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Buyers warned to avoid ‘bargain’ foreign-registered vehicles

  • Sales of cheap foreign cars are putting UK drivers at risk
  • Low price means British buyers are easily tempted
  • Government officials warn of risks

Written by Parkers Published: 15 March 2008 Updated: 15 March 2008

Foreign-registered black market 

Any car that stays in the UK for more than six months is legally required to be re-registered with the DVLA, but Parkers has evidence that this isn’t happening and there’s now a black market where foreign-registered vehicles – typically from Poland, Bulgaria and France – are bought and sold.

These cars often would fail our MoT, could be stolen, are uninsurable for UK residents and must get a UK registration before they can be driven.

The Government currently has no record of how many cars are illegally being driven with foreign plates, as vehicle details are not recorded as they enter the country.

That means there’s no way of knowing exactly how many cars are involved in this black market. As it stands, there’s no mechanism to track down and prosecute the owners.  

These cars are always far cheaper than equivalent UK models, making them tempting for buyers on a budget.

The catch 

However, they’re left-hand drive, have no MoT, are uninsurable and must be certified by the VCA (Vehicle Certification Agency) to permanently stay in the UK. It’s often cheaper and easier for immigrants to sell these vehicles on, than to carry out the work.

Having no UK registration document makes these cars untraceable and attractive to criminals and drivers looking to evade speeding fines and the London Congestion Charge.

According to the DVLA and Association of British Insurers the problem of non re-registration is on the rise, fuelled by added immigration from Eastern Europe.

Parkers asked a number of Government bodies to give a figure as to how many foreign-registered vehicles there are in the UK and how many have been here longer than six months. None could give an answer.

Our advice 

Parkers has simple advice for anyone considering buying a car registered to another country: don’t.

You may save a few pounds and maybe avoid paying a few speeding fines or the London Congestion Charge, but you run the risk of being prosecuted for more serious offences.

Only three other EU countries have a vehicle testing scheme as strict as our MoT (Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovakia), so the chances are that you could be driving a sub-standard car.

Plus, as a foreign-registered car is impossible to insure if you’re a UK resident, you’ll be driving the car illegally. It could even be stolen, meaning you’re not the rightful owner anyway.