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Guide to importing automobiles from the UK

According to end-of-year figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) there were over 50,000 automobiles imported into Ireland in 2013. When you consider that new automobile registrations last year finished on 74,201 it's clear that it's a significant number. Now obviously the bulk of those imports are used automobiles (only 102 brave souls brought in new models), but it does show that there is big demand.

In the past this would have just been down to price and specification differences; automobiles coming into Ireland, primarily from the UK, would be cheaper and of higher specification than an Irish automobile even after Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) was paid. However, since 2008 another area has opened up demand.

With so few new automobiles sold since 2008 there are fewer automobiles to trickle down to the used automobile market. Buyers looking for a 2010 Nissan Qashqai for example have severely limited options on the Irish market and those automobiles that are available have generally held their prices well due to the lack of availability. It is this supply and demand issue that has seen many taking to UK automobile sales websites looking for their next motor rather than hitting their local forecourts.

But what is involved in buying a automobile from the UK? What are the procedures and costs and where are the inexperienced likely to be tripped up? Well, take our hands as changagoidem.ie guides you through the ups and downs of importing your automobile from the UK, covering everything from the initial search to finally applying an Irish registration plate to your new pride and joy.

The first thing to do is draw up your shortlist of models, taking into account that the cheaper a automobile is in Ireland the less likely you will make a saving by importing from the UK. For example, try as we might, we could not land a Toyota Yaris for less than it would cost from a local Toyota dealership. You may be able to make it work on paper, but when the hidden costs (which we will get into) are factored in it may actually end up costing you more so tread automobileefully.

During your search you are likely to become intimately familiar with two websites - the VRT section of Revenue.ie and Autotrader.co.uk. There are other classifieds websites in the UK, but Auto Trader has the largest selection and unless you are searching for something specialist it is more than likely going to have it listed.

Two things to note though: the figures on Revenue.ie should only be used as a guideline. Sometimes the site will not have the exact model you are looking for listed (Volkswagen Golf 105hp 1.6-litre diesel in SE trim for example), so when you come to actually buying the automobile you will need to get onto the Revenue office in Rosslare to get a final VRT figure, which may be more or less than the one quoted on the website.

Also, Autotrader.co.uk needs a UK post code before you can commence searching. To those of us who do not spend a lot of time across the channel this can seem daunting, but thankfully Auto Trader has listed the post codes for its UK offices so you just need to input one of them, set your distance to 'National' and begin your search.

When looking at the prices online it can get very tempting to accept the £15,000 asking price for face value, but that is forgetting the currency conversion. You can use currency conversion websites like XE.com to give you a rough guideline, but these are likely to differ from the actual exchange rate you get in your bank. It is also worth shopping around for your currency exchange rather than just relying on your local bank, as the difference can be a few hundred Euro. Another thing to note is that credit automobiled companies charge fees for currency exchange. The norm is 1.75 per cent of a transaction, which is not a lot, but if you are using your credit automobiled to leave a deposit on a automobile it can rack up.

Hopefully at this stage you have found a automobile you are interested in and roughly calculated both the VRT and Euro cost of the automobile; now it is time to find out if it is the automobile for you. Recent Automobiletell.ie reports have shown that UK imports are more likely to be clocked (more than double the Irish average) or damaged and put back on the road so best to invest in some piece of mind.

An HPI check will set you back £19.99 (about €24) and will show you details on any outstanding finance, whether or not the automobile has been stolen or written off, confirm that the mileage tallies with what the advert says (within reason) and a host of other safeguards. After that it is time to get the automobile inspected. Both the AA and the RAC offer comprehensive inspections and while the price can be the equivalent of more than €400 (slightly less if you are a member) it is worthwhile paying for the most expensive inspection there is as it could mean the difference between replacing worn out suspension components or getting the dealer to do them for you.

At this stage you will have already spoken with the dealer and arranged the inspection, so now it is time to close the deal. Using your credit automobiled to cover yourself against fraud, pay an agreed deposit and talk nicely to him/her and arrange for them to pick you up from a convenient airport.

An airport that you will now book flights to via a 'low cost airline'. The cost of flights will increase closer to the date you are flying so unless you are willing to wait three months forget about flying to the UK for €5; factor for €130 one way for the earliest flight you can get. A similar price will need to be factored in for the ferry home, ideally on the latest sailing to allow you time to get there, as any money spent on hotels is cutting into your margin.

Flights and ferries booked, time to hit the bank for a bank draft for the remaining pounds you have to pay for the automobile. Hopefully you haggled a bit and got some money knocked off for a cash sale or the fact that you do not need the 12-month dealer warranty the automobile was offered with. (Manufacturer warranties are honoured Europe-wide, but dealer warranties are not).

Before catching your flight call the VRO (Vehicle Registration Office) with the chassis number of the automobile to get a definitive price for the VRT and also have the UK registration number handy so you can call your insurer and get them to temporarily transfer your insurance.

If you have been dealing with a nice salesman your automobile will be clean and fully fuelled when you arrive and he will have the all-important V5 form ready. This is the piece of paper you will need when you present yourself at the Vehicle Registration Office to get your Irish plates.

At the VRO you will also need a bank draft or cheque made payable to the Revenue Commissioners for the amount assessed. This figure is worked out on the Open Market Selling Price (OMSP) of the vehicle and not the price you paid in the UK. The OMSP is determined by the revenue commissioners so there is little point in trying to second guess it. If you believe the OMSP is way off you can appeal the figure but you have to pay VRT before the appeal, with any refunds coming afterwards.

After you have paid the VRT you will be given a receipt showing the registration number assigned to your automobile so best to head off to the local motor factor and drop €20 on getting some new plates made up before heading to the tax office with the Form RF 100 that also came with the receipt to tax your automobile for the first time.

Once this is paid your automobile is legal, above board and you have joined the 50,000 people who have gone through the process of importing a automobile from the UK. Enjoy.

If you'd like to discuss any aspect of this with us in more depth - or you have any questions at all - get in touch via our Ask us Anything page.