Buying a car in England and driving in the Europe

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 travelers not to waste hours and hours of their precious traveling 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.

Easy?  No!!!

We first wanted a camper van / RV / Motorhome to live in it and save money while we explored, but after many long drives around England, we failed to find an LHD that suited us.  In fact, the last one we test drove happened to have a faulty gearbox 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 gave 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 get an insurance cover for a vehicle as a foreigner and take it to the continent.  We did learn it would have been even worse if we had bought an LHD or modified vehicle, so it may have worked out better.

Thanks to a travel Facebook group, 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-months 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 the 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 the 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 papers there 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 the UK there was no-one to stamp it.

When we took the ferry from the 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 days” allowance. Basically, we weren’t stamped, and I think the 90 days will be rather hard to track.

We used DFDS Seaways and did an advance booking. A note here. International credit card won’t let you book online, so you have to call and I think there is a five-pound booking fee if you do it through 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.

You also need to include the number of passengers. We discovered that it was easier to first visit their website and select the ferry we wanted before placing a call. 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 pounds more or sometimes even less as if you do get Schengen visa queries, this can assist. It is at times cheaper too.

So in a nutshell, they checked our passports, didn’t stamp it, and didn’t even check through the vehicle. It was so easy.

For the vehicle, you need Anti-glare stickers for the headlights; safety triangle; breathalyzer 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 while waiting for the ferry. A lovely guy helped us. It takes a bit to work out what you are doing.

DSCF2962
©Exploramum and Explorason – preparing the car for France #1
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©Exploramum and Explorason – preparing the car for France #2
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©Exploramum and Explorason – all ready and waiting for the ferry to France

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 an RHD in an LHD world today – in fact, I found it easier as an Australian to do this than to drive LHD in the 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.

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©Exploramum and Explorason – our new car

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 the 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!

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 runaround.

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 the 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 that they bought a vehicle from this car yard, and they had a lot of trouble with a car they bought from the yard. These issues included 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 car yard.

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 purchases, registration, etc of any vehicle. If using a car yard, please consider carefully.

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2 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this very detailed post. I’ve probably read it at least 4 times now and will likely read it a few more as our trip to the UK approaches. We’ve been in touch with the car yard. Honestly, your post made buying a vehicle seem possible, which is wonderful since we’ll get to explore the UK and mainland Europe the way we want to…not as airports, trains and buses dictate. Thanks again!

    1. So pleased – we are still driving our car six months later and I found it so hard to get info. If you haven’t got insurance yet please contact me directly as I may have a disc out code for you to use too ! Please do say hi to Jasper from us !!

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