If you are a new immigrant to the UK or plan to do so, you might be concerned about transportation. Though the public transport network in the country is incredible, it might be more convenient to buy a car. But how can you acquire a vehicle in the UK with an international driving license?
Can you buy a car in the UK with an international license? Yes, as a foreigner, you can buy a car in the UK with an international driving license as long as you have a passport, a minimum of £900 to pay for the car, and other additional expenses such as tax and insurance.
This guide explains how you can buy a car as a foreigner in the UK with your international license and the steps you need to take for this.
Want to finance a car in the UK? Read this guide on car loans and how to get one.
Can you buy a car with a foreign license in the UK?
You can buy a car with a foreign license, but you’ll need additional documents such as your passport, proof of insurance, and a home address in the UK. Learn how to buy a car in the UK for export in this article.
The process of buying a car in the UK as a foreigner
To buy a car in the UK as a foreigner, follow the following steps:
- Find a vehicle
- Complete MOT test
- Find and purchase car insurance
- Pay for the vehicle, and receive a V5C/2 from the owner
- Pay for vehicle tax
- Drive vehicle away and wait for a full V5C to arrive
Read a detailed article about buying a car as a foreigner in the UK.
What to look for when purchasing a vehicle in the UK
When searching for a vehicle, one important thing to look for is to check when the next MOT (Ministry of Transport test, now called the Department of Transport) is due. An MOT check is required every twelve months for cars over three years old to ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy.
If your car fails an MOT test, you have to improve what is needed and retake the test. When buying a vehicle in the UK, ensure that it has about six months remaining before requiring another test.
Vehicle tax in the UK
Vehicle tax is compulsory to drive on UK roads; otherwise, you risk being fined and your vehicles being listed as ‘off the road.’ To buy tax, you need either a tax reminder letter, a vehicle logbook (V5C), or a “new keeper’s details” (V5C/2).
You should pay for the vehicle tax online before hitting the road with your new vehicle. This tax is not transferable, so you still need to pay if you buy a car with a valid tax already on it.
Insurance-related issues for your car in the UK
Having car insurance is a legal requirement in the UK, regardless of whether you plan on being in the country occasionally or for a short period. It would be best to have third-party car insurance before jumping in the driver’s seat as a foreigner.
Third-party insurance covers you if you’re involved in an accident and cause damage to another person, property, vehicle, or animal. Nonetheless, this insurance doesn’t cover other costs like repairing your car.
If you’re a foreigner in the UK and plan to borrow a relative or friend’s car, they must add you to their insurance policy as a named driver.
The only challenge with buying a car with a foreign license is that it’s pretty expensive to acquire insurance, primarily if a non-EU country issues it. Therefore, to avoid the high expense, it’s advisable to change to a full UK driving license before purchasing your car.
Below is a chart showing the average car insurance quote based on license type for foreigners in the UK.
Cost of car insurance for international drivers in the UK?
According to an analysis by the UK Government Actuary’s Department (GAD), the average premium paid by international license holders is between £952 and £1,578. This amount is more than the average premium paid by UK drivers. Here is a breakdown:
|Driving license type||Average annual premiums|
|Full European (Non-EU)||£1,683|
|Full International License||£1,578|
|Full EU License||£1,112|
|Full UK Car License||£626|
International drivers pay more insurance because insurers think international drivers are more likely to claim due to their lack of experience on UK roads. Find a car insurance company that can consider any no-claims discount you have built up with your country of origin to get an insurance discount.
To buy car insurance in the UK, find an insurance company on sites like confused.com. Additionally, you can look for some private companies through their websites.
Read a detailed article about the cost of running a car in London.
Buying a car in the UK with an EU license
You can buy a car in the UK using an EU license. However, you’ll need additional documents such as an MOT roadworthiness pass certificate, insurance, and a vehicle excise license.
The cost of buying a car with an EU license
The average cost of a car in the UK depends on various factors such as specs, size, and model.
