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Australians buying a car in the UK

Australians buying a car in the UK

By on Mar 21, 2015 in Life Lessons, Travel tips, United Kingdom | 8 comments


We’ve decided to stay in the UK for a few months for a few reasons – to spend some ‘quality time’ growing our digital business, theres some awesome places to see, we have a few friends/family we want to catchup with and apart from about 30 days we’re booked up with housesitting jobs until August!

With all that said we decide to buy a cheap car to get around in – transport isn’t that cheap here and when you multiply every ticket by 5, its even more expensive, we can be available for more house sits (in the country) and we now have the freedom to explore ūüôā

There seemed no reason to not get a car. ¬†So we did, in fact we found a car almost exactly like the one we left in Australia – a Toyota Tarago (here its called a Previa), only difference is its one year old, has a sunroof and its red! ¬†As we’re very familiar with this model we felt comfortable that we could handle any mishaps etc.

We got the car very cheap – turns out that was a good thing!

I quickly found out my image of backpackers coming to the UK and buying an old combi/camper to drive around in before selling on their return home, was almost impossible.  We could buy a car just fine (which we did from ebay), but being able to legally drive it on the roads was another thing completely РI have no idea how backpackers ever manage it!

These are the steps you’ll need to go through once you have purchased a car in the UK as a non-resident.

1 – Make sure you have an address in the UK that will collect mail for you (a relative maybe?)

2 РOnce you buy, you must register the car in your name Рthis can be done here or in the postoffice Рyou will need the piece of paper (V5C/2) the previous owner gives you.  The difference in the UK from Australia is that the registration stays with the person and not the car.  So the person who owned our car can get a refund of what ever registration tax is left.  Oh and its called vehicle tax.  You can pay monthly if you have a British account (direct debit) or 6/12 monthly with a credit card.  We paid $250 for 6 months vehicle tax.

3 – Unlike Australia the vehicle tax doesn’t include third party and by¬†law you must¬†have your car insured to be on the road! ¬†Ok, so I spent a whole day trying to find 6 months worth of insurance that wasn’t going to cost $2000.. ¬†Not easy. ¬†Most insurance companies in UK won’t insure you if you’re not a resident and don’t have a British drivers licence. ¬†Eventually we found a few and decided upon one –¬† – they gave us 3rd party (wouldn’t give us comprehensive) for $796 for 6 months.

The vehicle registration tax & insurance have cost us more than the car …

We did discuss selling the car, but after we did the sums and factored in being able to sell it, we should still be ahead of ‘not having our own transport’, plus we have more freedom!

Hope thats helped – if you’re looking to buy a car in the UK and you’re not a resident, look into ‘all the costs’ before you jump, it might just be better for you to hire a car or use public transport!

Love to hear any experiences you’ve had buying cars in foreign places?

P.S. Hint – buy a car with a long MOT so you don’t have to get it put over the pits before you leave.

P.P.S. Simon is trying to convince us to drive it pack to Australia, telling us what an amazing adventure that would be (with the added advantage of him not needing to fly!)..  Do you think we should drive the red people mover back to Australia???



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Mum, wife, online geek girl, distance runner, adventurer etc. all rolled into one! My job is to make sure we all have clean clothes, food to eat and most importantly that we have a heap of awesome experiences to fill our memory banks!


  1. avatar

    Hi Michelle, Great post thanks! Very informative. Do you know how long it takes for the registration to take effect once you do it in the post office? Is it immediate or do you have to wait for a sticker and forms to get posted to you? How long does that take? Thanks!

    • avatar

      Hey Matt, Glad it helped! From my memory once you’ve paid you’re registered. You’ll be given a receipt number if you do it online or a paper receipt in the post office. That will be your temporary papers until the hardcopy arrives in the mail ūüôā

  2. avatar

    Hi Michelle. Thanks so much for the helpful post. Me and my family are about to head to the UK from Australia to do some traveling. We are planning on buying a car, but have read that you need to prove you have an address (like with bank statements or bills with your name and address). We won’t have a permanent address at any point, but we do have friends that could receive our mail. Any chance you can clarify this for us? Thank you so much in advance for your help!

    • avatar

      Sorry for the late reply – we used our relatives address as our address for mail – the insurance companies are still not happy with you not having a ‘permanent’ address though..

  3. avatar

    It is so hard to find information on insurance for Australians in the UK. And so much info you can find is 5+ years old. This one actually has a working link to an insurance company that has the fact they insure Australians on their website.

    Your post seems to be the most recent. I generally try to avoid commenting on old posts, but this is the most recent one I’ve been able to find with working links, so I think it deserves a bump


  4. avatar

    Hey Michelle, great post. Thanks for all your help! I’ve taken a look at step 2, on the link you provided but it looks super complicated with all of the vehicle tax paperwork requirements. Was this one of the more complicated steps? Or is it just a lot simpler to do it at a post office instead of online as there’s someone there who can actually help you face-to-face?!

  5. avatar

    Hi thanks for this post, you said the insurance follows the person, does that mean both of you have to get insurances to be able to drive it?

  6. avatar

    I second Lees comment…deserves a Google ranking bump. The insurance company Michelle mentions appears perfect for insurance for Aussies buying UK motorhomes, campervans and cars.

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