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Left hand drive vs right hand drive. How does it affect my insurance?

Some car owners may prefer to buy a vehicle overseas and have it imported to the UK. Bringing in a model from mainland Europe, America or Japan will most likely mean it is left hand drive, but this does bring advantages.

For example, the car could be cheaper and to a higher specification than its UK equivalent or it may be a model that's not usually available in the UK. Also, many motoring enthusiasts believe that, because most vehicles are actually designed to be left hand drive then adapted for the UK market, you have something that's built as the manufacturer intended - and is therefore more reliable.

There’s plenty to be mindful of when importing a car from abroad. It might be worth checking to see if the vehicle qualifies for import tax, as this has to be factored in, and it will also need to be registered here in the UK. Information is available at Additionally, adapters may be required to adjust the headlights for UK roads, and the speedometer may be in kph rather than mph. Car insurance is another thing that you’ll need to take into consideration.

Import insurance

As with any vehicle, you will need to get your imported car insured in order for it to be legal to drive on UK roads. Providers do not usually distinguish that much between left hand drive and right hand drive, and what tends to affect the premium more is where the car was bought and the availability of spare parts.

One of the questions you might be asked is whether the car is a ‘parallel import’ or a ‘grey import’. The first describes a vehicle manufactured within the EU, meeting the same minimum standards as those on UK roads, and is perhaps simply a left hand drive version of a model available here. This should usually be straightforward to insure, and at a similar price to a UK equivalent. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that if you went shopping overseas to pick up a higher-spec model at a more affordable price, the added performance and desirability could play a part in insurance costs.

A 'grey import' is something from further afield, such as a Japanese sports car or an American muscle car. Insurers will calculate a sum based on the high performance, and also how difficult it would be to source replacement parts in the event of an accident. If they can only be shipped in from the country where the car was made, this will most likely increase the premium.