Foreigners buying a car in England and driving it in Europe
I’m writing this blog with detailed information, in the hope it can assist other travellers in wasting hours and hours of their precious travelling time running around in circles.
There is so little information on buying a vehicle overseas, so I hope this contains all you need to know. From how to purchase a car; insurance; 90 day Schengen visa; channel crossing with a vehicle; preparing a vehicle for the Continent; and what to do with road tax.
So sit back and enjoy – I’ve done all the work for you.
So here we are – two adult Australians (including one a single Mum with child) wanting to buy a vehicle to travel around Europe.
We first wanted a camper van / RV / Motorhome to live in it and save money whilst we explored, but after many long drives around England, we failed to find a LHD that suited us. In fact the last one we test drove happened to have the gearbox “die” as I drove the huge beast down the UK Motorway for a test drive. At the end of our 5 hours journey to purchase it, we have up.
We then decided a car might be easier. Even a cheaper RHD that would go the distance and we could “ditch” at the end of our travels.
We looked at our first budget car, and the glove box fell out! We then went to a car yard we had spied as we drove around locally and we ‘hit gold!’
We bought a great car. Sadly the relationship we first thought was good with the car yard, later turned out to be not so good for us or people we recommended this car yard to, so I can’t recommend the car yard.
So once we bought the car, out next challenge was Insurance.
This proved not so easy. One and a half days later we still had no insurance. We had five phones ( including our Skype ) on the go. The service from these Insurance agents, was nothing short of shocking! One person told me if I didn’t want to wait to go elsewhere. Guess what I did? I went elsewhere!!!
It is not easy to insure a vehicle as a foreigner and take it to the continent. We did learn it would have been even worse if we had bought a LHD or modified vehicle, so it may have worked out better.
Thanks to a great Facebook group we are in called “Families On The Move” – it is a support group for families that long-term travel, someone came to the rescue and provided me with email and phone numbers for an insurance company that did eventually help us. They are called Down Under. So we finally had insurance for The Continent. They also give 6 or 12 month policies and allow you to take the vehicle out of England for more than 3 months. They also allow you to drive in many European countries other insurance policies don’t.
But you will need a registered address in UK.
As far as the “Log Book” goes, this is a piece of paper that is Road Tax or Registration equivalent for Australia. Once again you need an address in UK. You can pay for 6 or 12 months. If you are taking the vehicle to the Continent you can claim back the time away at the end for what you have been charged. You do need to send the paperwork in ASAP as it can take 4 weeks or more to have it sent out. There is no longer a Department of Motor Vehicles office you can visit in the UK. So we used Priority Post to get the peers thee as soon as we could and it took us a good 4 weeks to get them back.
We then found out the disc expired at the end of the month, so we advance paid for the next six or twelve months. You do this at a Post Office, and it is easy.
Next we booked the ferry to cross to the Continent. It is best to book a return ticket. If you get a security person that challenges you on export, for the sake of ten pounds, you can buy an advance return ticket, and ditch the return.
As far as the Schengen Zone goes, I personally was stamped entry when we entered the Republic of Ireland months ago. When we took the ferry to UK there as no-on to stamp it.
When we took the ferry from UK to The Continent (France) our passports were checked but not stamped. So you may find this easier if you are tight on Schengen timing. For us, this is not a ‘biggie’ as we leave the Schengen soon, but for others, I think you might find this is an easy way not to have to worry about the “90 days in 180 day” allowance. Basically we weren’t stamped, and I think the 90 days will be rather hard to track.
We used DFDS Seaways and advanced booked. A note here. International credit card won’t let you book on-line so you have to call and I think there is a five pound booking fee if you do it on the phone. You need the car make, model, registration and measurements, so you can’t do this before you own the vehicle. You also need to include the number of passengers. We found selecting the ferry we wanted on their web-site first, then calling was easiest. It is sometimes cheaper to book in advance. We were also recommended (after we bought our ticket) that it might be advantageous to book a return ticket on the ferry for about ten pound more or sometimes even less, as if you do get Schengen visa queries, this can assist. It at times is cheaper too.
So in a nut-shell they checked our passport, didn’t stamp it, and didn’t even check through the vehicle. It was so easy.
For the vehicle you need: Anti glare stickers/delectors for the headlights; safety triangle; breathalyser kit, safety vest for each person in the car, and a spare set of bulbs (you can buy all this on the ferry).
We put ours on whilst waiting for the ferry. A lovely guy helped us. It takes a bit to work out what you are doing.
With Australian flags on the car, we felt ready to drive on the other side of the road.
So here we sit in Continental Europe.
It was a breeze to drive a RHD in a LHD world today – in fact I found it easier as an Australian to do this than to drive LHD say in USA or South America as I have done in the past.
We’ve driven our vehicle we christened “Vegemite” all around Scotland, Wales and England, and I drove it all over Europe and back – even as far as Turkey – and it is a brilliant vehicle.
Things on the original MOT where not picked up, making me question the authenticity of it.
Selling the car
We brought the car back in May 2015 via the ferry. It turned out to be just as smooth a return. No car paperwork was checked by The Netherlands or UK on our return. Passports were checked but not Schengen Visa time either.
Alas the car yard had told us they would give us 1000 GBP when we came back with the car as minimum.
I’d spent thousands on the car. Someone will end up with a brilliant vehicle!
No response to Facebook and emails
Of course when we tried to contact them, they never answered ten of the emails (I got a few evasive emails), never gave a straight answer, and I tried two of their Facebooks and got a complete run around.
Didn’t keep their word
When we arrived they of course ‘were choc-a-bloc” with vehicles, and couldn’t give me the promised minimum of 1000 GBP.
No Cash and wasted our time
When we came next day to collect the cash, they had no cash. We waited nearly 1 hour and even near the end they didn’t have enough. I was prepared to miss my appointment as I was not going to leave the car yard without it. It was very frustrating. Eventually we got the low amount which was way over what I expected.
I also had recommended friends who stated the bought a vehicle from this car yard, and they had a lot of trouble with a car that was sold with a broken odometer (which they say is illegal) lack of communication after the sale, and also something that wasn’t right, which meant they couldn’t sell the vehicle. They lost a lot of money.
So, in hindsight, a car yard that was so eager to sell was not so eager to buy.
But we are overall very happy with the decision to purchase a car, and drive it in the UK and Europe. I’d buy another vehicle next time and do it again, just not from this caryard.
I do NOT recommend this car yard.
I am also very happy with the insurance company.
I will miss our little car. It is the end of an amazing chapter and one year as I update this in May, 2015.
This article is entirely the opinion of the author. No other party shown or mentioned has had any input in the writing of this. The experiences mentioned are how I see them only and have no legal liability and are here as a reference only. Please seek your own legal advice on matters pertaining to purchase, registration, etc of any vehicle. If using a car yard, please consider carefully.