A UK on-line community and information
resource for European motorcaravanners.

Motorhome Importing - Facts & Figures

This information is based on our experiences importing a New Hymer from Germany in March 2001 after much research and a long search as described in the other importing pages.

The facts and figures about Importing:
All information is given in good faith but no warranty is given or implied!  

Can I really save money?  Yes - up to 8000 in our case.  The actual saving depends on exchange rate differences as well as motorhome price differentials across Europe.

What are the hidden costs?:  Not many but you need to know what they are...

1) Several visits abroad, for us a 'recce' at about 400, plus one collection at 250.  We didn't count our visit to the Dusseldorf show the year earlier since we'd have done that anyway.  You should really budget for two 'recces'.  2) Temporary registration and insurance, we paid 410DM for this (about 125).  3) Registering here, nominally 25 but you might also like to purchase a private plate for 250 upwards.  4) Making a European camping-car legal in the UK with a UK speedo (Fiat instrument cluster) cost us 235 and UK headlamps about 160, you might have to modify mirrors and rear lights on some older motorhomes and you'll need an MOT if it's over three years old.  5) If 'new' the difference between German VAT at 16% and UK VAT at 17%.  6) Bank and exchange rate costs; international money moving is not cheap we were charged nearly 100 in total for the whole project. Be aware that the receiving bank may charge for transfers too, we transferred 16K as a final payment and were charged a quoted 46 by Lloyds plus 24 by the receiving German bank. There are now some internet based cheap money transfers - do investigate but also remember that these are large sums of money - caveat emptor!  Larger purchases (about 25K+ should attract preferential commercial exchange rates. 7) Check with your UK insurer about surcharges for lhd, some charge some don't!

So what's the total 'hidden' cost?  This must vary from case to case but I believe it's unrealistic to budget on less than 1000.  Many stories of "I did it for 200" seem to leave out real costs like the recces, fuel, etc.  Some people count all this as 'holiday' - some holiday, chasing down Autobahns looking at disappointing second-hand motorhomes!!

How can I find the motorcaravan I'm looking for?  You really have to use the Internet. Some major sites are/were www.dhd24auto.com http://markt.reisemobil-international.de/markt/  http://www.mobile.de  The major manufacturers are also important, Hymer for instance has a very good second-hand section on its www.hymer.com website - but note you'll only find it in the German pages, if you opt for English the dealers and second-hand info will not be offered!  Communicate by email and phone, you will be taken seriously if you phone at least once.  You may also get more email replies if you open with a few words of German, even if these simply apologise for having to use English.

Are there significant differences between buying second-hand and new?  A few, mostly relating to guarantees and also some UK formalities.  When asking your local VRO (Vehicle Registration Office) for leaflets and forms be very specific about new or second-hand.

Does anyone / everyone speak English?  Anyone - yes, everyone - no. Be ruthless, your supplier must be Internet aware/friendly and English speaking, if not move on!

How will the vehicle differ from one I buy here?  Apart from the obvious lhd, kph speedo and wrong headlights there are a number of differences. A C-class cab is unlikely to be trimmed to match the living quarters as it is here, there probably won't be any carpets at all, you may get exterior lockers not found on UK versions, kitchens may be smaller often without ovens or grills, bathrooms will be better and so on. On a more practical level the 12v and 230v sockets will be 'continental', the gas fittings won't fit UK bottles, gas cupboards may be designed for 11Kg bottles and the common 13Kg UK bottles may not fit. In Germany you'll probably find a greater proportion of vehicles with bigger engines and also higher mileages are commonplace. There will be oddities too - German TV or navigation satellite systems for example.

Will there be difficulties over warranties?  Tricky question - yes and no.  UK 'official agents/importers' will try to make life difficult for you but our new Hymer on Fiat is fully guaranteed complete with free recovery anywhere in Europe.  You might find that you have to pay for warranty work and claim back the cost from the converter.  Base vehicle warranties may differ, our German Fiat warranty is for just one year a UK one is for three years.  Subsequent dealings with Brownhills have been difficult, they claim they are trying to give their own customers a de-luxe service but in practice many of us think they give import owners a second class service, I guess it depends on your viewpoint!

What do I have to do to the vehicle to make it legal in the UK?  Modify the lights front and rear - new headlamps plus the high intensity rear fog lamp if single must be mounted on the offside. The speedo must read mph - clearly day and night, the latter is the tricky bit!  MOT if over 3 years old. Some of these items are not included in the British MOT but a tester can refuse to carry out the test if he believes the vehicle does not meet the relevant construction and use regulations.

What procedures do I have to go through to export it from Germany?  Get the seller to help you - you need a transfer of ownership plus temporary registration and export insurance plus plates - all done in person on the day - do plan to start the process reasonably early in the day!  The formal procedures are quite different in Germany so unless you are German speaking, only deal with an English speaking vendor and get agreement that they will help you with all the formalities as part of the deal.  Both dealers and private sellers may help with this.

How can I drive / register/ tax insure it for the journey home?  The 9-day temporary registration and insurance documents from Germany as above.  I don't know the procedures exporting from France.  UK insurers will insure on a chassis number but only on UK soil.  There are new complications with insurance since we imported ours, it is now (2003) very difficult to get fully comp insurance for the drive home. Some buyers are now getting the German vendor to deliver to a UK port or at least onto a ferry bound for the UK.

What do I have to do at customs?  Nothing - drive straight through.  Show your documentation if asked.

What does the law say about importing, tax, etc.?  You must notify your VRO within a reasonable time taken to be 7-10 days possibly up to 30 days exceptionally.  If in doubt notify them even if you can't provide everything they need (like an MOT).  If a technically a new motorhome i.e. one 'less than six months old with less than 6000km on the clock' you must pay the difference in VAT - Germany's VAT is 16% ours is 17%.  If you are not VAT registered you may have to pay the 17% VAT here and then claim the 16% back from Germany - budget for the cashflow!  If VAT registered you can export VAT free and then pay the UK VAT here.

How do I get it registered and taxed once I get it home?  Fill in the forms given to you by your local VRO.  Make sure you use the right form for new or for second-hand - check by phone since there are/have been changes and may also be temporary working procedures at any given time.

Couldn't I just get someone else to do it all for me?  Yes and they will make a charge or add a mark-up, typically about 1-2,000 or even more.  Talk of "only 500" usually hides charges for 'expenses', exchange rate margins and negotiated discounts.  A 10% discount is often part of the deal in Germany even from major dealers.

Would we do it again?  Certainly!  If the economics were still right.

Related site links:   Facts   Import Story Pt1   Import Story Pt2   Import Story Pt3   Import Story Pt4


All material copyright Motorcaravanning.com and/or Neill & Dilys King 1999 - 2013 unless otherwise stated.