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Importing A Fiat

Greg & Elaine Smith

This article is a depiction of our experience of getting round the red tape of buying a 1970 Fiat 500L from Italy and driving it back to the UK.

Believe it or not, we (my fella and I) did a fair amount of research into the legalities of getting a foreign car over into the UK, but there was surprisingly little info on what is required for getting the car from abroad and what happens when you are in transit. The UK side is somewhat simpler but you do need to be patient as you will be sent around numerous switchboards in your quest to get the right info. With that in mind, I have listed below everything that we had to sign and pay for in the two and a half weeks that enabled us to get the little fellow from Milan through the South of France, Spain and then its ferry journey getting it back to the UK, in case anyone is tempted to do something similar.


We set about trying to get insurance cover for the journey which was pretty tricky given that we didn’t know what the registration of the car was, nor did we have a log book. After a number of unfruitful phone calls, we went to an ordinary broker (not a classic car insurer either), explained the situation and asked if they could help us. Using the car chassis number, we were able to get low mileage insurance on the proviso that we had the car registered with a UK number plate within 2 weeks of the start of the policy. In spite of numerous phone calls to the RAC, classic car breakdown companies, it seems that without that magical UK reg. plate, no one was interested in providing cover for us. It also became apparent that cars over 10years old were unlikely to receive European breakdown cover, so we decided to wing it and to take as many spares as possible.

According to the DVLA you have a grace period of up to 6 months to sort out all the forms etc. Essentially you just need the Italian version of the log book, an MOT and valid insurance, a V55/5 form, ID and some cash (£55 application fee). In return you'll get a UK registration and log book for the car. You can also apply for the tax disk at the same time as you will need all the same forms and UK registration form / log book. The registration will be age related, so 1970 H reg. in our case. HMRC weren’t interested as there isn't any import duty to pay on cars over a certain age from the EU. There is normally a VAT requirement, however, as the car was over 6 months old and had done more than 6000 miles so there was nothing to pay. You must complete a VAT 414 form to be used when you make a registration application to the DVLA, and that can be found on their website.


Having secured the sale of the car which we found on ebay, I was sent a number of forms to fill out. The vendor communicated to us that he needed a copy of my passport and drivers’ license and for me to fill out 2 forms that would get me a temporary number plate. (I can attach screen shots of these forms for anyone that is interested) It wasn’t clear to us at the time, but as we now understand, it is the case in a number of European countries that the car is not what links the driver to the license, but the number plate. When selling cars within Italy, the number plate is removed from the vehicle you are selling for example and then put on the car you are buying. Unless you are an Italian citizen, you cannot apply for, or transfer, the “permanent” Italian plates (Handy!)

When selling to foreigners (us), it seemed that the only option was for us to apply for a temporary (cardboard) number plate which is valid for 5 days. Signing the change of property document came attached with a fee (400 EUR) and the temporary reg. plates cost 175 EUR. The car also needs a ‘revisione’ (MOT), which I would recommend securing before even handing any money over for the purchase of the car.

So in short, as far as we could make out, upon collection, you should have completed and signed for the following documents:
· The new temporary registration document (Libretto) (a photocopy is not acceptable)
· Official declaration of sale (Dicharazione di vendita verbale) with the sale price signed by both vendor and buyer, and a Notary (notaio) An original or photocopy of the official type approval (foglio di immatricolazione)
· Certificate of ownership (Certificato di Proprieta)

Whilst it would have been much easier to have the car shipped to us in the UK, this was for us about having an adventure, and with that in mind, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Yes we broke down several times, had to drive through the night to get it to the ferry port and at one point to sleep the night in it, the whole experience was priceless and will be something we laugh about for years to come.