My import process, part 2: getting it to the UK

So now I have a car. Fortunately the rest of the process to get it out of Japan is done for me – Sam arranges shipping, does the conversion work (rear foglight and speedo conversion to miles) and gets the car to the port.


Cars going from Japan to the UK usually go on huge RORO (roll-on/roll-off) ships that do routes around the world.

My car was booked on the Hoegh Trapper, a 200m long behemoth that can take 8500 cars at once. Hoegh’s website lets you see the route it’ll take, and from the car’s VIN what the current arrival date is.

You can also use MarineTraffic to track the ship as it moves from port to port – it’s a long wait so it’s nice to check occasionally that it’s still getting there!


I took out marine insurance via Primo at a cost of £160 – this covers the car for loss or damage in transit, until it reaches the UK. I tried about a dozen different brokers and most couldn’t cover an individual rather than a trader, or couldn’t cover a car over 10 years old.

For when it arrives, it needs a conventional car insurance policy. The challenge here is that it doesn’t have a UK registration number yet so it needs insuring on the chassis number (or VIN). There are specialist import brokers who offer this, but I found Admiral (who’ve insured my cars in the past) could do it and were most competitive. They provided a cover note on the chassis number for 30 days, starting from the day it was due to arrive at UK port, and I can update the policy for the registration number once I have it.

Arrival in the UK

At last the ship is due to arrive at Southampton. A couple of days before, I get an invoice from the customs agent, covering:

  • Shipping (you pay this on arrival rather than upfront)
  • Import duty at 10% of the cost of the car and shipping
  • VAT at 20%
  • Fees for processing customs clearance and port terminal handling fees

The agent handles all of the paperwork for informing HMRC that the car has arrived, and paying the taxes due on your behalf.

The ship arrived on a Saturday morning, and the car was cleared and available to pick up by 11am on Monday.

Getting it home

I had planned to get a train down to Southampton, collect the car and drive it home via a pre-booked MOT test. As it was, work was busy so I arranged transport via Anyvan. This cost £180, although it saved me a £50 train ticket, £20 in fuel and a day off work.

The service was good and I could track the driver via their website on his way to me. He arrived on time and with the car in good order.

At last, it was on my driveway! But we still have a few more weeks to go before we can drive it.