The table below shows the cost of the ten most popular cars in the UK.
|Mercedes Benz GLC||£44,545|
|Land Rover Discovery Sport||£31,820|
Before buying a car in the UK with an EU driving license, shop around to find the best deals. Visit sites such as MoneyHelper, which offer advice on the available vehicle options and how you can shop around to find the best car deals.
After purchasing your car as an EU license holder residing in the UK, you can continue to use it as long as it’s valid. Your EU license is subject to the United Kingdom license renewal requirements, meaning that you can change it to a UK one within three years after becoming a legal citizen.
Can you drive with an international license in the UK?
You can drive with an international driving license in the UK for 12 months from when you enter the UK. After this time, you need to apply for a UK provisional license and retake your driving test.
The international license one is invalid after receiving your provisional one, even if it’s not expired. When using your provisional driving license, you are not permitted to drive unaccompanied. You can switch from a provisional driving license to a UK one after staying in the UK for 185 days.
Converting an international driving license into British
To apply for the exchange of your foreign driving license for a British one, you must meet the conditions below:
- Hold a current driver’s license and surrender it for exchange at DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency).
- Have a test pass certificate that is not older than two years after the date of license application.
- Must be a UK resident with a permanent address. If you hold a community driver’s license, you must have resided in Great Britain for 185 days within 12 months before your full driver’s license application.
- Your foreign license must be in English; if, in another language, you must have a translation from an approved translator.
To change from an international license to a UK driving license, you need to do the following from the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) portal:
- Fill out a D1 form
- Provide your current driving license
- Have a form of identification such as a travel document, national identification card, or an original passport
- Make a payment for the license via cheque, Delta debit, MasterCard, or credit card
Which countries’ driving licenses are valid in the UK?
If your license is from Northern Ireland, you can use it in the UK as long as it remains valid.
As a foreigner from the EU or EEA, you can use your license in the UK until you turn 70 years, after which you’ll have to convert to a British one.
European economic areas include Austria, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Portugal, Estonia, Finland, France, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Malta, Norway, and Poland.
If you are from a “designated country,” You have five years after becoming a UK resident to apply to exchange your driving license for a UK driving license.
You can use your driving license for a maximum of 12 months from the time you become a resident, after which you can choose to apply for a British license, but you don’t need to sit for a test.
Designated countries are Australia, Zimbabwe, Barbados, South Africa, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Japan, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Republic of Korea, Gibraltar, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Monaco, Singapore, and Switzerland.
If your driving license is from the remaining countries outside of the designated countries and the European Economic Area, you can use your foreign license for 12 months. After one year, you need to change to a British driving license.
To switch to the UK or British driving license, you need to take a driving theory and practical test, after which (if you pass) you’ll be issued a provisional Great Britain Driving license. You can then apply for a full driving license after residing in the UK for at least six months (185 days).
