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Last Updated: 19th August 2020

A car is a necessity to live in the UK. Unless you live in a big city, you have to drive even to buy a bottle of milk.

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. However, under the same background, it is definitely cheaper to buy insurance with a Full UK Driving license than with an international driving license. If possible, you should change to a UK Driving license before purchasing a car to reduce your insurance costs.

For how to exchange a non-UK license plate for a British license plate, please click here.

The first step in purchasing a car is to decide to purchase a new car or a used car. If you are buying a new car, you need to go to the brand retail showroom where you’ll be able to choose options and make your order.

If you are buying a used car, there are a number of options:

Approved used car dealer (checked and sold by the brand)

  • Advantages: Check and approved by the brand. Will come with a warranty
  • Disadvantages: More expensive

Used car dealer

  • Advantages: Choice of different brands and models
  • Disadvantages: Requires careful research for reliable dealers

Private car owner

  • Advantages: Deal directly with the car owner, potentially best price
  • Disadvantages: No guarantee. If you are not familiar with the car, it is difficult to know the actual condition of the car

The following is the Approved Used Car web page of their respective brands:

BMW: https://usedcars.bmw.co.uk/
Mercedes-Benz https://www.mercedes-benzretailgroup.co.uk/mercedes-benz-cars/used-cars/
Toyota: https://www.toyota.co.uk/used-cars
Ford: https://www.ford.co.uk/shop/price-and-locate/approved-used/approved-used-cars
Volks Wagen https://www.volkswagen.co.uk/used-cars
KIA: https://www.kia.com/uk/used-cars/about-approved-used-cars/
Mazda: https://www.mazda.co.uk/used-cars/
Nissan: https://usedcars.nissan.co.uk/en/home
Hyundai: http://used.hyundai.co.uk/home
Audi: https://www.audi.co.uk/approved-used-audi.html
Suzuki: https://ucl.suzuki.co.uk/cars/used
Lexus: https://www.lexus.co.uk/pre-owned/
Honda: https://usedcars.honda.co.uk/en/home

Purchase approved used car process:

  • After finding the car you like on an approved car website, you can request more information online, or call directly to make an appointment to see the car.
  • Compare the equipment of the car and see if the price is satisfactory
  • You can request a test drive (please bring your driving license)
  • Before buying the car, make sure to check if any repairs/maintenance will be needed
  • Pay a deposit
  • Arrange a pick-up date
  • Buy car insurance
  • Please check the car carefully on the pick-up day, especially parts that need to be repaired
  • Pay the balance of the car, and pay the Road Tax

Note: Cars in the UK need to be checked for safety every year (unless the car is less than 3 years old). This check is called an MOT and it is valid for 12 months from the date the check is carried out. During the check, if the car fails any safety requirements (e.g. wheels have lost their treads, brakes are worn, etc.) you will fail the test. In order to pass, you will need to pay for any maintenance/repairs to make the vehicle safe and roadworthy again. It is illegal to drive with an expired or failed MOT so make sure it isn’t about to expire on your car or you could be faced with an expensive maintenance/repair bill.

Buying a car from a dealer is similar to the above. Compared with the approved used car, there is usually no repair or maintenance and there will be a warranty period.

Useful information for driving in the UK:

MOT: Cars are routinely inspected every year, starting after 3 years for new cars, after that, an MOT is required every year

Road Tax: A tax paid to the government

vehicle log book (V5C): Vehicle logbook, registered vehicle data, if there are any changes, such as moving, please notify DVLA

DVLA: Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency