at specific times. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' document "How to Import a Vehicle into Great Britain" states:


    "Section 3

    Registration and Licensing Procedures

    A vehicle imported into GB for use on the public road must be licensed and registered immediately after arrival. The vehicle must be in this country and available for inspection before you make the application. After arrival the only circumstances in which you can drive the vehicle before completing these formalities are from the port of entry to your home address/first destination, to and from a pre-arranged SVA/MoT test and to and from a garage for remedial work following failure to pass the tests. Thereafter the vehicle must be kept off road until the licensing and registration formalities have been completed."


9. MOT Test

In the same way as any other car over three years old needs to be tested, so will yours (if over three years old). Normal MOT procedures and rules apply. Some SVA Test Centres can also complete MOTs after a successful SVA pass.



10. Register and Tax the vehicle

Now your vehicle has passed all of the necessary tests, it can be registered for the UK. You will need the following:

  • Completed DVLA Form V55/5 (from your DVLA 'First Registration' pack)

  • Japanese De-registration document

  • Evidence of the date of collection of the vehicle (Supplier's Invoice should do)

  • UK Customs Form (C&E 386, 388 or 389 )

  • Type Approval of the vehicle (the "Minister's Approval Certificate" from the SVA Test)

  • MOT Certificate

  • Valid Motor Insurance Certificate

  • Registration Fee (click HERE for current fees)

  • Vehicle Tax Fee (click HERE for current fees)


11. Sort out the Number Plates

Once you obtain your new registration document, you can go out and purchase your new number plates. There are many firms both in the High Street and online that can produce these plates for you. As soon as your vehicle has passed its SVA and MOT Tests, it is illegal to drive it on UK roads without number plates.



12. Drive the vehicle

Well done! - and now you are an owner, don't forget to bookmark this website and why not join our FORUM to keep up to date with other owners?




Importing your own vehicle into the UK can be a satisfying experience that can also have big financial savings. However, the process can be long and please don't forget that your time also has a value and impact on your family's and your own life too!


If you are in any doubt as to how long this process could take and have any concerns as to the impact it will have on your life then it may be better to purchase a vehicle from an UK Importer and let them take the worry and your time out of the equation.


However, if you like the adventure and sense of achievement that self-importation can bring then GOOD LUCK! - and we hope this guide has been, and will continue to be, useful. Furthermore, we do strongly suggest that you join our FORUM - if for nothing more than some support during a stressful moment!!!




A useful guide from the UK Government on the regulations of importing a vehicle can be found HERE


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