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To buy a car in the UK, first of all, you must have a driving license. Whether it is an international driving license or a full UK driving license, you can buy a car and buy car insurance.Can I buy a car in UK if I am not a resident? ›
Buying a car in the UK should pose no problems so long as you can provide a home address. Furthermore, there are no residency requirements for foreign nationals who wish to purchase a vehicle in the UK. You will, however, need a UK address to register, tax, and insure a car.Does UK recognize the international driver license? ›
If You Are Driving or Hiring A Car While In the United Kingdom or in any of the following approved Countries – You Can Use An International Driver's License to Translate Your Domestic Driver's License To Rental Agencies and Local Authorities.Do I need to show my driving licence when buying a car UK? ›
Make sure you have your driving licence to prove that you can legally drive the car and to prove your identity, so that the seller can match your details with the buyer's.How long can I drive with my international license in UK? ›
The good news is, tourists can drive around Great Britain (i.e. England, Wales and Scotland) on their valid foreign driving licence for up to 12 months from the day they last entered the country.Do Americans need an international drivers license to rent a car in the UK? ›
You will need to provide an International Driving Permit if your own driver's licence is not printed fully in English. Keep in mind that those with a driver's licence issued from the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand do not require an IDP to be able to rent a car in the UK.Can a US citizen drive a car in the UK? ›
You're allowed to drive in the UK for up to 12 months with your US driving license. Once those 12 months are up , you'll need to apply for a full UK license and start the licensing process as if you were a beginning driver.Can you buy a car in the UK and bring it to the US? ›
Non-residents or visitors can temporarily import a car from the UK for up to one year. This import has to correspond with the car owner's arrival into the country to be valid. Cars imported this way do not have to conform to US standards, but sale is prohibited.Can a non UK resident get car insurance in the UK? ›
Yes, car insurance for non-UK residents is an option. If you're visiting the UK for up to a few months and want to drive someone else's car while you're here, short-term car insurance might be the best bet.Is my US driver's license valid in UK? ›
Provided your full licence, issued by one of the 50 United States or its territories, remains valid, you can drive any category of small vehicle shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the time you became resident.
You may drive a car in the United States for one year using an International Driver's Permit (IDP) and a driver's license from your home country. Getting an IDP is the simplest way to be licensed to drive in the United States. You must get your IDP in your home country before arriving in the United States.What countries can I drive in with a US license? ›
- Your state driver's license is valid while driving in Canada and Mexico.
- In other countries, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) for foreign drivers.
Showing your driving documents
- your driving licence.
- a valid insurance certificate.
- a valid MOT certificate (if your vehicle needs one)
Before you arrange your test drive
You'll need your driving licence to prove that you can drive and that you are who you say you are. If you think you'll buy the car on the same day, you'll also need payment documents (like proof of address), vehicle tax and an insurance policy in place to drive the car home.
This means you will be asked to provide an official purchase invoice or receipt from the dealer where you bought it. The dealer must be registered at Companies House and/or VAT-registered. We are unable to accept handwritten invoices.Can I have 2 drivers licenses from different countries? ›
You can only have one driver's license. So let's say you spend your winters in California and summers in South Dakota. In most instances you need to select where you want to be or are a resident of.How long do you have to be driving in the UK to drive in the US? ›
As a foreigner, you can drive in the US with a UK licence for three months from when you enter the US. When this time expires, you either stop driving or use your IDP if you have one. If you plan to stay longer than three months in the US and drive during your stay, you should get an IDP from your home country.What vehicles can I drive without a license UK? ›
|Category||Vehicle you can drive|
|k||Mowing machine or pedestrian-controlled vehicle|
Driver's license for the U.S.
According to U.S. law, your ESTA travel authorization and a valid license from your country of residence should be enough to rent a car. But in practice, more and more car rental companies require an international license to rent a car.
All renters must produce a valid photo ID such as driving license, passport or ID card. Visitors to the UK must also provide proof of return travel and accommodation information while in the UK. A major debit or credit card is required to cover the the security deposit and the cost of the rental.
A permanent address is required by law
In order to register your car, you need to prove your current address in the UK. Gov.uk states that you need to do this by providing one of the following: Recent utility bill (within the last 3 months) Recent bank or building society statement (within the last 3 months)
Yes, as an an Expat you are welcome to apply for an Expat Car Lease as we utilise the short-term car lease and flexible car subscription programs to suit your requirements. You can do this whilst you are in your home country or when you are settled in the UK.Can a US resident rent a car in the UK? ›
Practical Rental/Driving Information
As an American, you do not need an international driver's license to rent a car/drive in the UK. You will, however, need your passport and a valid, state-issued driver's license to present when renting your car.
Technically, yes, you can—at least, as long as you're covered by insurance. If you're going to be learning regularly in their car, then you should look at getting added as a named driver on their policy. Alternatively, short-term cover might be more cost-effective.