Can you drive a left-hand drive in the UK? Can you get it insured? And how do you import a foreign car into the country?
In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about using a left-hand drive in Britain. Read on to find out more.
Can I drive a left-hand drive car in the UK?
The first thing to know is that it is perfectly legal to use a left-hand drive in the UK. While most British cars are right-hand drive (which means that the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the vehicle), there are no restrictions against left-hand car use.
This means that if you’re coming to the UK from mainland Europe on holiday and you want to drive your car, that’s OK. You can also bring your left-hand drive car to the UK permanently if you wish.
That said, driving in the UK with a left-hand drive can take a little getting used to.
In the UK, we use a road system where traffic is on the left side of the road. If your car is left-hand drive, it means that everyday manoeuvres — such as overtaking, navigating roundabouts, and parallel parking — can be a little more difficult, as you likely won’t be able to see quite as well.
This potential trouble aside, there’s nothing stopping you from driving a left-hand drive in the UK. Like any other car, you’ll just have to make sure it’s insured as normal. (Looking for advice? A-Plan can help!)
Do I need particular insurance for a left-hand drive in the UK?
No, you don’t need any special insurance to drive your left-hand drive in the UK. As with any vehicle insurance in the UK, you’ll want either a comprehensive or third-party policy that covers anything from theft to damage.
However, your insurance company will likely want to know if you’re driving a left-hand drive in the UK.
If you’ve come from abroad and are driving your left-hand drive in the UK for your holiday
If you’re from continental Europe or elsewhere and you’re coming to the UK with your left-hand drive car, it’s worth checking your insurance first.
Not all insurance covers travel abroad or outside of the EU. If yours doesn’t, you may need to add on extra cover for driving in the UK, or take out a temporary insurance policy that covers you.
The same goes for travel from the US. While it’s much less common for US visitors to drive their car in the UK, you’ll still need to check your insurance if that’s what you’re planning.
If you’re in the UK, you’ve bought or are importing a left-hand drive, and you need to insure it from scratch
In this case, when you go to insure your car, the insurers will automatically know it’s a left-hand drive from its number plate.
While you won’t need a special left-hand drive insurance, the quote you’re offered will likely be more expensive than a quote for a right-hand drive. This is for a number of reasons:
- Standards aren’t always aligned between countries. If insurers aren’t sure about a vehicle’s specifications or safety data, they’ll likely put the price up.
- Your car is likely imported. That means it’ll typically be more expensive to source parts if your car needs repairs, and that means it’ll be more expensive for insurers.
- The car may be more powerful. For example, if you’re importing an American car, the engine’s likely to be bigger, and insurers will up the price to reflect that.
Despite this, you don’t usually need to worry about going to a specialist insurer. Typically any insurer will be happy to cover your car — whichever side of the vehicle the steering wheel’s on.
Note: American cars can be the exception. Here, we take a look at specialist insurance for American cars.
What to know if you’re buying or importing a left-hand drive
Insurance aside, there are a couple of things you’ll need to bear in mind when you’re buying a left-hand drive in the UK, or importing one.
If you’re buying a left-hand drive already in the UK
Whether it’s a new European model or a vintage American classic, buying a left-hand drive in the UK is much like buying any other car.
Apart from checking that the vehicle is fit to drive and agreeing a price, you’ll need to make sure that you have the right documentation before you drive it. That means:
- The V5c logbook: The proof of ownership that gets transferred from seller to buyer.
- Service and MOT history: Just like any other car, left-hand drives need to be serviced regularly and you should receive a record of what’s been done to the vehicle.
- Insurance: It’s up to you to insure your car once you buy it. As we said above, this can be a little more expensive with a left-hand drive than a standard UK right-hand drive.
- Tax: Don’t forget to tax your vehicle. This is necessary whatever type of car you have.
All of this is standard whenever you buy a new car. That’s because the vehicle will have been imported already and is treated like a UK car, even if the steering wheel’s on the other side.
Alternatively, though, when you import a left-hand drive yourself, there’s a bit more to think about.
If you’re importing a left-hand drive from abroad
Aside from all of the above, if you’re importing a car, you’ll need to make sure it’s registered correctly in the UK. This is true whether it’s a left-hand drive or a right-hand drive from another country.
There are four things you’ll need to do if you’re importing a vehicle (although you can pay an importer or shipping company to do them for you):
- Tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that the car is in the UK. This must be done within 14 days and typically involves emailing them with customs documents, an invoice or receipt of purchase, and a document with a vehicle identification number.
Find out more importing vehicles into the UK here.
- Pay VAT or import duty if you’re told to. This might not be necessary if you’re transferring residence to the UK.
- Get your vehicle approved to prove it meets safety and environmental regulations. If you’re bringing it from the EU, you’ll need what’s known as a European Certificate of Conformity.
- Licence your vehicle with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). The last step involves registering your vehicle with DVLA. This is so it can be inspected and taxed.
You’ll need proof that you’ve done all of the steps above. And you’ll need to insure your vehicle and make sure it’s roadworthy. Then, you’re ready to drive it!
Remember, you don’t need to officially import a car to the UK if you don’t normally live in the UK and you’re not intending to stay for more than six months.
Things to look out for when driving a left-hand drive in the UK
So, now you’re ready to drive. But there are still some things to keep in mind when you actually hit the road in your left-hand drive.
- Check your headlights. Your left-hand drive is designed to be driven on the right side of the road. In the UK, that means that your headlights will dazzle oncoming traffic who are here driving towards you on the right.
To prevent that, get headlight adapters that you can stick to the front of your car to dip the lights. It’s safer for everyone and can sometimes be a condition of your insurance’s validity.
- Pay attention when overtaking. When you’re driving on the other side of the road, it can take some time to get used to reduced visibility when overtaking. Keep your distance and you’ll increase your (and others’) safety.
- Remember the speed gauges might be different. If you’re coming from the EU, your car will likely show you speed in kilometres per hour. But the signs in the UK are in miles per hour, which can take some getting used.
Ultimately, though, driving a left-hand drive in the UK needn’t be a stress. Stay alert and make sure that your insurance and documentation is complete and accurate and you’ll get used to it in no time.
Still got some left-hand drive or insurance-related questions? We’re here to help. Get in touch with the A-Plan team today.